The closing on our house in Oak Park went pretty smoothly. At about 10:30 am we signed and initialed the stack of papers, handed the keys to the real estate agent and we were officially homeless.
From there we drove up to Rogers Park to do our walk-through on the place we would be moving into later that day.
When the seller of our new house, Lia Munson, opened the door to let us in, we found that she was nowhere near being packed or loaded ..let alone finished cleaning. There was no one there helping her, and no moving van parked out front.
All of us were due downtown at 1:30 for our closing, and it suddenly looked like it wasn't going to happen.
It was 11 am on a weekday. My children were in school at that moment, and they had no home to come home to in 4 hours.
(Pardon my French just then, ..but under certain circumstances profanity should be allowed. In such moments, when suddenly blindsided by news that invokes a sense of deep desperation, ..evoking an involuntary gasp of shock and horror, ..the utterance of such an epitaph is not only a given, ..but a privilege earned.
I had, unquestionably, earned that moment.)
Lia Munson had lived in the house since 1959. Her husband passed away in 1967 and she never remarried. She was in her mid 80s now, and it was too much house for her to take care of. That much was clear. It was obvious that she hadn't remodeled in at least 30 years, nor had she painted in at least 15. The entire place had a deep musty smell, the stained and faded wall to wall carpet being at least 40 years old.
And she was a packrat. She had knick-knacks and stuff everywhere, and everything she owned was old. It needed a good cleaning, but the place was basically kept tidy.
I remember walking into the house the very first time, several months earlier.
I was slackjawed as my eyes drank everything in.
..and all I kept murmuring was;
"Oh. My. God."
..which was my response for 2 continuous thoughts;
"What an amazing old house. What character!" ..and,.. "Christ, I don't know where to start!"
But, regardless of the long work ahead, I was thrilled when she accepted our offer.
..That was all earlier in the Summer, though.
Now, it was move-in day, and the place looked, if anything, messier than when we walked through the very first time.
So, I asked Lia, who was there alone (and frankly, looking pretty numb and overwhelmed by everything), if she had planned to be at the closing at 1:30.
She said "yes", but she .."had some more packing to do, first."
I muttered something like; "..mm'kaaayy.." ..but what was going through my mind was;
"Are you insane, Woman?! Have you taken leave of your senses?!! Are Elves going to suddenly pop out of your butt, pack your shit into a pumpkin and magically whisk you off to your brother's house in Minnesota!!?? ..GAHH!!!"
..or something similar..
I politely asked if it was okay to walk through the place, and she said it was fine.
Every room in the house was full of stuff. Some drawers had been emptied, and there were a few open boxes, ..but no closets had been emptied. The walk-up attic was stuffed to the gills with 40 years of stuff. The full basement; same deal, but in addition to boxes and boxes of old magazines, she had an old meat freezer that was about the size of a Mini Cooper. It was gargantuan, and it was stuffed with food that was as old as 25 years.
4 floors, and every nook and cranny of this 110 year old Victorian had 40 years of someone elses life in it. But, it was all supposed to be gone by now, and my family had no place to sleep that night. I didn't panic though, because I am, if anything, a rock in situations like this. I really am, ..though I must admit I did come close to a meltdown at one point;
..There was one moment, ..when I opened the bathroom closet, and looked at how much stuff was crammed onto the shelf. I noticed some boxes of tampons from the 70s.
This woman had probably been post-menopausal for 30 years.