Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | March 28, 2015

Recalling, Once Again, Our First Day

So it was ten years ago this past weekend when we set out for Chicago, with me sobbing and my daughter patting my arm saying “Don’t worry Mommy, you’ll make new friends.” I know I’ve already posted this before, but in honor of the anniversary, I decided to put it up again. This was my letter back home to my friends recounting our first day in our new home. As the joke goes, it seems just like yesterday…and yesterday was a bad day.

Well, moving certainly is an adventure.  The moving truck arrived sooner than expected, and although we’d hoped to have a day to clean and prep before dumping our belongings everywhere, we certainly weren’t going to tell the moving guys to wait. “Come on in,” we told them, “pile everything where you can, we’ll clean around you, no problem.”  It took a long time to unload the truck, so the first impression we made on the neighbors was of an 18-wheeler noisily idling outside the house at 10 PM (not to mention clogging the street for an entire day). Probably not the best way to make new friends.

The next morning, my husband went off to work. I was alone with the kids, crushed under an army of boxes, and I was almost instantly overwhelmed. To begin with, the kids were sleep-deprived, crabby and fighting. The cable guy showed up, which was good, but he had a million questions about what we wanted where. He spent the morning trying to figure out where the cable came into house and what rooms were already connected. He seemed to be everywhere. When I was in the kitchen, I’d see him walk by the window. When I went upstairs, there he was in the office. I’d come back downstairs and find him in the family room. He always greeted me with the same bizarre update: “Working on it, Mrs Gelber. Do you want cable in this room too?” It was like something from a bad sitcom.

I did my best not to be creeped out by the ubiquitous cable guy and focused instead on trying to clean up the kitchen. I discovered, after some light scrubbing, that the cabinets were, in fact, white, not off-white. They were, quite simply, dirty. Clearly, some grime had to come off. Fortunately, I’d stocked up on cleaning supplies. I vowed the kitchen would be white again before I unpacked a single dish. The oven was a bit of a mess (not that I am overly picky about these things, but I prefer my oven to be filled with my own food droppings, not someone else’s) so I decided to run the self-cleaning program while I washed the cabinets. Suddenly, the oven started beeping like crazy – there was a “function error.”

I pulled off my bright yellow latex gloves and stood helplessly in front of the oven, pushing every button imaginable – cancel, start, stop, bake, broil –  but try as I might, I could not get the damn beeping to stop. Desperate, I went to the basement to find the electrical panel so I could kill the circuit breaker. I got down to the basement, however, only to discover that almost all of the lightbulbs were burnt out. I went back upstairs, fished around in my purse, and there, buried under the hand sanitizer, the lip balm and the tissues, I found my keychain flashlight.  Feeling quite satisfied and smug with my level of preparedness and self-reliance, I bravely returned to the basement. True, the key-chain flashlight only illuminated a six-inch wide area, but hey, at least I could see. I scanned the flashlight across the dark corners of the furnace room, but alas, the electrical panel was nowhere to be found. “It’s got to be here somewhere,” I thought to myself. After searching the basement with my pathetically small flashlight for what seemed like hours, I decided to call my husband at work to see if he knew where the damn electrical panel was.

That’s when I discovered our house phone didn’t work. Undaunted, and still feeling remarkably self-reliant, I went to grab my cell phone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. I figured my husband had grabbed it by accident and taken it with him to work.  Okay, I told myself, I’ll just find his cell phone. Huh. His was gone too. No phone of any kind. The cable guy was asking questions, the oven was beeping, the kids were fighting. Did I mention the dog threw up four times the previous night?  In addition to being completely sleep-deprived as a result, I also had several loads of dog-vomit-covered towels to wash. ”Calgon take me away!”  I thought briefly of just getting in the car and driving far, far away.

But, instead, I sent one of the kids down to the one and only neighbor we knew to borrow a phone to call my husband at work.  Her instructions were to tell him that I had no cell phone, the home phone didn’t work, things were not going well and he should try to get home as soon as possible if he wanted to stay married. She headed off on her mission. I turned around and there was the creepy cable guy again. Fortunately at that point he assured me that we had cable in all the places we seemed to need it, and he went on his way.

The relentless beeping of the oven, however, was giving me a raging headache. I had to find the circuit breaker. Determined and armed with my trusty keychain flashlight, I ventured again into the scary dark basement. I finally found the panel, tucked away in the very back corner. I looked for the breaker labeled “Oven” but instead only found wonderfully vague labels like “First floor.” It was an electrical panel and a guessing game all in one! And I was so in the mood to play a game at that point in time! So, I started killing them one by one. Fortunately, the third try was a charm; the beeping ceased. “OK, progress. I may be able to get through this,” I thought to myself.

My daughter came back with the neighbor’s cell phone – the neighbor was on her way out, so she very kindly gave her phone to my daughter to bring back to me. I called my husband at work and we figured out that, yes, he had taken my phone by accident. He thought, however, that he had left his phone in my car.  So, I gave my daughter my car keys and sent her to look for his cell phone in my car. I went back to cleaning. I checked the oven and discovered it was still a mess; the self clean cycle had obviously been interrupted too soon. I started the cycle again. Of course, within minutes a loud beeping sound echoed throughout the house. Back down to the basement I went with my micro-flashlight. I killed the circuit again and the beeping of the oven stopped. However, I then became aware of another sound, that of a car alarm. As I was coming back up the basement stairs, I thought to myself “That isn’t my car, is it?”

I went outside to find my car alarm was going off, headlights flashing and all. I saw that my daughter was in the car. I went to open the door and I discovered it was locked. What’s more, she had somehow lost the keys somewhere in the car. So, the alarm was beeping, I was screaming “Open the door!” but the door was locked and she couldn’t open it. I was trying to explain to her how to unlock the door from the inside, yelling over the sound of the alarm: “You push the little lever thingy. The thingy. The little thing that is above the handle. No not that, that opens the window. Above the handle. Above the silver thing. Yes, that. Push it No, push it the other way. The other way. THE OTHER WAY.” But the car seemed to think it was under attack by terrorists; as soon as she unlocked the door, the car automatically locked itself again. Good lord, it was like something from a Stephen King novel. I couldn’t open it from the outside, she couldn’t open it from the inside.  Clearly, we needed the remote to turn off the alarm, but she couldn’t find it. So then I started screaming, “Where are the keys? The keys. THE KEYS. WHERE. ARE. THE. KEYS.” She didn’t know. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying but I got the impression that she dropped the keys somewhere in the car and now couldn’t find them. We had another set of keys with a remote, but where was it? You guessed it, with my husband at work.

So, there I was, standing in the driveway at 9 AM screaming at the top of my lungs, with the car alarm blaring and my headlights flashing, announcing our arrival to the entire neighborhood. “Here we are, the new neighbors! We are crazy people! Read all about us in the police log!” Thank heaven for the neighbor’s cell phone. I called my husband and said, “Should I call the police to get her out or can you come home right now?” Fortunately, he immediately drove home, which is good, because I think my daughter would have been traumatized had the police arrived to break into the car (and of course I would have been totally humiliated – that would be a lovely way to meet people).

The day ended better – valium for the dog, wine for me – and our second day began with no beeping of any kind, a working house phone and a cell phone, no dog vomit, and no one locked inside a vehicle. So, we didn’t get off to such a great start, but it certainly was a day I will never forget, no matter how hard I might try.


  1. This is hilarious! It made me think of my great move last summer. Maybe that will be appearing in my blog in the near future.
    It would make a great scene for a movie. Seriously. You should pitch this real life scenario.

    • Thanks Amy. Hmmm, I suppose I could pitch it as a movie scene, although at the time it felt like a horror movie, not a comedy!

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