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Dreaming of the Simple Life

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I have a fantasy in which I sell all my belongings and live life with a single change of clothes and a few old journals. My husband doesn’t share this fantasy.

I say we could live a life less ordinary — pare down our belongings to what can fit in a Westfalia and explore the world before our children start school. My husband envisions Chris Farley living in a van down by the river.

I assure him this van fantasy is fundamentally different. Farley was sleeping in the van. We would be sleeping in the tent that pops up above the van. My husband says it is the same thing.

“Where would we go the bathroom?” he asks. “Outside,” I tell him. “See this as an opportunity to use the world as nature intended.” Instead, he sees me as crazy. I offer to compromise by using our toddler’s training potty. My husband does not see this as a compromise.

One cannot be free when one holds on too tightly. I ask him whether his kindergarten teacher ever taught him that love is only something if you give it away. He pretends not to know the lyrics to “Magic Penny.”

Well, I say, there was that one guy in Australia who got divorced and sold all of his and his ex-wife’s belongings to see the world. I bet he’s seeking a new travel partner who has sold all of her worldly belongings. My husband doesn’t find this joke funny. But my second husband may.

In reality, I know the fantasy of selling everything I own is just that — a fantasy. We just bought a new home that is twice the size of our current bungalow. We are moving into seasons and into nature. Our kids are getting a playroom, and I will be getting a closet. We will be cultivating not less but more. So here I sit, on the floor in my garage, in sweltering summer heat, packing box after box to move across the country.

And it has made me cranky. The packing is endless. The boxes break apart, the tape no match for the swampy humidity. The clothing and toys seem to be having relations with one another, multiplying like rabbits overnight. Maybe this is how rag dolls were born.

My husband has five winter coats. I tell him to pick two. He picks all five. I text him a picture of a Westfalia. He texts back the number 5. I put my 8-month-old daughter’s snowsuit in the giveaway pile. He says, “Let’s keep it.” Why? In case she goes all Benjamin Button on us?

Speaking of buttons, why do I have a drawer full of buttons? I actually have an entire drawer dedicated to extra buttons that come with nice clothes in case you lose one. Which is good, I guess, but I don’t really know how to sew on a button. And despite seemingly keeping up with the button drawer — based on how full it is — I forget such a drawer exists whenever I’m in need of such contraband. I’d mourn the loss of clothes I’ve thrown away over the years because of missing buttons that could have been replaced if I weren’t so eager to throw away everything else I own.

My mom used to be concerned I would have difficulty making attachments because I never developed a relationship with a blanket, bear or binky as a baby. But I bet she was glad when she didn’t have to keep yellowed, half-chewed, spit-stained pacifiers for memories’ sake.

And it’s not that I don’t have attachments. I’m just more attached to people and to experiences than to things. I prefer going to a birthday concert over getting a birthday present. I prefer an evening at the park with my children over an evening at Build-A-Bear. I’m attached to my babies. And to my friends. And to my family. And to my rabbit, Pig. And, yes, even to my first husband. So much so that he may even be my last husband. We’ll see how this move goes.

An empty box sits next to me. I guess I will fill it. Maybe with the five winter coats. But more likely with the photo albums and a miniature Westfalia my son likes to play with. If I can’t live the pared-down life, maybe I can inspire the next generation.

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