The Crummy Apartment

So a million years ago, give or take, Craig and I finally got all grown up and decided to get an apartment of our own.

Well, technically I got tired of living in a basement and got an apartment of my own, dragging Craig with me.

We were finally grown-ups and loved every minute of it. At least for that first week. The rent was a mere $700 a month for 546 square feet of pure… bliss? Ok, so the bedroom was too small to fit a bed (which we didn’t even have) and with no couches we were forced to watch our 14″ tv while lying on blankets on the floor. Oh and that 14″ tv? It was too old to hook our dvd player up to so we were forced to watch beta. For those of you who don’t remember beta… well… good grief I’m don’t I feel old.

Only one person could be in the kitchen at a time and you couldn’t load dishes into the dishwasher while still in the kitchen so you either had to, a) wash them by hand in the teeny tiny sink, or b) stand outside the kitchen to load the dishwasher while someone else stood inside the kitchen passing you the dishes that had been sitting on the counters, stove, or in the oven (when we ran out of room on the counters… pretty much every day).

We didn’t have a dining room or a table – just a sort of breakfast bar that became a pseudo shelf for our desk since we had nowhere else to put stuff. Those first couple weeks we ate dinner off of ice cream bucket lids and tupperware.

The washer and dryer were stackable which is just a fancy way of saying you could only wash about two pairs of socks at a time. We did have a deck, though. All ten beautiful square feet of it. The dust from construction in the area was so bad if you went out there you usually left footprints akin to those after a serious snowfall. Whenever the global fireworks festival came in August we would scrunch ourselves up against the far corner of this deck and catch the left 50% of the show. It was magical.

It only took about a year for the nerves to fray and my patience to run out. I’d found us a nice little place for not much more a month, down the street from my parents, that had not one, but TWO bathrooms. This, I knew, would be the secret to matrimonial success – no more sharing sinks or having to wait for someone else to finish in the bathroom. We got three good sized bedrooms, an actual place for a table (which, ironically, took us over a year to buy anyway), and a real kitchen with cupboard doors you could open and everything. I was only too thrilled to dump that apartment and head for our new life, never looking back.

It actually shocked the heck out of me when Craig became all nostalgic about that shoebox of an apartment. We bickered there constantly and always seemed to be crawling on top of each other just to get anything done. For some reason he saw this as “being close”. While I complained about having to try to cook in a cramped kitchen and was forever bashing my head on cupboard doors and low-lying light fixtures, he watched wistfully as his wife made him a home cooked meal, marvelling at my “cuteness” (read: clumsiness). While I hated dragging groceries up three flights of stairs because of an elevator that never worked, he relished the exercise and would take them full speed, two at a time, grinning with glee.

When it actually came to moving day, I couldn’t have been happier. Craig, however, was not. He wanted to remember those days in the crummy apartment for the rest of our lives. Something he could tell our grandkids about and remember fondly in our old age. I, of course, was baffled.

So, oblivious to my disbelief, he decided to run around frantically and catalogue as much as he could of the old apartment. When it wasn’t enough fun on his own, he dragged me from my packing and coerced me to waste a good hour documenting him in every corner of the apartment, in pose after pose meant to trigger fond memories for years to come.

It’s been almost two years, and now I look at those photos and I can’t help but laugh. Instead of the two of us on our rockers perusing memories of our “first crummy apartment”, it’s just me. I don’t love these images because I loved that apartment. Far from it. I don’t think I could ever have the affection for it that Craig did.

Instead I love them because of what they represent. Craig’s enthusiasm for cataloguing our lives as though someday we might forget. He was meticulous about keeping old cards, notes, photographs, and trinkets that held special meaning to him. Like a magpie he would squirrel away these tokens like shiny objects, taking them out from time to time to reminisce.

I always loved that about him and was delighted to uncover these treasures, one at a time, after he passed away.

In the end, he didn’t just catalogue our lives for himself. He catalogued them for me.

They became a way for me to remember. To pick up these trinkets and photographs, turn them over in my hands, and smile about where they came from.

All the little pieces of our lives, neatly wrapped up and ready for me.

And though he may never know this, I am truly grateful for this gift he left me.

I do take them out and remember these moments in our life. Sometimes it’s like he’s looking at them with me, hovering just over my should to point and say, “See, Em? Look at how skinny I used to be!”

Our thanks to guest author Emily Clark for sharing her story here with us.  You can read more of Emily’s journey through young widowhood on her blog.

Photo credit.


  1. Meg said on June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm ... #

    Thank you for a lovely story. I still look at my late husbands photos each day.

  2. Kaye said on June 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm ... #

    I too, now see and understand from this unwelcome view, how so many things were gifts and lessons.
    For you, Craig’s inventory of the cherished moments of the first apartment; for me, not just “Live in the Moment” but find the humor and try to “Revel in the Moment”. Not to wear rose colored glasses but to see things as they are —including the humor.
    These gifts are their legacy. It’s up to us what we will do them.

    Thanks for your honesty.

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