You might recall, dear readers, that last month my husband and I were camping out with an airbed and camp chairs in our remodeled house.

By “remodeled” I mean raised up out of the Mississippi River floodplain with a new livable basement built beneath and plaster blown throughout.

Now in the eighth month since the house flew, we’re nearing the finish line.

Sons James and Jason drove in from Madison, Wis., and Davenport, Iowa, to join my husband and son-in-law Colin in moving most of the furniture. Grandad’s dresser, six bookcases, the dining room table, a rocking chair and real mattresses returned.

Meanwhile James’ 3-year old, Eliza, and I rolled across newly carpeted rooms until we were dizzy.

Last week, movers carried in the spinet piano and the 9-foot Victorian pier mirror. I held my breath — would my desk fit through the tighter turns? Dad had it made for mom decades ago. Success. It’s where I’m perched as I write this column.

Yesterday, we carted in the rest of the boxes from the 10-foot-by-20-foot storage unit.

With an operational kitchen, three working commodes and the plumber returning this week to install sinks, it’s as if our house is coming back to life after an eight-month sleep. Water is pumping through its veins.

Air is flowing through the lungs of the new HVAC system. With recent snowfalls, the front window-eyes opened to an elevated vista in our tree house.

There are boxes everywhere — and discoveries upon opening each one. Books by Terry Tempest Williams, Sandra Cisneros, Rick Bass, Edward Abby and Margaret Atwood stack side by side on my office shelves.

Framed kindergarten photos of our kids, a box of notes from former students, Beatles and Aretha record albums, binoculars and a Scrabble game invite me back into my life. Husband Jerry stocks his office with history books of American western mountain explorers.

Each with book writing projects, we both clear our desks.

Granddaughter Olivia, 6, came over to help stock the new rumpus room shelves with kids book. When I pulled “The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher” from a box, she grabbed it and hugged it to her chest saying, “I missed this book so much!”

Still hiding, however, is the silverware drawer organizer. Forks and knives are partying willy-nilly without separation. A somewhat organized packer who includes a list on every box, I cannot fathom where that tray can be.

On the other hand, living out of the Subaru trunk for months makes it easy to let go of many things that will serve better elsewhere. A broken colored glass goes to a glass artist at Upcycle Dubuque. Goodwill, the Mission and St. Vinny’s are gifted with items like three sweaters, two pair of shoes, a few pair of jeans, a vegetable peeler and rotary can openers (no one needs three).

Committed to reducing storage by using items, we’ve hung the Enzler chandelier prominently, and it awaits only the drop crystals. The cowboy light from my husband’s youth has returned to ceiling glory in his office. My Bavarian clock cuckoo’s on the quarter hour in the rumpus room.

During the holidays, we’ll invite our kids and their families to shop through boxes of mom’s Hummel figurines, surplus copies of my past publications and family photos.

Meanwhile, we’re figuring out new ways to live in our old house — one flight up. The former coat closet is now a full story above the current front door. My husband shows people his “new basement,” i.e. a large closet off the rumpus room which hosts screwdrivers, hammers, saws, nails, drills and a shop vac.

The months of anxiety, disorientation and waiting are melting away. We’ve enjoyed accommodating a family birthday party for a 1-year-old granddaughter and hosted good friends for chili lunch. Internet arrived yesterday. We’re nearly back to normal.

Now, if I could just locate that silverware organizer.

Fischer is professor of English Emerita at Clarke University. Email her at

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