Sarie (literally) makes her bed

And while she was at it, she made a bookcase and a desk, too.

After three weeks in our new Torino apartment, the whole family was still surrounded by boxes, but no one more so than Sarie. She had left her loft bed, along with its desk and chest of drawers, in New York. And she had left her closet, too, which was a shame, because an amazing amount of stuff fit into that standard 2-foot deep closet. Sarie’s room in New York was very small, about 8 x 10 with a corner cut out, but there was theoretically a place for everything—as long as she got rid of one item for every new item brought in, which of course didn’t happen.

Sarie’s large but closet-less room in Torino, before furniture.

But after three weeks of sleeping on an air mattress in our new apartment, and never knowing where anything was, Sarie was ready for a trip to IKEA. All along she’d been eyeing a certain trundle bed with drawers underneath, though she held out for a while to see if there was a possibility of real antique (or old, at least) furniture.  The need for order, any order, eventually got the better of all of us, and we bought the bed, along with a bookshelf and a desk.

So last week, while I supervised the delivery of the kitchen, a rental piano, several different utility hookups, and my parents, Sarie disappeared into her room like Wile E. Coyote after the arrival of the Acme truck.  I would hear the sound of the power screw driver and hammering, and voila! a piece of furniture would appear.

It helped that IKEA products come with predrilled holes and include the proper hardware, I’m sure, but Sarie was quite confident and self-sufficient. My dad and Bob both help went into her room from time to time to help with the larger pieces, but they both freely admitted that theirs had been merely auxiliary roles.

We did discover during this process that Sarie really does need some kind of closet, even if not one of the sturdy American variety.  So the next trip to IKEA will include a wardrobe to hold Sarie’s clothes. But we’re making progress. Now, if only she liked cleaning up her room as much as she likes building furniture, I’m sure it would look like an IKEA catalog in there!

During the past week, we also made some progress on the kitchen and finally had our Thanksgiving dinner, but more about that later.


Moving in

One of the Italian moving crew, carrying our armchair on his shoulder.

We finally moved into our Torino apartment almost two weeks ago.  We’ve been trying to create some semblance of order ever since.

But first, the event itself, because it was entertaining.  On moving day, a crew of five Sardinians and one very talkative man from Florence showed up with a hydraulic lift.  Most Italian elevators are of the oldest type, the exposed cage, so movers aren’t allowed to use them for moving.  Instead, Italian household movers use a hydraulic lift to access the balcony doors.  In this case, the balcony was the one to our bedroom, because it overlooks a parking lot (which we get to park in!).  In the first photo below you can see the living two room chairs, all wrapped for the ocean crossing, as they arrived at balcony height.  The next photo shows how the lift works, with a load coming up, and boxes waiting to be loaded.

The next photo shows the book boxes piling up in the living room, and fresh ones arriving in the bedroom.  Down in the left corner, the Florentine, Giuseppe, is having me check off the numbers from my master list.  He was very pleased at how quickly he picked up the English names for the rooms, and showed off his knowledge by telling the other crew members where to put everything.  Then he wanted to know how to say, “Dove va?” in English.  After the next trip down, he informed me that he and another of the crew had been practicing:  “Where does it go?” he asked proudly, pointing to a box.  “Where do…”  and then he stopped.

“They…” I offered.

“Where do they go?”  he finished.  This became the refrain of the afternoon!

The photo after that is of my living room rug, which the movers kindly beat and hung over the balcony in proper Italian fashion.  But then they forgot about it, and I couldn’t lift it alone, so hours later the landlord had to help me drag it back into the living room. I’ve seen many housewives beat rugs over balconies since, but they’re always smaller ones.

And in another nice gesture , Giuseppe the Florentine helped the landlord bring up an ancient, musty cupboard from the apartment’s storage room in the cantina.  The cupboard was missing a lot of the varnish and smelled of mold to the point of asphyxiation, but we put it in the living room anyway.  I was pleased to have it to use as a bookshelf.

The next day we got right to work cleaning up that cupboard, but the daily reality since the move has been a bit sobering.  Much more often than not, our foyer looks like it does in the photo below. There seems to be no end to the packing paper! And we find the strangest things: Contents of the kitchen junk drawer, such as twist ties and a magnet, or two highlighters, lovingly wrapped in paper. Ceramics from Sarie’s room, thrown into a box with who knows what else and no wrapping at all. Items from one room thrown into a box from another. But so far everything seems to have made the crossing more or less okay.

The day after we moved in, a steady downpour of rain began. It lasted for five days without a break.  By the fifth day, the rivers were threatening to wash out the bridges, and schools were closed. During the downpour I dragged box after box to the paper recycling dumpster at the end of our street. Thankfully, the sidewalk next to the dumpster was one of the arcaded ones. I’d remove an armload of paper from the box, run to the dumpster, stuff it in, and repeat. Once back inside the apartment, I desperately tried to make our American lamps work with European voltage. I’d heard that they would if I used adapters and European bulbs. The truth is, some worked and some didn’t.  Two blew out and are now useless. The ones that remain seem dimmer under the higher ceilings. We’re going to have to get more lamps.

As soon as a friend would take me, I went to IKEA and ordered the kitchen. The people at the store said it would take twenty days, and would be installed by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I borrowed a burner and a toaster oven and set up the taller boxes as counters.  I wash dishes in the largest bathroom sink, which is on the other side of the apartment. I pulled out the most useful kitchen implements I could find from the tops of the deep kitchen boxes, and set to work trying to create simple meals. The results are mixed.  I can fry things as long as they’re thin, but it takes almost an hour to boil water. We’re eating a lot of Caesar salads and cold cuts.

As the day arrived I had been told I would get the call about the kitchen, I was all excited.  But the call never came.  I did an online chat (because Italian is easier that way than on the phone) and was told they’d call Monday.  Still no call today, so I found the special client number that you access by code, and called.  No kitchen this week.  “But my parents are coming!”  I pleaded.  I didn’t have the fluency to argue about La Festa di Ringrazimento and all that it means to Americans, though.  I sighed and hung up the phone.  Then I called Bob, and he called someone, and someone called IKEA.  We’ll see.  Thankfully I ordered my fridge from another store, so it’s here.

Apparently Fastweb has to all but dig the tunnel to install our supposedly installation-ready fiber optic internet service.  But the two old men who come and work in our cantina are nice as can be.

Meanwhile, I’m making things look as nice as I can, considering that we brought a lot of our belongings, but not the cabinets, bookshelves, and closets that once held and organized them.  Our coats are in (or usually piled on top of) one wardrobe carton, my clothes in another. Sarie has no furniture at all. The books, more or less all 1200 of them, are in boxes all over.  The rispostiglio, a sort of walk-in closet, is filled with everything imaginable, and also serves for now as our file room and office.  Other boxes are in piles to be taken downstairs to the cantina, or basement. But not until I get more plastic bins.  That cantina is full of dirt and spiders! (With my apologies to Susan’s spider.)

I’ve been to IKEA four times now, and to the flea market and antique district once.  I have someone coming to help me install bath fixtures, including lights and mirrors, tomorrow. Somehow or other, we’ll get this place in shape.  Meanwhile, here, below, is what we’ve done with the cupboard.  (In the rather blurry photo, I’m trying out IKEA lamps. I finally chose the kind on the left.)  One shelf wouldn’t fit and will have to be sanded down.  And there are still plenty of boxes sitting around.  But it’s a start!