Thank Heavens for the Downstairs Guest Room

Eulalia Benejam Cobb (Lali)

I can barely stand to be in my house these days, and given that winter is still raging outdoors and I have a lifetime's worth of worldly goods to sort through indoors, sometimes I feel on the verge of hysteria.

There are two reasons that being home makes me crazy.  The first is that every single object that my eyes light on--a picture on the wall, a rug on the floor, a plate on the table, a nutpick in the drawer--requires a decision:  to keep or not to keep, and if the latter, to a) throw away;  b) give away (and if so, to whom?); or c) sell (and if so, where?).

The second reason is that, having started the paring process with the bookcases that occupy almost every room, and having actually made some progress, those rooms are now defaced by stacks of book-filled liquor-store boxes that threaten to topple and squash Bisou.  And then there are those poor denuded book shelves, littered by the few volumes that have escaped my ruthless hand and showing, behind where the books used to be, a nine-year accumulation of dust and ashes.  If you are in need of rest and serenity, those rooms are the last place you want to be.

I know only too well that this--the dismantling, the decisions, the packing and the mess--is going to grow steadily worse over the next three  months before the halcyon date of June 2, when we will say farewell to this good house forever.  Three months of difficult decisions in the midst of chaos would normally unhinge me, but there is a chance that I won't lose my mind completely, thanks to the Downstairs Guest Room.

This blessed space has a sofa bed, a little table, an old pine chest, a once-glorious, now-faded rug, some pictures on the wall, a mirror, a good reading lamp, and no bookcase.  I have already decided that everything in this room, except for the pictures on the wall, is going to come with us.  Hence, until the last moment, it can remain in its present orderly state:  no empty boxes waiting to be filled;  no full ones waiting to be taken away, no choices, no angst. 

Every afternoon, when the sun begins to sink at the horizon and my spirits--weary from a day of deciding what to do with my long-abandoned stone carving tools or talking myself out of keeping a particularly soulful piece of pottery--start to plunge, I repair to the Downstairs Guest Room.  I turn on the lamp, dive into my Kindle, and proceed to knit the raveled sleeve of the day's care.

Need I mention that there's also Bisou snoozing on a cozy blanket on my right, and a glass of wine on the little table at my left?  Periodically, as I reach the end of a chapter, I look around and thank the universe for the Downstairs Guest Room, a sanctum where I can rest my eyes from the chaos, and my mind and my heart from the endless task of letting go, letting go, letting go.


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