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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Midstokke: Packing purgatory and household limbo

By Ammi Midstokke The Spokesman-Review

Now that we’ve built a new house, we’re both too tired to move into it. After so many months of time tables and project plans and coordinating subcontractors and budget calculations and late nights and long weekends, we find ourselves in bed early at our rental and refusing to make eye contact. It just takes too much energy.

We’re inhabiting what I like to call “packing purgatory.” It’s a chaotic, transitional place where you decline to mark your boxes because you’ve already packed the Sharpies and you are sure you’ll remember what is where. Also, pants seem to be missing, the kitchen only has baking supplies left in it, but you’re sure you’ll need them. This is one of the many lies you tell yourself during a move, like leaving the dining table in the place you’re sleeping because you think you’ll still be eating family dinner every night.

For once, there are no ingredients in my fridge (or fridges, because I now have two to manage). After noticing the children looking more emaciated than your average lanky teenagers, and overhearing a few passive-aggressive statements like, “Oh, granola bars for breakfast again,” I spent a small fortune on packaged food at Costco. Mostly different forms of hot dogs.

If you never want to actually cook a meal again, that’s a good place to start. Frozen burritos, double packs of lasagne, giant boxes of tortellini. It’s a carbohydrate and cheese addict’s delight. Which basically describes every teenager I know. To spare myself a measure of nutritional embarrassment, I bought a 5-pound bag of broccoli that will be thrown in the compost in a few weeks.

The mover’s refrigerator is a wasteland of abandoned holiday jams with dates going back to the Nixon administration. Moving is the only way you can justify tossing someone’s prize fermented beets from Christmas 2019. Other treasures of the ice box: freezer-burned gallons of blueberries, those bananas you were sure would make it into a banana bread, and some dirty ice cubes.

How ice cubes get dirty would be a mystery, had I not just shoved my filthy postride hand into them to make myself an iced coffee. I left at least a blade of grass and a few layers of topsoil dust in there, basically ensuring all chilled beverages in our house are probiotic. Which is good because it’s not like we’re eating salads or anything right now.

While the kids have perfected using the air fryer to heat up french fries, Charlie and I are living on coffee and stale tortilla chips. On Mother’s Day, he was somehow organized enough to source a variety of pastries. We survived on these until I heated hot dogs in the air fryer and accompanied them with some outdated mustard I found behind the jalapeño jelly from a picnic when the kids were still in grade school.

At the new house, the fridge only has a few cans of sparkling water in it. A pure, virgin fridge without even a leaf of putrified cilantro stuck to its walls. A new refrigerator is like having a new lease on life. This one has a special power that I think will save it from storing sauces discontinued for a decade: It is one of those shallow, cabinet-depth fridges. This means it has less room, costs three times as much as a normal fridge, and I can reach the back of it without needing a step stool.

Having exceeded our capacity for cooking or organized planning, our moving strategy has been to sometimes put some random things in a box and tote it up to the house. People keep asking when we’ll be moved in and the only definite answer we can give is, “Once the espresso machine is there.” Our hope is that the beds make it on the same day. With any luck, the teenagers will bring some of their burritos so we won’t starve.

Last night, with our sparkling waters and our handfuls of chips, we sat on the patio for a moment and listened to the wind in the trees. I know the wind blows in towns too, but it’s not the same soft sweeping of a forest, the way the whole hillside seems to sigh. A little piece of my soul has been packed in one of those unmarked boxes since we left our last home. It is what I am most looking forward to unpacking.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at