Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Iron Petticoat

Me: Miss Hepburn, I had the strangest dream. I—

KH: Oh good lord, not a dream story. Don't you know that dreams are never as interesting to the listener as they are to the dreamer?

Me: Actually, yes, I know that, but—

KH: Well, if you're determined to tell it.

Me: I dreamed that I was chaperoning Bill Clinton to his surprise birthday party. Madeline Albright was there, of course, and Tippi Hedren. And I was trying to keep track of who was ordering the steak and who was ordering the lamb by poking holes in a dinner roll with the tines of a fork. Needless to say, this wasn't very—

KH: What on God's green earth are you talking about?

Me: Yes, exactly, it was very confusing. And sort of upsetting.

KH: You must be easily upset.

Me: People were waiting...I couldn't keep track of anything...Bill was getting annoyed...

KH: And what do you think this means?

Me: Well, it may have to do with the couch.

KH: Of course it does.

Me: The 900-pound couch is finally gone. There are huge divets in the carpet where it used to be. After getting rejected by the Salvation Army—

KH: You do have a gift.

Me: —I put it on Craigslist under "Free" and a nice guy and his big, strong teenage son came and took it away.

KH: Excellent. The couch needed to go. So what does this have to do with Bill Clinton?

Me: Well, nothing, obviously. But we're in a state of chaos here.

KH: Oh, you don't know the meaning of chaos. Have you seen me play a Chinese peasant in Dragon Seed?

Me: Okay, "chaos" is a little strong. "Disarray."

KH: You're selling your home and moving across the country. Did you expect to remain arrayed?

Me: I donated my wedding china to the UCLA Thrift Store, and the framed James and the Giant Peach poster from The Child's room. We're shredding years' worth of ancient bank statements. We have carpet samples on the floor and boxes everywhere. Some even have things in them.

KH: And?

Me: Well, that's it, I guess. I just feel so...scattered. So out of order.

KH: It's the disorder before the order, that's all. Think of the disorder I put poor Cary Grant through in Bringing Up Baby. And that ended happily, didn't it?

Me: It did.

KH: And you do realize you're not the first person ever to do this?

Me: Yes, of course I do. It's just odd, watching your life history evaporate in front of your eyes.

KH: Oh, let's avoid the melodrama, shall we? Joan Crawford you are not.

Me: Sorry.

KH: Now just roll up your sleeves and dive right in. Do the work.

Me: I am.

KH: No, you're not. You're sitting here talking to me. Go to it! Work clockwise! Don't touch anything twice! Take pictures of things to remember them by if you must, then throw them out! Take charge!

Me: Yes, ma'am!

KH: Just don't ask me to help.


Lesley said...

Lovely, deah, just lovely. I'm sooooo pleased that you have a guiding spirit to see you through this most trying, most, stage of your life.
And thank God about the couch!

Miss Whistle said...

This is too fabulous. Genius, snappy dialog. Love it.

Miss W xx

one of 365 said...

Very clever! Very clever indeed. Oh if only Katherine WERE here I'd bet you she WOULD help with the heavy lifting (well, maybe if you fooled her into thinking it was an audition for a juicy role!). Were you upset that you donated your wedding china? I know some people don't get sentimental about things.....I was just surprised because that tends to be something people hold on to. Anyway, Katherine is right! Millions of people have done this before. Juts like that 900lb weight was lifted off the floor, eventually the rest of the weight of this move will be lifted off of your chest. It is happening---and it is daunting. But remember, it is what you want and have dreamed of........and Katherine H. always went for HER dreams I reckon ;) xoxoxoxo--One of 365

Anonymous said...

Screamingly funny!

I did a ruthless clean-out of my life and home in America when I moved to England to marry earlier this year. I let go of so many things and just kept the memories.

They're so much easier to pack.

Michele Hush said...


I just read this (better late than never). How great! Is it based on a real dream (it must be)? If yes, when you've made your move and settled in, I must introduce you to my friend Mary, whose dreams frequently include presidents, too -- usually Abraham Lincoln, but Bill Clinton has shown up on several occasions as well.

Susan Champlin said...

Thank you so much, Lesley, Miss Whistle and one of 365 for your wonderful, encouraging comments!

GiftsoftheJourney: So happy to meet a kindred spirit! I love your blog and your story—and your photographs of Cornwall. Stunning.

Michele: Yes, it was a real dream (and even more bizarre and convoluted than I described!). I look forward to a "dream dinner" in NY with you and your friend Mary.

carol said...

For me, the unsettled feeling of moving grew exponentially when I started to think, "Is my very foundation actually built from these household appliances, these pieces of furniture?" Why else would the movement and disarray of these things cause such an imbalance?

I agree with the other comment, about how the memories have to be what you plant your feet on. Easier said than done when you can't even find your favorite cereal bowl in the morning.

Good luck with it! I feel for you!

marilyn said...

How clever is this? We should all be so lucky as to have chaos inspire creation. Now I'm off to read it again.

Susan Champlin said...

Carol: You're right, it's shocking to realize how much of our sense of place and self are tied to our "stuff." As the apartment gets emptier and emptier, I've been having to recalibrate that sense. It's trickier than I thought.

Marilyn: Thank you so much for that! You cheered me up as I assess today's chaos.