Brand building through storytelling

Moving day

After the movers carted out the last boxes, with much clattering of dollies and thudding of heavy-booted feet, I walked from end to end of the condo they had just stripped bare, then retraced my steps a time or two, letting the finality of leaving home set in. I’d been packing up the place for weeks, and it all went out the door in a couple of hours, until nothing remained but the odd roll of tape and and a couple of forlorn lightbulbs.

Some women have ex-husbands. I have ex-homes, every one of which I loved for highly particular reasons that had to be acknowledged and mourned when the time came to go. The day we moved out of the condo, I finally understood that I would never again sit down to write in that office, or serve barbecued salmon on that balcony, or wake up in that impossibly spacious bedroom, with its fireplace and built-in bookshelf, which looks like any other decently constructed shelf but in fact arrived in its place by a rare stroke of good fortune.

Back when the shelf was first built and ready for its long-awaited installation, the cabinet maker hit a snag: our shelf was too tall for the elevator. Its only path to our new home was via crane to the balcony doors—at a head-spinning cost. Just as I was wishing we’d gone to IKEA like practical people, the cabinet maker noticed something: a crane at the construction site next door. Charming fellow that he is, he persuaded the crane operator to hoist our shelf to the tenth floor in exchange for a case of beer.

On moving day I stood in the empty family room, which for now is the palest shade of yellow (the next owners plan to repaint) and saw for the first time in years how sunlight fills the space when there aren’t any blinds to filter it. I remembered conferring with my husband on the floor plan for this room, the first and possibly only family room in our lives to open directly off the kitchen. At the time it seemed terribly important to have this configuration. When I first saw the family room, with its brand-new coat of white primer, I felt a thrilling surge of recognition, as if I had known it for years. With my husband, I had dreamed it into existence, one fixture and cornice at a time.

For five years we fine-tuned this creation of ours, while visitors exclaimed at how lucky we were to live there. As recently as six months ago, we were still contemplating enhancements. Then something shifted, imperceptibly at first, like afternoon light fading into dusk. We fell out of love with our home. It was too big, too posh and worth too much money. It suited the corporate types we had been, and not the self-employed adventurers we’ve since become. It embodied our past, not our future.

I used to relish the sound of my key turning in the lock of that condo. “I’m home,” I would think with a sigh of pleasure. Then it started to seem as if I’d wandered into someone else’s home, where drinks for 100 would served the next evening by uniformed wait staff. I no longer wanted to stay, but on moving day a part of me did not want to go. At the granite kitchen counter, I put my head in my hands and wept. I knew I wouldn’t miss the condo. But until we created another home, I would miss the care and hope we’d invested in this one.

If you believe the ads for high-gloss condos, a home is 24-hour concierge service, designer finishes and a gym with a separate yoga room. These ads promise “a masterpiece” to those who can pay the price—as if four premium walls, decked out at great expense, could have the staying power of Pride and Prejudice or the cathedral at Chartres. But the fact is, any home can be dismantled. What makes the place home is the memories and the stories that it holds.

Moving day ended in a mad flurry of boxes and furnishings borne through another door and deposited in daunting stacks that pretty well consumed our new loft. Blazing a narrow trail through the chaos, I seized upon my “open me first” box as if it were a long-lost friend. My coffee pot! My filters! Order would be wrought in this mess!

Five days later, we’re still digging ourselves out from cardboard and packing paper. I don’t know what became of the dinner plates, or how to work the dining room light switch, which needs to be caressed just so, like a demanding and recalcitrant lover. Every day I busy myself with the broom, and every hour a new layer of dust settles on our work in progress. If you rang our doorbell today, you wouldn’t think it looked like a home. But you don’t know what these boxes contain. So of course you’d be mistaken.

The true meaning of home has been on my mind ever since we decided to move late last fall. Here’s where to click for my posts on homes past and future.


Posted by Rona

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