The truck is here, along with four can-do young men paid to lift and carry and deliver all the things we have packed. I can hardly count all the moves of our past, when my husband and I have rented a truck and moved everything ourselves: from parents moving into assisted living, to daughters moving from apartment to apartment, to us moving from city to town or from house to house, to friends moving and needing help. We are older now and a bit more solvent; hence the blessed young men.
Moving is an especially American option. We are a mobile society. We grow with shallow roots. We move for a better job, for more affordable housing or just for the adventure. When I was in high school, my parents packed up six kids and left both of their extended families on the East Coast for a lucrative opportunity in Southern California. It felt as though we were moving to the moon. My husband grew up on various army bases, so he often had to move far from his comfort zone with little notice. We think that is why we refrained from moving our four kids while they were in school—because we both knew too well the exquisite torture of being the new kid.
Moving is an especially American option. We are a mobile society. We grow with shallow roots.
But it is time. We are currently moving our now-empty nest from a community where we have lived for over 30 years to be close to what is likely my husband’s final job before retirement. It is only 50 miles away, but we are leaving behind a seriously established life.
The stuff we have unearthed! Years of classroom materials from my husband’s teaching career. Bins of yellowing newspaper and magazine clips from my writing career. Boxes of memories stored by daughters moving to smaller digs. Two storage containers of the Hummel figurines that my mother lovingly collected and that no one really wants now that she is gone. Three huge bags of baby clothes. Baby clothes! My baby is 25. Why have I saved these things?
I gave the baby clothes to the local thrift store but not before shaking some of them out and remembering, marveling, when my daughters were tiny enough to wear them. A few of the dresses have been immortalized in photographs. I wanted to keep them: I felt, foolishly, like I was giving away a little part of myself with those clothes. I am still a mother but nothing like the mother who washed and folded those clothes. She is gone, and maybe some other mother will dress her little girl in a wee flowered sundress or embroidered French overalls that say “Bebe.”
We hold onto things for which we have no real use and which will have no meaning to anyone else.
I know from cataloging and dispersing my parent’s possessions after they died that many of the things my husband and I insist on keeping will make no sense to our children when we are gone. We hold onto things for which we have no real use and which will have no meaning to anyone else. Like those baby clothes: They were ridiculously hard for me to part with, and yet a lightened sense of freedom came from letting them go.
The moving men work together like a well-choreographed dance team, gliding through the house with dollies and strapping quilted blankets around our furniture. Looking at the stacks of boxes they are hauling outside to be trucked to our new home, I think of the many refugees around the world, who must leave their homes with only the things they can carry, maybe even with only the children they can carry, and I feel gluttonous. Will I wear all those shoes or cook with all those pots and pans or hang all those frames or—my particular downfall—ever read any of those books again? Why do we weigh ourselves down with all these things? Why do we think we need so much stuff? A monk’s cell is suddenly attractive to me.
If life goes according to plan, and I know how naïve that sounds, the move after this one will be our last. In five years or so, we aim to downsize drastically from the newly rented house, buy our retirement cottage somewhere and live there till death do us part. It is a working plan, and I know that God and the universe could throw a lot of wrenches into it.
For now, we sweep and mop the old house one last time, a bit embarrassed by our indifferent housekeeping—witness the dust and gunk and dog hair revealed when large items are relocated. (That is nothing, one of the nonjudgmental movers tells my husband. Once we found an actual mouse’s nest under a pillow on someone’s bed.)
We clean and reminisce. We order a pizza. We take some ibuprofen for our aches. We think ahead, to unpacking all those boxes. We will make the new place a home and try to remember to be grateful for each new day granted us.