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Dorothea Tanning: Musical Chairs (1951)
"I retain faith that we'll eventually find a way to finally move in."

While The Muse and I enthusiastically initiated The Grand Refurbishment, it brings certain externalities which we cannot properly characterize as anything but inconvenient. Six months after returning to The Villa for the first time all over again, we're still not moved in. We're not moved out, but also not unboxed. Our living room looks like a stage set for some post modern melodrama or undergraduate living, perhaps both. Carpets rolled up and not quite invisibly stored behind a couch suspiciously canted to provide for additional hiding space that doesn't really hide anything. Whole rooms still stacked high with boxes, most prominently, boxes of books. We live in a suspended tile puzzle, its solution not eluding us but still pending.

We've proven better at waiting and tolerating than we earlier suspected.
It's trying, though, to know that I cannot yet unpack my guitar or access some book I'd like to reference. We live in a version of a mythical future state as if our very existence has been suspended for good reason and just requires patience for resolution. It's a faith-based initiative. I sense that this extremely unresolved state could become permanent should we lose resolve, faith, or financing. I lately realize while hanging here suspended between lives just how complacent I'd formerly been, just moving in without really considering repainting every damned surface and removing baseboards for refurbishing first. It hadn't even entered my mind to consider such a radical tactic. We'd just move in then live, without all the preliminaries which have become our lifestyle for nine months now if I include the exit upset we foisted upon ourselves when we left The Villa Vatta Schmaltz High in Colorado, where we also repainted every room and more on our way out that door.

This huge old house seems tight as we crawl through the stages of this refurbishment. We're long past the naive enthusiasm stage and perhaps see a wisdom one looming ahead. We've been playing games, not for diversion but of necessity. We've been endlessly playing Find The [?], where the question mark represents whatever item is most essential in any particular moment. We've by necessity become quite skilled at Making Do Without, a Great Depression-era game with abiding relevance. We try to maintain a specific Home Base for every blessed item, but conditions do not always allow for certain items to be returned after use, rendering them lost, or as good as lost, or as bad. Many of our current Home Bases amount to temporary quarters as we've vacated rooms to remake them. We've been playing an adult and expansive version of musical chairs I'll call MusicalRooms. In this game, the entire contents of a room must be moved into another room where they are merged with the contents of that other room and a few other items which also seem as if they might fit. Something's always left over to get shoved into some clever-seeming corner, the location of which the mover must immediately forget. Whole classes of possessions currently exist in what are essentially black holes. We suspect our stuff's still intact in there somewhere but cannot confirm this suspicion as fact. Only Schrodinger knows. Further faith required.

One might wonder just how essential any possession could be if it sat in black hole suspension for three quarters of a year or more. Would I even recognize my own children after such a lengthy separation? Will I remember anything of my library or will its spell have left me by the time I'm finally allowed to display it again? I feel my discipline waning as I set about loading up the hand truck again, reorganizing boxes, chairs, and lamps into a clever new configuration. That middle room upstairs needs emptying today so the planking machine can lay new flooring in there next week. The master bedroom also needs emptying, its contents clogging the freshly planked hallway.

Musical Chairs was my introduction to the venerable life boat drill, a class of game, the purpose of which was to teach exclusion as a form of amusement. The Muse and I disallowed lifeboat games in our workshops, considering them contemptible and capable of teaching nothing. Like those faux reality television competitions where somebody's eternally getting voted off the island, they don't very well represent any reality I'm interested in creating. I want to play musical chairs where every child finds a seat waiting and nobody's bumping butt to survive for another round. Where nobody's forced to stop playing due to pretend shortages. I imagine that in my game of MusicalRooms, I will find more than enough space to accommodate each shift and that there will always be another round possible and that we will engineer no loss for any reason. It's frustrating enough to play Keep Away with myself with my own damned stuff. We're moving again this morning. Moving out and moving in and not unpacking anything again. I retain faith that we'll eventually find a way to finally move in; one day, someday. Amen.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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