I have house-gremlins. They hide behind the dust-bunnies and the dog-fur-tigers in the corners of the room and they never never never let anyone see them. But nonetheless, I know that they exist. "How?" I hear you ask, incredulously. "Well, it's simple," say I, "sit for a spell and I'll tell you..."
I can tell that I have house-gremlins, you see, by the manner of things that go missing and by the ways in which they return. The things that go missing, first off, are not the things one might expect to go missing. When my husband asks me, "Where would I find the book Zen and the Art of Cursing at Your Computer
?" I don't bat an eye. "Third bookshelf to the left," say I, "and straight on til morning." And that's exactly where it will be, sandwiched between "Aikido and the Art of the First Move
" and "Alphabetizing Your Cupboards For Dummies
When he asks me if I've seen the power cords for the celphones we used to have three calling plans ago because his friend from high school has the very same type of phone and could really use one during the two month vacation he's on because he somehow forgot to pack his own and now they don't make that model any more and he needs it by day after tomorrow because that's when he'll be driving through town, I say: "Hmmm... I haven't seen those in five years, not since we moved to this house, so that means that they never got unpacked, which means they'll be in Box 15LR." (box 15, living room. Speaking of which, we should talk about packing and moving some day. There is definitely One Right Way to do it, and I am quite sure that if there is ANY other living human being who knows this One Right Way, I will not be fortunate enough to meet her in my lifetime, as she is probably living in the wilds of Siberia with no access to the internet, armed only with a stack of U-Haul boxes, three Sharpies, several rolls of packing tape, bubble wrap, tissue paper, and a generous supply of index cards.)
"You should be able to find the box at the bottom of the stack of boxes in the garage beside the workbench along the far wall, behind the gardening screens, the empty gerbil tanks, and the canning jars."
It might take a few hours, but once we've cleared away the spiders webs and the thick layer of dust and have found a new place to stack the boxes that had been atop the bottommost one, I'll pull out my box knife and Zip! there will be the power cords he wanted, nested in amongst the leftover CAT-5 cable, a heavy mass of keys that don't fit any current locks, an old set of windchimes, and the toggle thingie for the ceiling fan that just needs a spot of glue if only I could find a glue that will bond to it.
When he asks me where the CD with the song "Day and Nitrous" is, I simply smile and remind him that he loaned the CD to a friend last New Years and we'll probably be able to get it back when we visit again next January, or he could ask the friend to put the CD in the mail if he needs it sooner than that.
Obscure things simply do not go missing at my house. Neither do things that I don't care about. Empty plastic bags, for example, never conveniently disappear. Instead, they colonize my cupboards and breed until the doors burst open from the strain.
No, the things that go missing are the Important things. Things like the set of keys that I JUST USED to get in the front door of my house. Less than two hours ago. (This happened once. Not lying.) It was late. I'd been up all night. I was tired. I stumbled through the front door, shed my coat and emptied my pockets, unloaded the car, locked up for the night, and took a one-hour nap before getting up again because I had a very important project due very early in the morning. My keys were gone. GONE! I searched everywhere. I searched my purse. I searched my jacket pockets (even the ones I hadn't been wearing). I searched every countertop I might have laid them down on. I searched the bathrooms. I searched by my computer, I searched the bedstand, I searched the kitchen. I searched my jeans pockets, I searched my jacket pockets (again), I searched my purse (again). I searched the car, thinking maybe I'd still had them in my hand when I unloaded, but no luck. I searched the garage. I checked the front door to see if they were dangling in the lock. I searched the refrigerator (I'd been tired. I'd put away groceries.) I searched every horizontal surface in the house. Multiple times. Eventually I resigned myself to the realization that the House Gremlins were active again, and I put together a backup set of keys for myself.
For several weeks I wondered whether the keys had somehow been lost outside and picked up by one of my neighbors, but no one broke in, and I do distinctly remember using my keys to enter the house that night, so they simply MUST be here somewhere. I kept looking, and looking, and looking. SIX MONTHS LATER they were sitting in plain sight on the edge of the pool table. In Plain Sight, on a surface I'd checked no less than once a week for six months. House Gremlins, I tell you. There's one now--did you see the dust-bunny move?
Most often, the Gremlins don't wait six months to return things. Most often, they wait only a week or so; just long enough for me to have cancelled all my credit cards and had new ones issued Just In Case. But sometimes they get playful: the red sock, for example. My roommate, Gipsieee, loves patterned socks. She has a whole collection of them, some of them handknit. Among the many patterned socks (they're easier to pair together after washing, you see) she has a pair of red socks with kittens cavorting across them. They're distinctive. And they're red. They're not easy to lose. Yet one day only one red kitten sock came out of the laundry, and with a shake of my head I sighed and tossed it into the Mismatched Sock Bin. (If you're getting the feeling that I never throw anything away, you'd be closer to accurate than I care to admit.)
The Mismatched Sock Bin is where lonely single socks go to hit on other lonely single socks until enough time passes that their wayward spouse sock finally shows up again. About once a month or so I sort out the Mismatched Socks. Any socks that remain mismatched for too long get pulled out of the Mismatched Socks bin and tossed into the Rags For All Purposes bin. Hey, I've got a system. So the mismatched red kitten sock really didn't bother me much, I just took it in stride and waited for the partner to return.
Months passed. I started to get very puzzled, but was determined not to toss the kitten sock out because the pair was brand new as of the previous December. Everytime I sorted the Mismatched Socks, that one lone kitten sock frustrated me. And then one day I did an intensive cleaning of the laundry room. I pulled the washer and dryer away from the walls so that I could sweep and mop behind them. I took an inventory of my cleaning supplies. I dusted the spiders webs. I climbed up on top of my washing machine to dust the tops of the laundry room cabinets, and THERE, lurking amidst the mutant dust bunnies, was the missing red kitten sock.
In case you're thinking there's an easy explanation, let me add: I have no cats, no ferrets, and no children. My dog does not climb, and both my husband's and my roommate's senses of humor run much more distinctly toward the intellectual. House-Gremlins, I tell you. The dust bunnies are proof.
"So, what about Box 10?" I hear you ask. "Ah, yes," I murmur, "Box 10."Box 10 is not a set of keys, nor is it a sock. Box 10 is not even a digital camera (Hey, House Gremlins!! I'm still waiting for the digital camera, you know... I haven't forgotten, and I'm not going to, and don't think I don't know who's behind the disappearance!! (ensuing sounds of grumbling followed by a flurry of galloping dust bunnies stampeding from underneath the bed)). In short, Box 10 is not pocket-sized. Box 10 is 12 inches by 16 inches by 24 inches. Box 10 is not easy to lose. Box 10 contains some Important Stuff. Box 10 has been missing since last October.
We went on a road trip, you see. It was half vacation, half "Come get your furniture and stuff so I can have a sewing room." The road trip lasted a fortnight. The road trip involved a bed-and-breakfast, four yarn shops, a stop at Powells City of Books
in Portland, half a day at Lacis
, several meanderings along the beach, a weekend at the Renaissance Faire
, time with friends, a birthday party, time with family, two dog shows, several appointments with Pomeranian breeders, a new trailer hitch, a rented U-Haul trailer, and a couple of days of packing (This is in addition to the packing that takes place before and after.) In short, October was BUSY! Very busy. We had a blast. We picked up souvenirs at all of the aformentioned locations, and probably would have needed the U-Haul trailer even if we hadn't needed to transport the furniture.
At the tail end of the excursion, we spent two full days packing and loading. There was furniture that Gipsieee was bringing home from her parents' house, there were boxes from Grandma's that had been packed up the previous July and now awaited pick-up, there were the suitcases and duffels of clothing for travel and of clothing for Renaissance Faire, and there were boxes of souvenirs from the road trip, and of childhood and high-school keepsakes. We mailed 3 sizeable but lightweight boxes home by US Postal. The remainder we loaded into the car and trailer until we simply could not fit any more in, and the weight maxed out. (To the very pound! We pulled it onto a truck scale just to be sure we weren't overweight.) We ended up with 63 boxes of varying sizes. Among them, Box 10: 12"x16"x24".
From a selection of sixty-some boxes filled with a wide variety of trinkets, knick-knacks, souvenirs, and what-nots, one might surmise that Box 10 couldn't matter at all, really. One might arrive at the conclusion that the contents of one meager box out of sixty could simply be forgotten, that the abundance of other Stuff in that vehicle would drown out the loss of just a few non-essential items. That each and every item within those 63 boxes could surely not all be remembered, dwelled upon, herded like wayward lambs home to a safe and cozy garage. One might expect that one box missing out of sixty would simply be shrugged off, ignored, forgotten.
But let me tell you that I have looked for the contents of that box repeatedly over the past 9 1/2 months.
Less than a week after we arrived back home I was looking for my new bronze barrettes.
By late November, I was frustrated that I could not work on the needle-lace projects that I'd begun on the trip.
In December I realized I hadn't yet found my acrylic box art project. The effect of that was disastrous! I abruptly lost all momentum on a three-year-running project and have several times since realized that if I don't find those boxes, the project is ended.
I tore the garage apart searching for it, but had no luck.
I grumbled furiously under my breath each time I needed a crochet hook, because nearly my entire collection had been with me on the trip and hadn't returned yet.
Gipsieee wondered where her set of train lanterns had disappeared to.
And earlier this month, I realized that my glass bead necklaces were not, in fact, tucked away with the Renaissance Faire costumes. It dawned on me that they, too, were among the missing.
When I re-located my inventory cards from the packing, I felt confident that absolutely everything that was missing was contained by Box 10.
In the past 9 1/2 months, I have thoroughly cleaned the garage 9 times. It looks worse now than it did before I started. Almost daily I wander through the garage, opening boxes at random in the desperate hope that I may have overlooked one. I have searched every corner of the house. Many times.
And yesterday, during The Thorough Garage Cleaning of August, I FOUND IT!!! BOX 10!!!! (happy dance, happy dance!) It was sitting in the very position that last month was occupied by a similar-sized box filled with old computer magazines. And sure enough, it contained every single missing item that we'd been fussing over. Every single one. Plus a box of origami paper.
House Gremlins, I tell you. House Gremlins.