As creatives, we often imagine a life in which our art comes first, where the environment, the schedule, our friends–EVERYTHING fuels our creative energy, and we turn out massive amounts of beautiful work. Whether we dream of a Walden Pond cabin or a Soho loft, many of us can imagine a radically creative life. I recently shared the news with you of some major changes I am making in my life: moving to Italy with my 89-year-old mother and tiny dog in order to write my next novel. So come with me on a journey as we seek a radically creative life. Imagine . . .
You arrive at your charming Tuscan apartment where your landlord gives you the keys. He is a pleasant soul who speaks no English and, for some reason, can’t understand your Italian. Yet you are able to convey that you wish the apartment had a full-sized refrigerator rather than the little under-counter one, and he gallantly offers you a new one he has in storage.
But when she sees the apartment, your mother is appalled. “I’m not staying here. It’s about to fall down. It’s not safe. I’m going to a hotel.” But you will not take her to a hotel, so she goes to bed and covers up her head after throwing her cane on the floor in a little hissy fit.
The driver you hired to deliver you from the airport takes pity on you and takes you to a furniture store where you buy your mother the nifty electric recliner you chose last time you were here when you envisioned her sitting by the window with the beautiful Tuscan view. You also order a wardrobe for your clothes as your brain is spinning as to how you can possibly make these two rooms work since the front one, with the kitchen in one end, is mostly full of a monstrous sofa. You buy a microwave because your mother believes it to be a necessity and the crux of a civilized life.
The driver hauls the recliner back. She hates it. You stop and get food, pizza which even you think is tough. She hates it.
In your jet-lagged exhaustion, you lay awake and try to figure out how to arrange the apartment. You want to use the long table for a writing space. You want a full-size refrigerator. There is a bright flash in your head. Maybe an idea or perhaps the precursor to a stroke. Get rid of the sofa that takes up half the front room and which your mother says is the most uncomfortable thing God ever made.
You and your mother are living out of your carry-ons because you dare not unzip the huge suitcases until the wardrobe arrives. There is no where to unfold them and you envision your stuff exploding out with no where to put it. But your three huge suitcases are alike and you’ve packed your things with your mom’s. She is appalled that she can’t have her house shoes, so you gingerly insert your hand in each suitcase and feel around, but it is hopeless.
The apartment that looked so cute when you were here with your 20″ suitcase now looks crammed with decorative items. You pile knickknacks and excess kitchen clutter outside in the garden. You take down the huge, very realistic nude that causes your mother to shake her head. She is convinced she is in the last circle of hell. And where is her Chapstick?
The landlord comes and you break the news to him that you really don’t have room for the monstrous sofa hide-a-bed and could he take it away? He is stunned and explains to you with gestures that he will have to take the thing apart to get it out the door. You smile sweetly with a look you hope conveys your complete confidence in his ability to pull this off.
He sighs and gets tools. Indeed, by the time he is through, the thing is in 20 pieces. Then he brings you a full-sized refrigerator to replace the apartment one. He has stored this new refrigerator in the cellar below your apartment. Extremely narrow, turning stairs lead down to an arched door about five feet high. Watching him and one other man bring up the refrigerator distracts you for a while. He loads all the bric-a-brac you piled in the garden into the microwave box.
Your dog is constipated. No wait. She’s not.
Your mother is so pleased to be rid of the sofa, she agrees to go out to dinner. But the restaurant you hoped would be open is not. The other one within walking distance for her won’t open for another hour and a half. You’re both exhausted. The little shop where you once bought salads and veggies and the most amazing green beans now seems to have nothing but pizza. Your mother is convinced you are going to starve her to death. And where is her nail file?
Miraculously, the wardrobe is delivered at 8:30 a.m. You immediately unpack to excavate the house shoes, Chapstick, and nail file, stacking both beds full of stuff. Then you realize you have no hangers. You walk to the store you expect to have hangers. They have ironing boards and clothes pins and all manner of clothing paraphernalia. But no hangers. The young woman tells you that you must go to the Lego Store. You know exactly how far that is. You sigh.
At the Lego Store, which seems to have nothing to do with Legos, you buy hangers and cardboard storage boxes. Paper towels, washcloths. You can’t haul it all. You buy a rolling bag. You stop and get very expensive restaurant food to take home.
Your landlord is there, reversing the refrigerator doors, plastering over holes left by a shelf he had to move to put the refrigerator where you wanted it, rehanging the shelf over your workspace. Suddenly there is a crash in the back room. Your mother has let the back of her recliner hook under one side of the open window and as she raised the back, she lifted the window off its hinges. It is a beautiful thing, solid oak frame, and pretty sturdy because it did not break when it hit the tile floor. The landlord cannot understand why the window should suddenly jump off its hinges. Your mother murmurs to you what happened. You don’t want to tell the landlord, but finally you do because he is so agitated that he can’t figure it out and also because he is looking at you both as if you might be a pair of witches.
He leaves. You bring out the restaurant food which your mother declares to be “good but weird.” You consider this progress. You hang up all the clothes, assemble the storage boxes and sort stuff. The refrigerator is humming. You will write, you tell yourself. You will . . .