Everything can be broken down into a Process. Knowing this is helpful when dealing with the stresses of moving. Sort, Discard/Sell/Donate, Pack, Move, Unpack, Resume Lives. The Pre-Moving Process involves making a To-Do List, filled mostly with Things That Need To Be Cancelled/Restarted. Gas, electric, water, phone, cable, trash, current lives. I’ve moved 19 times in my life, 13 since moving to San Diego some 23 years ago. (Broken down: 1 different country, 6 different states, 4 different elementary schools, 2 different high schools. Average time spent in each location, save California: 3 years. I’ll leave it to the shrinks to decide if it gave me a healthy sense of curiosity, and a desire to see as much of the world as possible, or a conditioned fear of settling down and a reluctance to form close bonds with others.) The Process only gets more complex, thanks in no small part to all that stuff you acquire.
We’d known that this day would come: we’ve lived in this house, my grandma’s before she passed away last year, for four years. We watched our baby boy grow into a kindergartner here; it was our daughter’s first house. In a sense, I grew up here as well, spending summers and Christmases here as a kid. If you were to come over, I’d point out the spot on the back patio where my grandpa gave me haircuts, or the spot in the front yard where we’d get the sand hosed off of us after coming back from the beach, salty and sun-browned. My dad also grew up here, way back when Encinitas was a mere coastal outpost, connected to sleepy San Diego by a two-lane blacktop. The place is full of spirits and time, and they’ve been excellent housemates. It wasn’t our house – we paid rent, and Beth and I know that the forthcoming sale was necessary, over a year after my grandma’s death – but there’s a sadness. While not our house, it’s been our Home.
What I loved about moving as a kid: the prospect of seeing a new part of the world. There were new trees to climb and new streets for the Big Wheel to conquer. What I hated: that I was being uprooted, and that I was powerless to stop it. I know Lucas well enough: he’d focus on the latter. Moving was not something that he’d ever thought about, even if it was just a few miles from our current location; we might as well be stepping through a portal into another dimension. I eased into the conversation, a slow climb off of the dock, down the ladder into an inviting but unfamiliar lake.
“You’ll be able to ride your skateboard in the street. It’s nice and quiet. And your bike! We can work on your bike riding. Plus there’s a pool across the street.”
“I’ll miss my school. Will I ever see my friends again?”
“Sure! We’ll do playdates and invite them to parties. We’ll see them as much as we can. You won’t miss them at all”, I lied.
“Are you guys going to throw away all of my stuff?” A small voice. Powerless.
“Nope. Some of your old toys, the ones you don’t play with anymore, we might donate.” I sensed an opportunity here. “And you know, you can help us move.” Six years: I can sense when I’ve set the hook, even when I’m driving and he’s in the back seat. I didn’t even have to look in the rear-view mirror; I felt him sit up behind me.
“How? Like…carry boxes?”
“Well, sure – light ones. No, what you can do is help us pack. With your toys…remember in Toy Story, the first one, where they find out they’re moving and Woody tells everyone to get a moving buddy?”
“Yeah – so no one gets left behind.”
“That’ll be your job with your toys. We’ll give you some boxes so you can help us pack your stuff, and you can assign each of your toys a moving buddy. So no one gets left behind.”
“Cool.” A pause. I’m not a mindreader, but I’m sure we were both thinking about the same thing. Impermanence. And what makes it bearable. “Thanks for letting me help.”
“Sure. Hey – wanna go see your new neighborhood? We can swing by your new school. And there’s a park.”