We are excited and completely unglued. Chaos reigns. Ten years of files to rifle through, to stuff in boxes, label and forget. Ten years of accumulated dust in unseen corners. Ten years of computer wiring and telephone cords dangling from the ceiling and creeping down hallways.
Ten years of memories.
Do we keep the hideous green '60s Mediterranean style loveseat with exposed stuffing? What about the leaning tree in the lobby that still has 1998's Christmas decorations hidden in its branches?
It's like those early moves your family made when your furniture was largely vintage Goodwill or rescued from the fraternity row dumpster on your college campus.
Our family moved a used pink sofa five times before finally leaving it behind when we relocated from Nashville to Honolulu. It was actually salmon-colored, the dull shade the fish takes on when it sits in the refrigerator too long. It was long enough to seat six large men. It was quite possibly the ugliest sofa on earth.
But for our daughter, it was a bus that she could load up with all her stuffed animals and a few friends. It was a boat, steering a course toward Africa. It was a long convertible, cruising through the desert.
Here at the Independent, we have dismantled our bulletin boards and cleaned out our desk drawers. We run back and forth between offices asking, "Do you want this? Should we keep this?"
A co-worker offers me all the ketchup, taco sauce and mayonnaise packets that have collected in a back corner of her top desk drawer, not because she thinks I will actually use them, but because she too remembers that when we started the paper some 550 issues ago, my sons were adorable first graders who skipped up and down the halls while we worked. Their office ritual was to play a while, then raid my friend's desk, looking for ketchup packets. Taco Bell sauce was the coveted prize. They were golden-haired, sweet smelling, gaggle toothed, compact, lively. They were seven. Now they are seventeen.
My friend and I remember the day one of my boys, on a dare, jumped up and grabbed the nozzle of an ancient faucet attached to an up-ended water pipe in the hallway of our building. A gusher smacked him in the face and splattered across the floor before I could turn it off. We remember the Sunday when one of the twins was trapped in the elevator for an hour while we waited for the repairman to arrive from Denver. We remember, then we go back to packing.
We save slips of paper with telephone numbers that never made it into our Rolodexes or onto our computers. We box up treasured files from stories closed years ago that never really go away. Here is the 13-year-old girl who died and here is the Christmas card her parents sent six years later, a portrait of them with their beautiful adopted son. Here are the hopeful words of the political candidate who has grown older and balder and less hopeful over the years. Here are lives frozen in time.
We box up our stories. We box up a tiny fraction of the town's history.
Today we grow frantic and disoriented because the movers are coming, our computers will be unplugged, our telephones disconnected. Because we are a newspaper, it feels as if we are being taken off life support. Will we be able to breathe without the respirator? Will we be able to think without the e-mail connection? Will we have a memory if we don't have the file server?
Photos appear and disappear. Here is the Christmas party when the art director, dancing with the long-legged receptionist, tipped over the Christmas tree. Here is the distribution manager whose name no one can remember. Here is the wedding of the sales manager, the summer wedding in my backyard. Remember? The kids from across the alley came over and break-danced at the reception? Remember?
We pull the strapping tape across a box stuffed with papers. We fold the box flaps down over years of accumulated trivia, data, information. We pull down our framed awards, our kids' artwork, off the scarred walls. We laugh at an old office memo, so serious, so angry, so silly. We laugh at how young we were, how old we are.
We decide not to take the green sofa. It's too old and ugly. We want to start fresh.