It’s not a saying you’re likely to see made into one of those overpriced wooden wall trinkets. But while moving our belongings from the old camp to the new camp, and then from the old house to the new camp-house, Tom and I had a motto that became so ingrained in our psyche, it may as well have been burned onto a pine plank and hung in our entryway.
“Crap goes out. No crap comes back in.”
Three years ago, “out” referred to moving all our Maine stuff to our garage. Since the roof was coming off to build our cabin up two stories, everything had to go or risk being demolished by a Sawzall. Back then, we weren’t experienced movers. In 30 years of marriage, we’d moved our things only twice: once from an attic apartment nicknamed the Hobbit Hole to our first house, and once from a water-access-only camp we’d sold as furnished (minus a moose steak-sized cast iron skillet too well seasoned to leave behind, and a few other must-have items for setting up our next rustic kitchen we’d thrown in a Roughneck dish pan). No biggie, we figured. Carting stuff across the back lawn to the garage in Rangeley would be a logistical breeze compared to lugging it down those Hobbit Hole steps and into the back of our pickup, or ferrying it across the northern end of Moosehead.
So, standing at Point A, my kitchen, looking out the window across the relatively short expanse to Point B, my garage, I felt pretty cocky that Memorial Day of 2007. Not too much packing required, I figured. No moving boxes even necessary. Nope, the only box I’d need was my box of drawstring garbage bags. And why bother labeling them? After all, I was only packing camp stuff and moving it 70 feet for a few months until construction was finished. Come Labor Day, I’d just cart it all back in…..
Not-so-fast forward to February 2008. Camp-house reconstruction is almost done. I’m thrilled with my new kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms, and am eager to outfit their brand spanking newness with a few household essentials. “At least one lamp. That big old spaghetti pot. Definitely the coffee maker and, if I’m lucky, another flashlight.” I’m rattling off a wish list of items to retrieve as I make my way out to the garage along our Iditarod Trail, so-named by our builder who’s had to shovel his way to work since early December. Turned out, my Labor Day end-date for construction was, as we’d say in engineering support operations, an “aggressive” deadline. Tom and I had made short work of moving all the old camp crap out on that balmy May afternoon, stacking bulging bags atop our old book shelves and cramming all manner of things into dresser drawers. “It’s getting real now,” we declared as we bid farewell to the empty log shoebox of a camp that used to be our summer home. Our part of the project was done, now “presto-chango, full speed ahead,” and we’d back in before snow flies, right?
So…I miscalculated by several months. Meanwhile, snow had definitely flown, drifted, blanketed and flown again while I acclimated myself to what was real and possible when erecting a three-story salt-box out of an old shoebox shell 20 miles from the nearest building supply store. Also unrealistic, I discovered that winter, was thinking stuff could just be moved back in as effortlessly as it had been moved out. That would have meant I could actually find the coffee pot resting inside an old wastebasket atop the bookshelf, that I could pinpoint whether the flashlight was in my old sock drawer or at the bottom of any given garbage bag. Actual pinpointing of any sort, it turned out, was impossible in the freezing garage. Who knew back in May that drawstring garbage bags don’t reopen for gloved fingers and only expose their contents to mice who find what they’re looking for among the ancient camp towels?
Yup, the Iditarod Trail hampered all but a staggered approach to the garage-to-camp return trip. And, actually, abiding by our “no crap comes back in” motto had to be a staged effort as well. We did immediately rid ourselves of the really ancient junk – things like plastic juice tumblers that probably came free in boxes of laundry detergent back in the 50’s, a sugar bowl I think my mother got with S & H Green stamps, and assorted nicky-nacks we’d accumulated from well-meaning relatives who figured our camp was one step better than Salvation Army. In all practicality, though, since selling our Rochester house was still a ways off, we had to hang onto the old spaghetti pot and the lamps and such that had already lived a hard life before being deemed good enough for camp. Until we could move to Rangeley permanently, our motto had to be revised to “some crap comes back in, but goes back out as soon as its newer or better replacement arrives.”
I think we’ve succeeded. Six months since our big migration up the mountain for good, we are packing and moving experts. We rented a storage pod and tracked its contents with first-in-last-out precision. We bubble wrapped and boxed and carefully labeled. We merged and purged until there’s only traces of semi-serviceable camp junk mingled in with our new stuff. We’re all unpacked now, except for a few miscellaneous boxes tucked away on the third floor we’re ignoring till the dead of winter. Like the one labeled “Hall closet crap.” That one’s gotta go back out to the garage.