Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Last Box

Everybody has their system, a unique recipe that calls for bubble wrap, boxes, towels stuffed in edges, and a plethora of sharpies. Personality shows up in the stacks to give away, the dishes wrapped with newsprint and the edges of carpet suddenly unveiled from beneath the sofa. There are the Goodwill piles and trash bags, cable men arriving and gasps of delight at the necklace long ago lost behind the dresser. Moving strews our life onto carpets, a cacophony of treasures and junk, trinkets and rubber bands. 

There are some who channel college all-nighters, stuffing t-shirts and glasses into plastic bags.  They tuck books into kitchen boxes and barely remember to buy tape to seal in their belongings.  They toss out ruthlessly and hope that the heirloom earrings didn’t accidentally end up in the dumpster.

There are those who delicately transfer each shred of paper, each paper clip, each half-used bar of soap into its new home, saving it all lest they might need it “one day”.  They can haul out high school yearbooks and kindergarten math tests.  They have chipped dishes and mugs crammed onto shelves because you never know when you might be entertaining 30 guests who all have a hankering for tea.  Maybe it’s not sentimentality at all that keeps them stacking their history onto the vans.  Maybe it’s simply a lack of time or energy, easier to keep it all than shift through and tidy up.  Or maybe it’s fear, a need for proof of past existence, reminders of laughter on rainy days.

I am a combo-mover.  I seamlessly trash clothes unworn since the last move, cracked picture frames and garage sale mugs.  I don’t look twice at worn-out shoes or loved-in cut-off shorts as I seal the donation bag.  But when it comes to books, photographs, journals, and tea cups from my grandmother, I whip out the bubble wrap.  I keep t-shirts that tell tales of the ocean and bracelets woven from lanyard.  I save stuffed animals named for their benefactor, ‘lamby-pie’, ‘bubby ida’ doll, ‘and ‘fluffy’.  I line boxes with completed journals, pages of little girl hopes and rants of sibling rivalry. I alphabetize novels and categorize memoirs, gleaning satisfaction from stacks of boxes filled with inspirational words. 

There are the ‘Kitchen’ boxes with towels wrapped around dishes, cutlery stowed in plastic bags, and carefully labeled ‘fragile’.  Sharpies fly as I detail contents, not only on the top but also on the sides of the boxes, lest I need to locate the winnie-the-pooh clock at a moment’s notice.  Like goes with like, boxes are a marriage of cushioning and breakable, themed by room for greater moving day ease.  Suitcases are filled with clothes, and shoes are dropped into trash bags.

The truly valuable sit out until the last moment, elevated to ‘in the car with me’ status. That’s where the story begins.  What items make the cut for the car ride? For me, it’s not the jewelry or electronics, but rather the sand dollars found in early morning tide pools and a sculpture of a dove crafted by my grandfather’s hands.  Tv’s can be replaced, but the faded letters and pictures would leave me floundering. Every time I move, I peer over mounds of memories in the back seat and cradle past joys up stairs. 

Yesterday I found my moving twin.  Boxes stacked to the ceiling, labeled “Books A”, Books B-Bu”, Books Bu-Ca”, etc.  Wardrobe cartons sorted by type and season, bedding laundered and sealed in original plastic pouches.  She had her bedside boxes, filled with the essentials and trinkets of comfort she would want as soon as the movers pulled away. We were a moving pair.  Armed with rolls of tape and Sharpe markers, we arranged and sorted, dancing in tandem in our efforts to capture the laughter dropped between couch cushions, envisioning empty spaces to immerse with Home. There were no explanations required for the coffee breaks to restore equilibrium and as I sat back at the end of the day, I almost felt as if I had moved myself, proud of the organizational genius that we obviously shared. 

Moving is always a headache.  On a mental health list of stress inducing life events, moving borders divorce and loss of a job.  It’s tough to rank your memories and discard reminders of the past.  It’s overwhelming to begin with a blank canvas, painting new dreams in hollow rooms using tchotchkes and memorabilia to guide the brush. 

But it’s also a new beginning, a clearing out of cobwebs and musty regrets.  Moving allows for creation, daydreams of hands held and dining tables set for ten.  Moving gives us the opportunity to catalogue our baggage, at least recognizing where we still bleed even if we choose to hang on to it a while longer.  It volunteers us for transformation, picture frame by picture frame, book by book, we build our Home.  We unpack our boxes and dust off vases, light candles and waltz to the radio.  

We learn what we need to erase the empty and fill it with our soul.  We find the touchstones of comfort and as we unpack, we settle into our skin, safe at Home. 

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