Moving

Maida Korte-

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
– Judith Minty

 Since I had roots so firmly planted in city soil, uprooting them to move to the country would take some doing. Rather than focus on where we were going, I made a mental decision to focus on the mechanics of the packing part of the process.  When a large tree is to be moved to a new location, an enormous machine is brought in with an even larger claw like mouth that opens wide with dripping incisors that grip the ground around the tree and dig deep to extract it in one giant moaning yank.  I decided to employ the grip and yank method in packing up our Chicago home.   I plunged headlong into foraging through papers, shelves, closets and under all the beds of our Chicago bungalow in preparation for packing.

There is a lot to balance when moving, from truck rentals to helpers to loading and unloading to providing food to feed the masses, not to mention the boxes. I love boxes because they hold endless possibilities in small manageable pieces. This is very important when moving since houses explode when you pack them up. At first, every closet I opened looked compact and organized, only to become an unending stream of items that could not possibly have been in there a moment before.  It took twelves boxes to pack up everything on one closet shelf, when I could have sworn those same items would fit in two boxes as I began to take things down.  Just touching something on any shelf made it triple in size.  I was afraid to breathe lest I cause a molecular reaction of expansion. 

Our youngest daughter, Miranda, had collections of games that were perfectly organized, (so proud of her) and they stacked up in two towering pilasters of Friday night fun. I will not explain what happened when I put a single finger on the lowest box.  A steely calm helped me step down off of the ladder, using my feet to push everything on the floor into a jumbled pile, making just enough room to shut the door. Going out for a long walk was the right decision.  I finally did sort through the games, though their cards are mixed together permanently. Chutes and Ladders cards are mixed with Trivial Pursuit cards, which explains why lately our team gets asked questions like, “Which country exports 74.3 percent of the non-carbon dioxide sulfuric elements found in swamp water below the Dixie Delta in March, before 1943” and the other team gets asked, “Who is Barbie’s boy-friend?”  

     Packing is like discovering your home from the inside out.  It is embarrassing to discover all the hidden items that make up our “stuff” and getting down to the business of purging should be a mandatory and annual cleansing ritual. I think a new national holiday – HOME ORGANIZATION DAY – would be a great idea.  Imagine all the homes across America where the garages would become organized, yard tools with dried mud hosed off, barbeque grills scraped and clean, and basement work benches where tools are all in the right spot. It is satisfying to stack the wash cloth separately from the hand towel, each in their own neat pile, and spices in kitchens would not hide behind the cans of soup any longer.  I cannot help but think that everyone would be just a little bit happier.

I took our city home apart the same way I put clients’ homes together. I want to know if my clients change their sheets weekly or bi-weekly as this actually helps in determining the number of shelves to install in a linen closet. Knowing whether a client cooks in her kitchen is essential for knowing which appliances to specify, and so I asked myself detailed questions about our own lives in order to know what to include, as well as what to leave out.  Do we eat together as a family?  Yes, so I packed a box with dinner essentials for setting the table.  This would allow me to claim rights to the kitchen on day one.  With one plunge of a scissor, I could open a box, marked appropriately by room, location and function of course, and take out plates and cloth napkins and glasses all ready for dinner, even if we planned to get carry out from a yet to be discovered restaurant.   In this way I’d show the kitchen who is boss.  Do not be shy when moving into a house. Take charge immediately.

 I was ferocious in my approach and Andy knew to stay out of my way.  “Come on Clyde,” he would say to our yellow lab, who waggled behind him, still a rambunctious puppy at six months, and out they would go to pack up the garage.  Clyde was Andy’s cohort, his companion and when Andy sat down, Clyde would sprawl his large puppy paws across Andy’s boots. I would go to the garage or the basement and find Andy fiddling with some pipe or pile of wood scraps and Clyde’s big Labrador block head would be right there inside the wood pile. My boys.

I could only begin to imagine the luxury of space that awaited us at our country home.  Since I didn’t know where I would put everything, I packed the only way I knew how and that was the separate and conquer method which means I labeled everything.  I have a tendency to over-organize and have lived on the cusp of OCD all of my life.  A store filled with containers for sorting and organizing can hold me captive, and in earlier days hardware stores were a place the girls and I would head to if it was raining and hot and they couldn’t play outside.  A small bag of hard candy to snack on while pouring over aisles filled with hooks kept us all fascinated and content until the storm passed.

I had a roll of packing tape over my wrist like a bracelet and a pair of scissors in the belt loop of my jeans.  I would grab a flat contraption of corrugated cardboard, flip flip fold and a box would appear and ‘brrraaapt,’ I slapped on a piece of tape and the place in my organizational heart felt actual joy at the empty box before me waiting to be filled.  I marked each box with a black marker and stacked boxes until they lined the walls.  It looked like interesting wall paper and I began to use different color pens for each room.  The kitchen was especially challenging, though delightful.  Pots are not baking pans and could not be packed together and each drinking glass had to be wrapped in tissue before nestling down inside the boxes as though getting ready to hibernate.  I actually thought about whether they were comfortable. 

I am normally at ease with space and understand the nuances of spacial relationships between rooms and people.  I can fit out 7000 square feet with proper adjacencies and ADA compliances to meet code, all while choosing a Philip Jeffries wall covering that goes with the Rohl plumbing fixtures, but I could not understand the largeness of our country home and how changed our lives were going to be in a rambling old house. City living often meant the need to put blenders in linen closets and baking sheets under the beds.  It would be weeks before I realized that my compact and tight-knit group of kitchen boxes would form a tiny tower in the middle of the dining room floor. 

As I made arrangements for each item in our city home to make its way via box or paper or plastic or truck to its new destination, I thought about the transition and where each piece would go.  I didn’t know entirely at the time that we would spend the first years in our new-old house with most of our things in boxes since the house had a host of mechanical flaws waiting to fail, much like a wind-up toy petering out slowly. 

I think that we knew that there was something special about this house and it was more than the granite boulder foundation, or the capitals over the doors, or the mad cap way the walls wove in and out in strange configurations just waiting to be discovered.  I believe we each had a feeling that as we took the house apart and dug our hands into the depths of its inner workings, we would be digging into ourselves and fix something bigger and more broken.  Andy and I each brought to each other the cracks of a life lived without the other and no time to talk about it.  This house meant we could build a new life for us and for our children together.  We had each been married before and the scars of broken hearts had marred our countenances in ways that only we could see.  Meeting Andy with nothing more than a sidelong glance in the middle of a snowstorm, both of us busy working and trying to smooth out the knots our lives had become, connected a link in the broken chain of my life. This man would unknowingly provide for me a happy foundation to build our lives upon. And then there is always the element of love.  That wild weed of sprawling heart pulse that winds around the hurting and mends broken arrows of the soul. 

Each item I placed into a box meant moving it from our first home together.  The home where we slept on a sleeper sofa in the basement office so that the girls could have the bedrooms on the main floor. The home where we squeezed around a tiny table for dinner every night with the girls asking us questions like whether we thought there was life on other planets.  The home where Andy taught us all about how electricity wants, at its very nature, to go into the ground, and how chilled water is pumped up and around the tall buildings in cities to cool them in the summer.  Our Chicago home was where we had little city lights strung from the back of the house to the garage, creating a canopy of sparkling stars above as we danced in the yard to the sound of music from a boom box down the street playing old Beatles’ songs. My girls and I had built a life at this little Chicago bungalow and we had invited Andy into our circle of intimacy. Here, in this house, we had blended Andy’s South side of Chicago roots with our Northside Ernie-Banks-Cubs-loving superiority complex.  In our little city house we had practiced guitar lessons, labored over home-work, studied for tests, shrieked at acceptance letters, packed for college, gathered dozens of sports trophies, created costumes for plays and celebrated every achievement, snuggling with popcorn in our tiny family room with six people together on one small sofa watching an old movie, mixing sorrow and audacious laughter and memories uncountable and now we were leaving.

Andy says we can always move back and that changes everything somehow.  I tell Clyde to come and get his dinner one last time in our city home. We know that in the morning we will be heading out to begin making new memories unknowable right now, and that is something I never want to stop doing.

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