Knives Shiny, silver knives with smooth black handles. Maybe a dozen knives lined neatly in the wooden block. A step up from my lone serrated knife- technically purposed for cutting bread, but in my miniscule and barren kitchen, it managed all jobs. The day I moved in with my boyfriend, now husband, my defining thought was “I now own knives.”
Since those days, my life has changed considerably. I no longer pine for knives. I own a home. My house is a beautiful, newly remodeled three bedroom model located in Phoenix, AZ. But for the next four months, I am making my home in an apartment in Oregon, due to a work assignment for my husband. While I considered staying in Arizona for the duration of his temporary job, I didn’t consider it long. We are a team. I rely on him. I am not the type of person that can do it alone. Or maybe I can and I just don’t want to.
Upon entering our apartment for the first time, my memory returned to those knives. I was reminded of how little I used to possess and how little it used to bother me.I believe myself to be a relatively simple person when it comes to material needs, mostly because I am cheap and set in my ways. I refuse to purchase anything new that I can make, trade for, or buy second hand. I rarely fall prey to the latest technology craze since I can’t fathom the price tag or the learning curve. Last year, I finally upgraded my cell phone to one with a full keyboard and that was a big step for me. When I bought my new-to-me CR-V, I called my husband to brag that it had a 5 disc CD system. “Welcome to the 90’s” he replied. It was 2011.
As I inspected my new apartment, I didn’t recognize the voice complaining about the lack of a king-sized bed, although it sounded exactly like mine. “There is no DVR,” I pouted. I was going to be forced not only to watch whatever happened to be on, but also to endure commercials.
What really sent me over the edge was the lack of air conditioning. Ben reminded me of the climate difference between Arizona and Oregon. The look on his face read “oh great. My wife has become an asshole.” I was bordering on holding my breath until I got a goose that laid gold eggs for Easter.
We had been led to believe the apartment would be fully furnished, down to dishtowels and serving spoons. I believe the exact words were “it has everything but a pizza pan.” Perhaps, my idea of fully furnished relies a bit too heavily on the “fully” portion of the phrase. We have six plates. There are four of us, so you can guess how often we are doing dishes. We have two pans, sized small and tiny. One spoon for cooking, one spatula, and one ladle. Assorted glasses and flatware. That’s fully furnished.
We set out for Target and Dollar Tree to purchase necessities. Some were truly necessary, like toilet paper and a cutting board. Other purchases fell into questionable territory. I hung my head in shame when I placed a garlic press in the shopping cart.
I allowed myself to grumble and shop through day one. On day two, I put on my “make the best of it” face.
My sons were exploring the apartment in the fashion preferable to preschoolers. They jumped on the furniture. They chased each other from room to room, squealing with glee along the way. I knew I had to get them out of the house before the tenants below us began beating on their ceiling with a broom. We headed for the park.
A trip to the park in Arizona requires hauling a plethora of items- at least it does for us. Before leaving the house I pack sunscreen, hats, water, snacks, balls, shovels, buckets, and various other items for play. The desert is not always the most friendly of playgrounds. The ground is hard and littered with sharp rocks. The slides and swings must be tested for temperature to ensure they won’t burn tender flesh. I find myself harping “don’t touch that” as little hands reach for cacti. Even the grass feels sharp.
As we approached the park in Oregon, I nervously noted that while the grounds were vast, the playground was small- nothing more than a few swings and some rocks to climb on. I need not have worried. My boys raced right past the swings and headed straight into the forest. I exhaled and relaxed as they ran ahead of me, anxious to examine the giant leaves hanging from trees. We happened upon a small bridge and spent the next thirty minutes dropping twigs and rocks into the water below. I didn’t even have to bring a snack. Wild black berries bushes lined our path and we ate until our fingers became stained purple with juice.
That afternoon, I prepared vegetables and fruits for simple salads for our dinner. I had an entire block of knives at my disposal, but I used only one- one was all I needed. As I washed and chopped, I daydreamed about the happiest days from my own childhood. For about four years, my family lived in a house on ten acres of land. It was not quite a farm, but we raised a couple of cows, some chickens, and a goat. We ate from an enormous garden we all helped to tend. I spent my days wandering the fields with my siblings, picking wildflowers and searching for salamanders in the pond.
We have only been in Oregon a couple of weeks, but this is the closest I have come to recreating the magic of my childhood for my own children. The realities of apartment life mean we spend most of our time outside. We visit the forest daily, pretending fallen trees are pirate ships, fashioning the branches into oars and swords. There is even a farm near our home where we can wander the gardens and buy fresh produce.
This is the life I want for my sons, not just for the next four months, but every day. Perhaps it is not the desert climate that keeps me from living this existence in Arizona. I have become complacent and given in to routine rather than exploration. A lesson learned, a chance to start over and take the benefits of my travels with me when I return home. No doubt the desert has its own magic. I just need to find it. While Oregon wears its charms on its sleeve, Arizona is much more like a game of hide and seek. Luckily, my kids love that game.