Full disclosure: Because I have moved so many times I have mashed them all together in a little fiction writing for this chapter. Each story is true. The timelines are not.
Oh my God! Is there anything worse than moving? I know what you’re thinking. Disease, plagues and famine are worse than moving. Just stop thinking about terrible diseases and stuff. Of course those things are worse. I’m talking about the lessor things. Things that won’t kill you but don’t make you stronger either. There are lots of obvious reasons why people move. We go through Foreclosure, divorce, grow up and move out. We are evicted or the house we are renting is sold. We are willing to move for purposes of work and marriage. What is wrong with us as a people that when we move from town to town we keep collecting things to move with us? Sometimes we even move into another place in the same town just because it’s bigger and will store more stuff. It’s kind of like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane while holding a couple of cement blocks.
As an adult I have moved over eleven times. I have had two divorces and when I was younger, one eviction that left me with no other choice but to move. I can’t even tell you how many times we moved when I was a child because we moved before I was old enough to remember. We moved eight times from what I can remember. My Dad is the one whom I inherited my wanderlust from. I’m not sure why we moved so much when I was younger. Maybe it was to escape us kids. Except it never worked out for them because we always figured out that they were moving and kept going with them. I do know that now if I live somewhere too long it starts to feel strange to me. I get antsy. I’ve tried to get over it by rearranging my furniture but eventually I use all possible patterns of furniture layout. I have even tried the feng shui methods, thinking maybe I could live in harmony with my furniture arrangements and feel more at home wherever I was. The only thing of value I took away from that was now I always turn my desk toward the room instead of against the wall. The last place I lived was a home that I owned. I lived there for ten years. I think it’s a record for me. I moved twice while still living in this house. I chalk those moves up to my second divorce. My selling the house and moving we can chalk up to my third marriage. Don’t judge me. It isn’t that I don’t learn, it’s that I don’t give up.
My parents have set their own record of thirty years in one spot. This is how I know it was my dad and not my mom that liked the moving. He worked out of town all of those years and was only home on weekends. I think all of the travel helped to curb his wanderlust and allowed mom to plant some roots. I just think it’s a pretty suspicious that they stopped moving after us kids moved out.
So let’s talk about the physical act of moving. But wait! Shouldn’t I start from the day I moved into the house we were now moving out of? Did I forget that we weren’t going to let this much stuff accumulate again? What happened to that? Oh right, I stayed too long and tricked myself into believing we were never moving again. Way to go!
So I was going to need a few things. I made a list.
- Hundreds of newspapers
FriendsFriends with trucks and trailers
Let’s start with the boxes. Well, I didn’t want to buy boxes so I checked at the local grocery store. I knew they would have some for sure! Until I asked; and some other half-wit had decided to move that month too and took them all. They said they had some stock to unpack and I should come back later. Now where was I going to get boxes? I asked some of my friends, and of course they had a few boxes which would get me started, but they weren’t really what I was looking for, and were every shape except square. One friend actually took the chance to unload all of her shoe boxes on me. I was annoyed with her but I took them anyway. I wanted to get started on packing. I checked back at the store again. They had a few good boxes but they were broke down. I took them and they told me to check again in a couple of days. I did, but what they had then were fruit boxes with no tops. I took them anyway thinking I would figure out how to use them later. It was getting late in the process so at that point a box was a box was a box.
I thought to myself, ah crap; I was just at the store why didn’t I get the tape and a sharpie. So I went back to the store and got those two very important items. I had been saving newspapers for a while so I was set in that area. Great, I was ready! Now start packing!
I stood in the middle of my house wondering what to pack first. I thought to myself; what do you mean you don’t know what to pack first? You’ve done this a hundred times. Well okay, maybe you’ve done it like eleven times. Just start somewhere! So I did. I started going through my stuff, trying to make a mental inventory of size, weight and the boxes I had. I realized that there were a lot of things I wasn’t even using. Things with missing parts I had saved thinking that I would eventually find the parts for. Things that had been broken that even a respectable hoarder would have looked sideways at. It occurred to me that I was going to need a dumpster. I made the call and ended up with one that was too big because they were out of the smaller ones. The dumpster people tried to get me to order one that was bigger than what I needed. They knew I had no idea what four yards of cubic space looked like. Either way, the dumpster was ordered and now I felt like I had accomplished something that day.
My packing now turned into a scavenger hunt to find things to put into the dumpster. I checked out my kids toys first. This you must do when they’re in school so you don’t receive any pushback on throwing away the Barbie dolls that are missing fingers or have punk rock haircuts because your daughter had dreams at five years old of becoming a beautician. I found a play house with crayon color painted walls, Buzz Lightyear who was missing his space helmet and one foot, and about thirty stuffed animals. Most of the stuffed animals were missing an eye or their nose. A couple of times over the years when the school had an outbreak of lice I had to bag them up. No one ever told me my teddy bear could get head lice. I’m not sad to see these parasite collectors go. I found army soldiers with chewed up guns and feet. The sight of these instantly made me want to say, “Get that out of your mouth!”. I found tubes of lipstick I had long since stopped looking for, and assumed they were just lost. I also found what used to be my favorite comb with the teeth chewed off and broken out.
When you pack your children’s rooms you find out just how interesting they are and it gives you some insight on how their minds work. As I looked around my daughter’s room I discovered that she was actually running a torture chamber for dolls. At some point she had asked me for one of my socks. I gave her the extra sock from the package I had bought with five and a half pairs in it. Now I saw what she had done with it. Some dolls were tied up with lipstick painted faces, some were stuffed into socks that were tied closed and she had a couple of dolls tied to her ceiling fan by their necks with shoe laces. I’m not sure at this point if my son stole my lipstick and did that to the dolls or if my daughter stole it and then planted it in his room. I also have no idea how she got those dolls way up onto the fan. Not wanting to admit that my child may be a serial killer or a great criminal mind I just ignored it, shook my head and kept packing.
When my kids hit their teens we bought a game called The Sims. It’s a virtual game where you create your own player, build them a house, and get them a job to earn money to furnish the house. It’s all about accumulating wealth and buying things. It’s a typical keeping up with the Jones’ kind of game. My kids found a cheat code to enable us to get more money, so all of our characters had very nice houses. You play by yourself, yet you are playing among all of the other characters everyone else has created. You all live in the same neighborhood and you need to make friends with the other player’s characters. You are able to befriend them, date them, marry them, move in with them, and throw parties for the whole neighborhood. It wasn’t long before the inner serial killer in my daughter emerged once again. A few of us would go to play the game and find that our characters had died. One night I sat down at the computer and found that my daughter had left the game on while she went to the bathroom. It was then that I discovered we had a murderer in the neighborhood. I flashed back to the torture chamber that was my daughter’s bedroom when she was younger. She had built walls around my character and didn’t build in a door for her to escape. The room she was in was just big enough for her to stand. Sims also need to sit, sleep, and go to the bathroom in order to live. She was starving and worse than that she had peed herself and had nowhere to sleep. This was going on while my daughter’s character was rambling around my character’s house listening to music and eating all of her food. Some parents would have worried but I thought it was very funny and pretty clever. She is all grown up now and is not a serial killer but she does have one heck of a sense of humor. Now I get the occasional phone call from her wondering why her kids do strange things. I tell her I’m positive it’s genetic.
So the kids things were all boxed up and ready to go. I had taped the boxes all just so and labeled them with my wonderful sharpie for easy finding in the new house. I stacked them in the corner and moved to my room. This one was easy. I already knew what clothes I was going to need for the next few days and there would be no going out during this process so, ya the jewelry could go. Was I going to need ten pairs of shoes to move in? No! So they could go too. I had all kinds of things that I could throw away but I wouldn’t because they were my things! I started to feel guilty because I was willing to throw away my children’s remembrances of their first five to ten years of life into the big green dumpster, but guarded my things like they had value. But that’s different, I told myself. So to alleviate the guilt I found a few bobbles to throw away to make it fair. Now when they complain I could say, “We all had to make sacrifices.” There! Done!
I went through the living room and any other room containing knick knacks and decorations. I broke out the newspaper and started wrapping. This was the easiest stuff to pack because I didn’t need decorations to live for the next few days. Until, I took down all the pictures and realized they were out of date. I couldn’t put those up on the new walls. I had to unpack the box that always remains packed. I think that box had been packed for over 20 years. It contained all of the pictures that would one day magically be put into my photo albums. I updated the photos in the frames and an hour had gone by. I was still sitting there looking at old pictures. HEY! Get back to work! I continued packing. At some point I started to look for the sharpie. It was gone! I looked for this thing like my life depended on it. I swear I even felt panic set in. How would anyone know which rooms to put things in if the boxes weren’t properly labeled? It would be complete chaos without that sharpie. I searched for a half an hour and then gave up. I found an old red pen that hardly wrote but I was desperate and used it anyway.
Okay, now the kitchen. I brought out some more newspaper. This room was a little tricky just like the bathroom because we would obviously need some of this stuff to live the next few days. Now I realized I had to come up with a three day menu and mentally figure out what cookware we were going to need to make this stuff. So I had decided that the family I had badgered into eating healthy would now be living on pizza, cereal, chips, hot dogs and macaroni & cheese for a while. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t complain. Great! It’s only for a few days so I could live with it. I pulled out the boxes I had gotten from the store. I needed to put them together and tape the bottoms closed, so I grabbed the tape. Half way through taping the first box bottom I realized that I was out of tape. Half the box had tape on the crack; the other half was covered by the paper that the last bit of tape was attached to the roll by. This is not sticky. Now the boxes that were potentially going to be the heaviest of the move were folded in that way that no one can ever do right the first time. I made my way around the stupid box three times before I figured it out. Except when I tried to fold in the last flap the whole thing popped apart. The box flaps were too stiff. I worked at it again and ended up ripping the flap a quarter of the way across. So now none of the boxes were folded correctly and they were all ripped on one or two flaps. I thought to myself, I might as well be using paper bags. As I began wrapping up the thirty to forty glasses that I had never used I realized that I had been way too generous with the newspaper while packing in the living room. Wrapping glasses with colored ads could be a challenge for some but not for this experienced mover. I grabbed my red pen and marked the boxes. Seriously, this pen was so bad that I was actually etching the boxes. Another room knocked out.
Alright, I had accomplished the impossible, the kids were home and fed, and now I was exhausted. I went to bed and was prepared to get up early the next day and deal with the rest. Sweet dreams. . .
I woke up, stretched and yawned. I was actually looking forward to the next step in the moving process. I put on my house coat and started thinking about how I was going to decorate the new digs. I made my way to the bathroom and the house was silent. Good! That meant the kids were off to school and I could start right in. I went to the kitchen to get myself a bowl of whatever sugary cereal the kids had left out. Whoa! What the?! The kids had decided to make a real breakfast for the first time in their lives. I didn’t know if I was mad because they ate without me or because they unpacked so much stuff. Thank you very much high school cooking class. They had unpacked boxes because apparently you can’t cook an egg in a cereal bowl, and they couldn’t read the word frying pans that were clearly etched on the box. Okay, it was just a small set back. Get over it. I ate, got dressed and then pushed the living room furniture off to one side so I could start compiling all of the boxes into one room. I went to get boxes from the kid’s rooms and discovered that they had opened them up and dug things out to see what I had done. They had unpacked just about all the boxes in their rooms. My daughter had actually written me a note asking me to explain myself for throwing away all of her Barbie Dolls and where the heck are all of my stuffed animals? So much for the easy morning I guess.
It was starting to get late and no one had shown up to help me move yet. I started to worry because it was so hard to find willing friends to begin with. That process was hideous. You find out in a hurry who your real friends are when you move. You have to do an inventory of your friends and then go through the list one painful phone call at a time. I thought about the people with trucks and trailers that I know. I like to start the conversation by saying something like, “Hey, are you busy Friday? Do you want to go do something fun with me?” That way when they say yes to the fun and no to moving I know they are still willing to at least go out with me. I made the first cut based on the fact that whomever I called, I would have to spend the entire day with. Usually the people you don’t want to spend a whole day with are the first to volunteer. Then I started the calling. I called a friend that I know has a nice four wheel drive truck. He can’t come because he doesn’t want to wreck his vehicle by putting too much weight in it. I know darn well this guy bought a four wheel drive truck and he will probably use the four wheel drive feature maybe once or twice during the life of his stupid truck. I crossed him off the list. Then I called another friend who I knew had a trailer. My vehicle would pull a trailer so maybe if I didn’t actually ask him for physical help he’d let me use it. Yes, he said yes! BUT, it had two flat tires and the lights didn’t work so well. *sigh*. Okay, I’d spring for the tires. It’s the least I could do. It’s not like I had to put gas in it after all. So I wrangle together a couple of girlfriends to help me move the little stuff, and their boyfriends to help move the big stuff. They showed up and of course one of the men couldn’t lift anything over ten pounds so I ended up being the other end of the heavy lifting crew. I’m five foot nothing trying to lift a couch with a six foot something dude. The logistics were maddening. Trying to go around a corner and down steps at the same time with a height difference like this at both ends of the couch was almost impossible. The girls were busy stuffing all of my priceless possessions into their cars, and packing it in as tight as they could. I was so grateful to have the help that I didn’t express my concern. I could assess the damage later. Can you say control freak?
The move was successful in five trips. We unloaded everything into the new house, and everyone was able to make out the half red half etched writing on the boxes. It looked like everything was where it was supposed to be so I could start assessing any damage to the things that were packed into the cars. The damage was minimal and I was relieved.
We went to the kitchen and unpacked the box etched baking pans and found the pizza pan. We were all starving and thirsty so we popped open some beers and found some available furniture to sit on in the kitchen to just relax for a while. I noticed that the picture box was in the kitchen. I got up to put it in my new room so it could be safely put under my bed where it had lived for years. I started walking through the living room and tripped over the end of a bed frame. I had run out of tape so I wasn’t able to tape it back up when I was done looking through the pictures. The box tumbled and I spilled pictures all over the place. And guess what! I found the Sharpie. I must have dropped it in the box when I was looking at the pictures in the old house. I was only surprised that an extra roll of tape didn’t come out of it also just to mock me. My friends came over to help me pick up the pictures and one of them found a picture of me in high school. She said mockingly, “Wow! It must have taken you all morning to get ready for school. Did you even own a hair brush in high school?” I did not take the time to explain my mother to her. I just took the picture away and put it back in the box.