When we touched down last summer we were traveling light. Our container was over the ocean. We had 3,000 feet of house which contained only appliances and the mattresses we had ordered ahead. My new work colleagues loaned us a box of kitchen things, pillows, blankets. We borrowed a folding table and chairs from the school. We were also given some small portable butterfly chairs, golf chairs, essential kit for our new life.
There are few places, few events, here in the Pays de Bama, which aren’t suited to Crocs and golf chairs and a surprising number of events at which we have turned up only to wish it had occurred to us to sling the chairs in the trunk.
Our chairs are the most basic model but others come with arm rests or with arm rests that have drink holders or backs that extend to awnings. They may include zipped compartments for magazines or snacks. They may be made of stars and stripes.
Take your chairs to soccer so that your legs don’t fall asleep.
At swim meets, arrive early and use the chairs to stake your space.
At the dog park, which is sited under the flyover, next to the freight train track, you can set your chair up in the shade.
On the banks of the river, use your chair to fish.
Take them to the park for summer concerts.
The chairs should probably just stay in the trunk, along with the case of water bottles and the big umbrella, but there is some part of me that resists entirely the idea of living out of the car. One mom told me at the start of last school year that that was what it came to. You stored entire sets of clothing for each family member in the car. Just in case, like the spare sets of clothing we had to send in to school for the girls when they were small. You end up with doubles of everything. An upstairs one. A car one. An outside one. This is how peoples’ garages come to resemble assisted living facilities.
Even now, with our shipment arrived and unpacked, even having made a hundred trips to Target, Wal-Mart, Lowes and Home Depot, for patio furniture, for a television, for unbreakable platters, for lamps, for two grills, for a broom, a vacuum cleaner, for hangers, a file cabinet, wastepaper baskets, hampers, dog things, we are still missing basic items: iron, blender, ladder, a duvet and pillows for the guest room and there is always something we need to go back for, to stock up on, to replace. Within a year, a broadband router, a pair of pruning shears and two can openers have bitten the dust. We are trying to pace ourselves.
We go down to the river, by the bridge we came in on. It is a city park like the ones I used to build in Sim City with the green going right to the water’s edge. It is beautiful, with mists and rolling hills. Not many people are here. How can we have been here so long and never been here before?
We nudge the dog from the car and a woman calls to us that he is beautiful. We thank her and I notice that she is in pajamas and that her car is loaded to the brink with stuff, not luggage but smaller items stacked and organized, the way the typical garage looks, or the inside of a very full closet.
She has the doors and the trunk open and is drying towels and shirts in the morning sun. It is a dark silver car with a crumpled side so that it looks like aluminum foil, fragile and temporary. She has silky white hair pinned up in a clip. Her pajama bottoms are printed with a pink design and the pink top looks like it could be part of a medical uniform. She tells us to have a blessed day.