Friday, July 18, 2008

VeryFine Packing

A used VeryFine box trailer "packed up and ready to go": phase 1 of the Pond Do-it-Yourself Moving Plan (and that's just the barn and yard stuff). Good thing we have a stretch of time this summer to implement this affordable moving operation.

Right now we are packing--putting in, taping up, shoving our life into boxes. Not just our life but seemingly the lives of all who have gone before. And what do I want to do? Revel in it all: oh, there's a photo I haven't seen for 20 years because I never did up those albums; here's the dress our daughter wore to our wedding; our first son's favorite Madras plaid pork pie hat that he wore until it was faded when he was a toddler; the layette of our third, and youngest, child. My father's organ shoes. My first typewriter (a relic on which I banged out every college paper except my thesis on the campus mainframe in 1984). My father's typewriter--even more of a relic. And on and on it goes. Some stuff is already in Kentucky but the rest is here or in transport.

Why is it that clothes are the hardest to part with? I shoved bushels of old outfits from Boston years into bags for the dump. Classic clothes in many sizes that will never fit again unless I become anorexic (three kids, remember?). I gave myself a box: one large plastic lidded box. I filled it with clothes that might one day fit. I put "CSP clothes--2010" on the top of it--if they do not fit by then, out they will go. These are realistic sizes. Good clothes that I can see myself in again. And that was just the storage closet in the cellar.

I won't even mention how many bins of children's clothes I am not ready to part with yet: and that is just the favorite stuff that I've already culled down in recent years, the memory makers: the cute and lovely little pants and shirts and dresses of childhood (we only had one daughter and the collection seems to be dress-heavy). So maybe that's what it is: old clothes remind us of other lifetimes, of different selves, or moments with our children. First day of school. Life's occasions. "I wore that when..."

Why do we become so attached to stuff? Linens, letters, ephemera. Unfinished projects. Stuff for future projects. Foodstuffs put away and never used. Myriad collections. If it is in a closet or a box, or a drawer, it is easily forgotten. So why when it suddenly sees the light of day do we want to hold onto it again? I am too sentimental for my own good. It is my undoing. We have a museum here: of our own inheritance and our own making. What were we thinking? We know we don't need it all so why do we box it up anyway? Some has gone to auction but not enough.

Books are another thing: you either have beloved tomes or pass-alongs. The pass-alongs are going to a local library sale or directly to friends. Some are long overdue returns to friends or family. I can be more decisive about books--and we have many in this house, again from generations. I would rather donate the ones we don't want to a library sale that could use them. Let others find such treasures. But giving away a book that you love is almost like giving away a part of yourself. So I don't do it. And all of those children's books--mine and my children's, some from children long ago. Another kind of sacrilege to give away any of them, really, or to even think about it. Besides, we love books, the kids are reading, surely they will love these books as much as I have?

And china. Let's just not go there right now. I will either open up an eBay business or a small booth at a Kentucky antique mall. I'll let you know.

The problem is that when you move yourself--into purchased box trailers that are towed for $5 a mile (still cheaper than a large moving company)--you tend to say, "oh well, we might as well FILL the truck, given that it is the same freight half or full." So much is going down to be sorted later. Furniture and other things will come later when a possible real estate deal is finished. For now we pack up closets, knee walls, a barn and the stuff and chaff of our lives. This enormous house just proves that space absorbs stuff: lots and lots of it. Time has a way of doing the same thing: absorbing little bits and pieces until there you are and it's months later and really nothing to account for the time passed (at least in my world, sometimes).

My husband is tolerant of my wavering and is an expert packer. "Just fill the box. Tape it up. Mark on it. Give it a destination and I will move it." His energy makes up for my lack of it. "No lists. Just do it." The kids bring in more empty liquor store boxes, the best kinds for books and other things: easy to fill, tape and grab. We have cases of box tape from an office supply store and thick black marker pens that fill the hot summer air with their inky smell.

It is daunting. This is my first major move ever from a house, not counting moving from Ohio to New Hampshire at age 11 when most stuff was done by the movers and I carefully wrapped up my Blue willow collection, Breyer's horses and my childhood books. Just one bookcase back then--and our entire house was no more than 1,000 square feet: a small Greek Revival post-war box, but in that childhood home and yard resided the whole world. I'm humbled to remember that many of those North American moving boxes were never unpacked and sat in a New Hampshire barn for over thirty years. I believe several even went unopened to my mother's new home up the road. I imagine our children will open many of the boxes that we are packing now, many years into the future. So we are likely packing up many mini time-capsules, future headaches in a box.

Someone I know, who I believe may still read this blog, told me that when they moved into an old farmhouse they had some boxes in storage. I don't recall the details except that after a year they decided they didn't really need what was in a given box it if they hadn't opened it or used it during the course of the year. So out they went. Unopened! I've watched programs on television where organizational consultants come into your house and give you five minutes to go through a box and decide: keep, chuck, give away. Box after box. If pressured, that process would probably give me a nervous breakdown. The whole idea, while ultimately liberating, is like a perverse kind of game show. Here's your life in stuff: pass or play.

I know we lived for five months without all of it so why are we packing so much of it now? Perhaps we need to cut the cord slowly, one box at a time. So much is for research or future projects (books and collections and archives). Other stuff is just nostalgia-driven. That's what happens when you are moving a museum. We know we will never live in a house this size again and yet we are not ready to part with all that is in it. So I'm starting to envision a climate controlled Mennonite-built barn: a storage facility for our things, revolving collections. It's madness when I stop to think about it. Small easy-to-tend house, large barn museum. [I won't even suggest it to my husband but I'm guessing he's already thought of it himself.]

Perhaps I'm just delusional. Perhaps my husband is dealing with the reality and I'm still in fantasy land: after all, he will be tending to the major portion of the move when I am in Kentucky with the kids in school (early August start) but for now there is much to do together. I have a visual inventory memory and if I recall where it was before it was packed, it will make some sort of sense when I see a well-marked box.

Physically it is exhausting and emotionally, well, let's just not go there right now, either. We have been back in our New Hampshire home for almost two months, after leaving it (but not really) to settle into our new place in Kentucky last December. For months I've been straddling two distinct, beloved places--a comfortable double-wide and a New England family manse--trying to be loyal, trying to be realistic. I was back in this house by myself during the winter on two occasions and it was so quiet and lonely and it didn't feel like "home." Back here again with the whole tribe it does, and yet it does not: we've already left in a way and being back in the midst of move stress and real estate ups and downs does not a quiet, restful summer make.

Our dog Lucy, who will be 12 in August, sleeps most of the time now. She looks at me and seems to say, "just let me know when you people are done with all of this craziness and wake me up in Kentucky." I want to say, "Beam me up Scotty when we're back on the ridge." Our youngest son, the poet in the family, said the other day: "I wish that our time in Kentucky was just a dream, that we'll wake up from it and be here." Like me, he did not want to leave Kentucky in May but now here we are again, back in love with our old house but knowing it's really just a rental right now.

Both the male and female robin tend the nest and feed their young, often spotting each other on two nests at a time. A pair of robins made their nest on our west porch in 2007 and returned this summer to have two more hatchings. How I envy their ability to fly and travel without baggage!

Meanwhile our two resident robin families have flown: this summer one couple returned to their nest on the west porch, with two hatchings, and another built a new home on the east porch. (I find the symbolism of the natural world to be uncanny.) Is there a rule for unoccupied robin's nests? We are quite certain one family was the same as last year because they were immediately comfortable with our presence. This summer we could open our kitchen door and they would not fly off. I hope the future owners of our house will allow these carefully placed and constructed nests to stay and that "our" robin friends will feel as comfortable with them. I wonder if robins conduct real estate transactions between families or just sublet?

Either way, it is time for my own family to leave this great, lovely, precious well-tended nest of ours. Our own "memory house," soon to be Cath's House of Dreams.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

It was I who told you the story of de-accessioning the un-opened boxes.I still do the sort nearly every year and ask myself the questions:
Do you love it?
Did you use it within the last 12 months?
Is it irreplaceable?

I just helped a friend sort the classroom where she had taught for 20 years -- full of stuff going back even further -- we hauled out 37 55-gallon bags of stuff and 17 pieces of furniture. Then we repainted a lovely Waldorf pink. I thought it was some fun.

Hope all is well.