Out of chaos, order

E pluribus unim. “Out of many, one.” That’s our nation’s motto, or slogan, or official advertising jingle. I would verify that by looking at a dollar bill, but at the moment I don’t have one.

I would like to know the Latin phrase for “out of chaos, order” if there is one — E chaotus orden or E messedupness straightness or something like that (although I have no training in Latin, other than pig). It’s a fine motto/slogan/jingle and if nobody wants it, I may take it.

Creating order out of chaos has sort of been our theme this summer. In fact, if you think about it, that’s the theme of many days and nights throughout the year. If I had to name my occupation over the past few months, that might be it.

A word on behalf of my gender: Although a fair number of guys are carriers, like Typhoid Mary, when it comes to chaos, inwardly we crave order. The same man who could leave his tightie-whities in the corner of the bathroom until stuff grew on them, if you look a little closer (at him, not the tightie-whities — ew!) he’s the one whose tools are perfectly arranged on a pegboard in the garage, whose toilet paper always has to roll over the top, whose deodorant absolutely must be in the same place every morning.

We may crave order in different ways and different places than our fair brides, but we crave it. That’s why we dig mowing, whether it’s pushing a gas-powered rear-bagger or riding the acreage on one of those zero-turn mowers. Mowing is a relatively mindless activity (that’s possibly a key) that turns a patch of shaggy, unkempt grass into a manicured pseudo-golf-course. At some deep, primal level, we need/want/like that, even though we’re able to recess that gene when it comes to the house, the dishes and our ear-hair.

This year’s main event, in our family, has been moving. Our daughter and son-in-law moved in February, out of an apartment and into the house they now share with our grandson, who arrived April 2 (they followed a long-established family tradition of moving while pregnant). Our other daughter moved a few months later, out of an apartment and into a house, after her former roommate decided to get married. We were even considering moving ourselves for awhile there, until a change in my job situation made that unnecessary.

That’s a good thing, because for the last couple of months, we’ve been moving my in-laws out of their home of the past several years.

They went to a very nice assisted-living facility, taking relatively little of their stuff with them, because it simply would not fit into their small apartment. The house, garage, attic and shop sat there, waiting to be dealt with, until a buyer came along. With a certain deadline for the place to be empty, it was time to dive in, often under the watchful eye and direction of the owners.

My wife and her sister, both teachers, knew their time was limited to summer months. With the help of husbands, a brother who lives a fair distance away, and whichever adult child was available at the moment, they combed through possessions gathered over more than six decades of married life — sorting, giving away treasured items to grandkids and friends, and bagging, boxing or trashing the rest. A good deal of it was precious, priceless, irreplaceable. Much of it had value to its owners at one time, but had served its purpose and now had nowhere to go but out. Just out.

It wasn’t a Big Mess when my in-laws lived there, but all our activity made it one. The process of converting a place from a home back to a house is lengthy, complicated, messy. After several workdays, all the stuff seemed to be shouting at us, louder and louder, getting worse rather than better.

But every item a loved one claimed, every bag of knick-knacks that left in someone’s car during the two-day garage/estate sale, every pickup-load of recyclable metal, donated furniture or trash that pulled away quieted the chaos. It was as if the place was slowly, reluctantly giving up the ghost, donating its organs one by one until the life was gone out of it and only a shell remained.

The carpets and tiles have been cleaned, the garage is swept, the closets and cupboards are bare. Order has been created, out of chaos. It’s quiet, clean and still, and the new owners are ready to move in and breathe their life into it. I’m glad for that. The place needs to once again be filled with the trappings of humanity. The bones could use a little fleshing out. Order is overrated. Chaos is called for.

Besides, my lawn needs mowing.

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