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  • Writer's pictureEmily

The "Situation"; or how I ended up a squatter for the month of December

Just about a month ago, while I was enjoying a cup of coffee at the kitchen table in my childhood home with my mom, I noticed a message from a neighbor, then an email from my landlord. "What could this possibly be about?" I asked myself, still blissfully unaware of the mess that would await me. Long story short, the bathtub faucet had failed in my absence, causing steaming hot water to pour out in a steady stream for god knows how long, turning my cute little apartment into a sauna. The neighbors noticed something was wrong because of this:

Um, that's mold. A lot of mold. YIKES!!!! In my absence, my lovely landlord went over, immediately freaked out, but then pulled himself back together, insurance stuff happened, moisture remediation people came in, and then by this time I finally came home. To this:

Not to be such a girl about this, but MY SHOES!!!!!!!!!

The floor boards are all up, the kitchen cabinets are starting to come off, it's a big mess. I am in the middle of working with my insurance (OMG everyone get rental thing I ever did. First time I've had it too, and I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I am that I did!) We still don't know how much needs to be done to get the apartment back to where it was before, which was a lovely and cozy little home for me. It stinks of mold right now. And will require some fairly significant work that will take about a month. But here's the thing: aside from my shoes (which I can probably clean), the only mold casualty that I care about is this artwork my dad made for me:

Of course Stan's artwork would attract mold. At least it didn't attract termites.

And I bet with some help from my collections friends, I'll be able to salvage this piece too. In other words, as annoying as it is to be without a home for a month--or perhaps 6 weeks--I will eventually have a home to return to. And with most of my things.

There is nothing quite like unexpected home disaster to force you to think about all of the situations, both past and present, where others have been faced with much harsher and more permanent unexpected loss and displacement. Over the last week, I've gone over to my place to pick up the things I'll need over the next month since some wonderful people will pack up everything and cart it all away to storage so the place can get fixed up. It's very hard figuring out what you need for a month. Imagine doing that for the foreseeable future, and to have to limit it to just what you can carry? That's what Japanese Americans faced when they were forcibly removed to incarceration centers in desolate areas around the country.

For more on this, there are a lot of great sources, but is definitely one.

And at least I am only responsible for me. Imagine having children to care for, or an elderly parent or friend? This also made me think of those who have lost everything in this year's fires, as well as last year's. I've had good friends' parents lose their homes and everything in them, running with only what they were wearing in the middle of the night as the fire bore down on them.

Even while I was still in Japan and hadn't seen what had happened aside from a blurry video my landlord sent to me, I mentally inventoried my belongings, asking myself what I would really and truly miss. As it turns out, not much. There are the irreplaceable things that have little monetary value but much sentimental value. See, for example, snake paper sculpture by my dad, above. And then there is my knitting. I am very happy to report that somehow my knitting and yarn survived. It is now squatting with me, so imoriknits is still open for business (Christmas gifts, anyone?!) My guitar and violin, which have been very neglected of late, are both fine. I should play them. And this little guy, who has traveled with me everywhere I've lived since I was in high school, and was a Christmas gift from my dad because he used to read me the books, is also fine:

It's Babar, king of elephants, and a very smart dresser!

I am also incredibly fortunate to have the most generous friends who are letting me stay with them, both in San Diego and in LA. I don't feel very displaced at all. As much as it sounds like a corny cliche, it really is true that home is not a place but a state of mind. Who you are is not defined by what you have but who you are, by the relationships you cherish, and by the blessings you have despite some difficult or trying circumstances. And in my case, the circumstances are more annoying than anything else. I have a home to return to. And Babar.

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