I’ve emerged from the inside of many cardboard boxes in time to catch our plane to Nova Scotia, to reunite with my sprawling family and kick back in a cottage on the beach. I’m two plane rides away from summer.
One final thought on the moving process: I’m hoping it’s like labour, where you quickly forget the pain you went through to arrive at the prize. We are a lighter, streamlined version of our former selves. We now call a smaller house with a pretty Japanese garden home, in a hood filled with children and dog walkers. In three days I was more intimately acquainted with our neighbours than in three years at our other house, and children are knocking at our door all day long, wanting to play with my kids.
My back breaking work is paying off. Now it’s time to eat lobster and drink beer with my favorite people in the world – those remaining boxes can wait.
Moving is a pain in the ass. That aside, it holds its share of magical moments.
My angst has a lot to do with the moving method I use. I could simply fire things into boxes, close them up, mark which room they are destined for. But no.
No, this is not the way I move. I hold each item and feel its weight, considering its worth.
My painfully slow (yet methodical) ways have unearthed treasures. Chief among them, a poem my father wrote for me on my eighteenth birthday, four years before he died. I included it in my poetry anthology under the ‘unpublished’ category, compiled for my grade twelve English class. A century ago, give or take a decade.
My father had a habit of jauntily clacking away on his typewriter at 11 pm when the rest of us were trying to sleep, the returning clang of his carriage a lullaby of sorts. Here is one of his creations:
(Note that my birthday coincides with the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, in which two war-bound ships collided, killing 2000 people.)
Dee and the Blast
What event could possibly compare
With the day Deanna chose to appear?
An explosion – a mighty blast – that rocked the earth,
Shattered homes and reduced a city to crumbling dirt.
Could an explosion mar the day
That Deanna claimed as her birthday?
The two events divided by some five decades of time
Had elements of sameness, simple yet sublime.
Both were historic events by any measure.
One brought death, destruction and desolation,
Deanna dominated with a frailty that invited consolation.
The ships met head on in the bay,
Deanna met the world by the light of day.
Her frailty she subdued as her awareness grew
Of hunks and dunks and volleyball, too.
She’s now eighteen and journalism is her thing,
The 1917 blast has lost its zing;
Deanna, on the other hand, is ready to swing.
In my afterword, I boldly proclaimed that I enjoyed my father’s poems over those of Wordsworth and, yes, Shakespeare, using the supporting argument that a poem about oneself is hard to beat. Amazingly, Mrs. Bowlby didn’t fail me.
If you build it, they will come. And if you post it on Craigslist, they might also come. Mostly, with the exception of a few no-shows. They’ve arrived from all over, with varied stories. It’s the randomness that I love. Everyone is creating their own field of dreams, and it’s fascinating to be a part of it, for an infinitesimal moment in time.
In preparation for our move, I’m selling our furniture. It worked well enough in this house, but will look like it took a wrong turn in our new, smaller space. We’d have to inch ourselves around it, and let’s face it, life has enough obstacles.
I took a picture of the items in question and posted to Craigslist. Before I could make my tea, I received responses.
A student from UBC was overjoyed to pick up a $50 espresso maker. A guy drove an hour to pick up our upholstered ottoman, which would be so much safer for his two-year old son. A young couple came for our dining room furniture, and when I describe them with rosy cheeks, it is no exaggeration. They loaded up their truck with our table and chairs underneath a huge tarp, and I could almost hear the Beverly Hillbillies theme song playing as they drove away, the optimism that beamed through their skin.
Eric from South Korea came to put a deposit on our bedroom furniture; I’m worried our moving date was lost in the translation. I’m hoping he’s coming back before the movers.
Another UBC student, Sophy, sold everything a year ago to travel the world, and is now re-furnishing from scratch. I was dying to ask her about her travels but she was wringing her hands about our loveseat, I didn’t dare distract her.
And then there was Leon.
In his email, he mentioned he was just starting out. When he came to pick up our armoire with his father, I was surprised to see he was roughly my age. His father was a talker, though Leon was not. He explained that Leon’s family, his wife and two children, had lost everything a few months ago when their rental house went up in smoke. Leon had been watching the Canuck’s game, when his youngest daughter got out of bed complaining of being hot. As it turned out, that was because there was a raging inferno on the other side of her wall. They had four minutes to get out of their house – the lint in the dryer needed to be emptied from the back of the dated appliance, Leon said wryly. They escaped unharmed physically, but will wear emotional scars for years to come; his children now terrified of going to sleep.
Leon’s quiet determination to rebuild a comfortable space for his family was the face of courage itself.
The twenty-odd things I’ve sold on Craigslist have all gone to great people, I was happy to meet and chat to each of them. My first and only potential scammer arrived tonight, via Stephen, who sent me the following email:
Thanks for the mail, I will like to purchase your item note you will not be responsible for the handling and shipping of the item, my shipping company will come to your location for the pick up kindly confirm to me with your full name and address so that I can have it forward to the shipping company for them to calculate the shipping cost to me for the shipping to commence on time right?
Dude, I wasn’t born yesterday. And if you’re planning on scamming people, you might want to lose the form letter approach, it’s a dead give away.
I am drowning in hoodies. Floating amongst art projects. Suffocating under Playmobile. Awash amongst chargers. In the war of Stuff versus Me, Stuff is winning, hands down. My white flag is flying outside of my door, if anyone can see past the planters, bicycles and soccer nets that are obscuring it.
So it makes little sense (or else all the sense in the world) that because we are stuffed, from attic to crawlspace to disorganized garage, with Stuff, that we are downsizing. In one short month, we are moving to a house with roughly half the square footage of our current abode. I’m worried that instead of hiding the chaos in cupboards and closets and underneath beds, as is now the case, I will be tripping over it while I make dinner.
In typical fashion, instead of taking it in stride I am panicking.
Not on the outside. No, I’m all I love getting rid of all of this junk! I’m de-cluttering! I feel so great – so much lighter! So free – you should try it! Shoving downsizing down every available throat I see, so that everyone might share my pain. It’s all great until someone loses an eye that they needed, or a hula-hoop. What then, pray tell? This is the sound of my interior war I wage.
Shakespeare had it all wrong. To toss, or not to toss, that is the real question.
Some answers are easier than others. Any clothing, whether remotely stained or in need of mending or repair, out of style, or too tight in the bum? Gone to Salvation Army. Bins filled with Barbies and Little Ponies that are gathering dust? Banished to our garage sale. Ikea shelving that I never got around to installing? Again, easy garage sale material. Step stools, the pink Hungarian platter from my husband’s great aunt, side tables with wobbly legs, Pilates DVD’s that seemed like a good idea at the time, learn to read books: gone, gone, gone.
But then there is the memorabilia. The box full of essays I sweated over in university that now read like Greek to me: I could peruse these one rainy day and learn about Thomas Hobbes all over again, it would be like a re-education. A meeting of my twenty-year old mind. Toss, or hold on to for that rainy day in my future? Baby clothes and dresses too cute for words, surely my kids will want these when they are thirty, so what’s twenty more years of packing them around? The plethora of vases that look divine with the right arrangement, which never seem to materialize, but one day might. The snow globes and trinket boxes from travels, the doilies from great-grandmothers who have passed, the mismatched coffee mugs that hold the perfect amount of coffee. This is the stuff over which I agonize. And unfortunately, it constitutes half of our belongings.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go and the Stuff You’ll Accumulate Along the Way. What would Dr. Seuss do?
How do you determine whether to toss or not to toss? Someone, make all of these decisions for me!