There’s nothing more likely to throw a monkey wrench into a well-ordered life than moving house.
Not that my life is well ordered. I thrive on low level anxiety and loosely controlled chaos. But moving always better as an idea than as a reality. Moving is the ultimate stressor and delayed gratification generator as in “we will have so much more space when we move, we’ll have modern appliances” and on and on. But oh yeah, first you have to pack up everything you own and live out of a box until you settle into the new space.
I’ve moved 11 times in my life so far. It seems like a lot but all of my moves were within the state of New York as I searched for my own personal happily ever after here in the City of Dreams.
That first move was the easiest. I couldn’t wait to go and I had practically nothing to take. I had a footlocker of books and mementos, a table and two chairs I’d found on the curb and repainted, minimal clothing. Life was exciting. I was working and going to grad school at night. Flash forward to marriage, babies and the suburbs. Apartment to dream home. Flash forward some more and the nest is almost empty and there are new chapters to write in life (as well as in romance novels.)
This time we downsized in our move. We are lucky to have considerably more now than that footlocker and repainted table and chairs. This necessitated giving every object and item of clothing a Marie Kondo-style once over to determine whether we’d be desperate to have said object in the new place or that we could part with it because it doesn’t give ‘joy’.
I’m not exactly packrat because I do like a kind of a spare living space, but I am a tiny bit sentimental about some of my things. They all have a history, a provenance and for a writer, the story surrounding the gift or acquisition of an item can often be the jumping off point for a story or at least a beautiful conversation.
So in the midst of the backbreaking effort of the move, we had moments like: That handmade quilt Aunt Tillie gave us for our wedding still looks beautiful. (Yes I have an Aunt Tillie). Remember that horrible downpour when we ducked into that second hand shop and found this mirror? Here’s that pilsner glass we (I) liberated from the pub after our grueling bike ride on Shelter Island.
No I have not been able to part with any of those items because of the memories. And when all you have left of a person who passed is a tiny piece of something that was theirs-it’s a treasure. I planted Montauk daisies when my father passed because they always bloom near his birthday.
But now I’ve moved from that place.
At least I still have his Yankees hat. My brothers and sister got some tools, a favorite pancake griddle and cast iron pans (he was quite a cook and my mom recently recalled how she couldn’t boil water when they got married but that’s a whole ‘nother post for another time).
Lately with the unrest in our world, I think about the multitudes who must move— not for upward mobility in the first instance but in the dead of night to escape violence, oppression and disease. I think about my grandparents coming to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs, and willingness to work. I think of what was precious enough to them to carry in a bag or a trunk and what was left behind. I think about the nomadic peoples of this country and other places abjuring the wealth of things in favor of reverence to the land.
I wonder if I would be strong enough to do what they did? What I would bring with me in such a situation. I thank God I’ve never had to make such a choice.