Rental Sweet Rental

After a heated two hour intermission between church and a relaxing Sunday afternoon, my two roommates and I dropped off our borrowed car and walked triumphantly across the scorching pavement to our apartment with our new cable modem and 343 Mb/s router burning in our spoon-ringed hands.

The Martha Stewart paper lanterns sway gently in the breeze as the door opened into our bright white living room. I inhaled strength from the air conditioning and got to work. Twenty pain free minutes passed and we had Wifi. Turns out even a doodle-less Google looks unspeakably glorious after several days of “Server not found.” Crisis averted, and status quo replaced, I began surveying the apartment with new eyes as the roomies buzzed busily away on dinner in the kitchen. 

An eager to please walnut bookshelf on the left side of the desk holds the required basic office supplies and chick flicks so that its partner on the right has room for the desired cookbooks and novels. Spots of light hit the room for a moment and shoot the eye over to kinky gold chain slinking its way up the wall until it reaches the kitschy pink and gold chandelier that demands a smile from the student at the second desk, so damn cheery that for a moment I think I saw a student smiling in spite of their grim reflection in the shiny black desk top. Across the wall, a burgundy cello case carries on a much quieter conversation with the unnamed couple dancing in the mist of an elegant gold frame. Just as I started to wonder again who the couple was and why they were dancing in the fog, the intimate scene was pleasantly interrupted with the sound of tonight’s fresh chicken breasts heating up the soft blue and white kitchen. 

For the first time in my life I understood what Debby Reynolds must have felt just before she popped out of that birthday cake in Singing in the Rain. 

And the icing on my cake was how earnestly, like kids on a playground comparing the lost rings and smooth rocks they’ve found between the wood chips, my foodie roommates compared notes on marinades while they shucked sweet corn. 

In the midst of this colorful finery, there was positively nothing to do but plop on to the tweedy cream couch cushions and snooze underneath Grandma Gerty’s diamond patchwork quilt and the lovingly arranged wall of our personally crafted decor.

After three days of unpacking, decorating, adjusting, shopping, and re-docorating, apartment 311 is in full bloom. 

Living Room



Mad Hat[box]er

It’s an indefatigable life truth for materialists everywhere, packing is ghastly. It doesn’t matter if you’re packing up for an overnight or for an estate sale. The idea that you suddenly have to identify exactly which items are supporting your life is terrifying. As I am currently throat deep (loading truck tomorrow) in the packing process for my new apartment, questions like “Did I use more than a travel size bottle’s worth of mouthwash last year?” or “Do I usually switch over to my flannel sheets before November?” crowd the air around me like the flies that took advantage of the open door to the garage. 

You’re probably imagining to yourself that I am writing this post because I’m a) putting off finishing that last bit of packing or b) decompressing after a nervous breakdown caused by said packing. Well, dear, I am happy to report that I am indeed c) finished packing. In fact, this post was caused by a revelation I had as I stood, sweating like a tall glass of ice water on a Florida porch, surveying the wall to wall carpet of apartment furnishings that covered the garage floor. Mostly it looked like your average garage sale haul, piles of Grandma’s never used cooking supplies and resale store vegetable peelers, bags of crumpled up orange towels and assorted white lamps. You could have walked in to any second hand shop in the tristate area and carpeted your own garage with comparable items. Heck, you’ve probably already got them.

But you don’t have the hatboxes.

I didn’t realize it until I was surveying my life bagged up on the floor, but between March and August I acquired the five hat boxes now dotting the landfill of objects waiting to be loaded in a truck driven down to my apartment.  Now if you’ve stuck with me through all of these sentences, you’re skeptical. You ask (a little bit rhetorically) “Is your life really supported by old hatboxes?” 

I pause. My cursor blinks a bit on the screen as I think about this.You see it all began with the brown leather hatbox…

There I was, standing at a booth in a vintage trade show with my mother, when it caught my eye. It was old, definitely old. But it still had the maker’s tag. In fact, it looked so good it could have fit right into an ad for Restoration Hardware. Something that wonderful had to be out of my price range like that gorgeous art deco cigarette holder at the booth next store. But as I turned to look at some dresses, the booth maven said she saw me admiring it, told me she was going out of business, and it was mine for $10. I was sold. 

Several weeks later, I was window-shopping at some Amish resale shop in Indiana when two more almost-new hatboxes jumped out at me in bright floral vinyl. Then, I got into the shop and discovered that the fully functioning zippers opened up to a novelty print lining covered with the names of famous international cities. And what was prominently featured? Bern, Switzerland. I’ve been there. Ladies and gentlemen, I call that Kismet. 

Then came the black and white hatbox. My grandma gave it to me as a gift, stuffed full of her old hats, right before she turned over the keys to old split level house and moved into a retirement village. On the brim of the lid she scrawled, in blue and black ink, the types of hats that once lived in that dusty old box. The types of hats that would make great brand names because nobody knows exactly what they mean anymore. I can see the Instagram account now, “@clochebyclaire.”

And finally, the night before my boyfriend left for school, I went to dinner with his family. Before we left, he and I were standing over a pile of unidentifiable crap that he claimed was clothes when his mother came up to me with the last hat box. She opened it and asked me what what do I think about this hat? Wide brimmed, beige, just enough structure, and UV protection to boot. It was wonderful. I loved it. She’d never wear it. It was mine. She handed it to me and said she better see a picture of me in it at the farmer’s market, okay?

The answer is yes. My life is run on hat boxes–four vintage, four circular, two floral, two cardboard, two empty, one leather, one square, five fabulous hat boxes–and they’ll make it into my new apartment if I have to drive all the way there with them stacked bang high on my lap.