Monday, December 21, 2009

The Twelve Days of Moving

This is a piece I wrote several years ago. It was pre-baby and pre-many other things. It marked the first of our many moves in not so many years, most of which seemed to happen around this season. I'm posting it now for Kim, despite the shift in life phase and the fact that she is moving farther than across town.

The Twelve Days of Moving

On the first day of moving…

People congratulated us heartily. Moving to a house? We would no longer share walls, and so they wished us well in our new place, in this new, exciting chapter of our lives. I was taken back by the level and sincerity of their enthusiasm. We smiled as they cheered us on. There were hugs and good-humored razzing about the work ahead.

On the second day of moving…

We've been driving back and forth, back and forth. The old apartment still looks full. Every road in Monterey County is under construction – no, I swear it! The rain and wind are here now. Mudslides to the south of us. Flash floods to the north. The boxspring struggles to win its freedom, bucks and lifts from the roof.

On the third day of moving…

I'm scrubbing the shower tiles with products I'm morally opposed to. My sinuses are coated in bleach. "Is this good enough?" I'm thinking, as I scrub some of the grout lines cleaner than others. "Our deposit was only $800."
("Only??" – this thought born of those too many trips back and forth, over the same four miles, back and forth, a numbness.)
"$800, eh?" I think. "I could earn that back in…" I start to scrub harder. "Shit!" I say out loud and with force. "Whadja say?" Mike calls, his upper torso inside the frig. I imagine his sponge red with the mixed berry jam that spilled after the Halloween party.

On the fourth day of moving…

"Who knew we owned so many cookie cutters? Do we need all these cookie cutters? When was the last time we made cookies? Does any one person really need more than one dinosaur cookie cutter?" Mike apparently assumes all of these questions are rhetorical, but he would be wrong. I am studying the human condition. I am out for data. When I look over, he's engrossed in a pile of old PG&E bills.

On the fifth day of moving…

is our garage sale.
"Is the glass suncatcher your brother gave you for sale?" Mike asks.
"No, definitely not," I tell him.

The early birds are there at eight, want jewelry and CDs. Others sleep in before coming for our junk. No one touches the electric potpourri pot my sister-in-law thought was just-what-I-needed, or the shoe rack I've always hated. But there are other finds. Colored bottles for a quarter. Our $10 Goodwill chair for five. I make change and strangers tell me about their cancer surgery, the size of their kitchen.
"How much for the suncatcher?" a round-faced woman in a bulky coat asks. "Three dollars," I hear myself say. "Will you take two?" "Sure."

On the sixth day of moving…

I'm so tired my wrists hurt. It's New Year's Eve. This evening, I'll turn down Angela's invitation to come hang out at her place—floor space free of boxes—in order to take a "nap" at 9:30 only to have Mike shake me awake at 11:55 and shove a Bailey's in my hand. "Happy New Year!" he'll say and mean it.
But for now, it's morning, and I'm on the phone with my mom telling her about our first night in the house and all its funny quirks. I mention something in passing about the washing machine. "Oh!" she squeals with delight. "Your own washer!"

On the seventh day of moving…

We're packing the car again in a perpetual cycle I feel is eroding my mental health. The grouchy alcoholic old woman from two units down tells me what wonderful neighbors we've been and how much she'll miss us. Apparently, all those days of calling the cops on my friends for parking illegally while dropping me off are bygones. I'm forgiven, exalted even. She gives me a huge bear hug. She is teary. She is drunk.

On the eighth day of moving…

My in-laws, who've never looked up the Central California housing market (as we've often suggested during conversations like these), want to know why we didn't buy the house instead of rent it. "How many bedrooms does it have?" my father-in-law, who can still count his grandchildren on one hand asks into the phone. "Two," I tell him bracing myself. "Interesting!" he replies, and the conversation steers dangerously away from mortgages.

On the ninth day of moving…

Perspective renters.
The property manager's son and his friend come to look at the apartment. "Are you students?" I ask the friend automatically. I don't know why I ask this. I hate it when people ask me this.
He is a strikingly handsome olive-skinned man with long dark curls pulled into a ponytail. "No," he says, "I work for a sculptor," then locks in on my eyes with his, extends his hand. "I'm John." Of course the ruggedly good-looking olive-skinned man of dark curls works for a sculptor. Yes. Of course he does. You would think we wouldn't notice things like him at times like these. But we do. We always notice.

On the tenth day of moving…

Looking at the garden we'd planted over five and a half years bloom and climb without apology, Torrey had been the one with the million-dollar question: "But what will you do if you move?!" She'd asked it with wide eyes and the wisdom of someone who knows – someone who's rented. At the time I just shrugged, not knowing the answer and not planning a move. My precious plants. Later, I'd decided: "I'll just do it somewhere else."
I was proud of my answer – the one Torrey never heard. I felt it was a kind of evolution. I could let go. I'd beautify a next place and that was okay. Keep moving, I told myself.
But as I survey for the last time the primroses bravely blooming in their fourth year despite the snails, or the bougainvillea – my troubled orphan, a Kmart clearance sale save – finally starting to bud after so much prodding and patience, my gardener's heart shreds on its thorns, and I feel "evolution" slip from me like old snake skin.

On the eleventh day of moving…

We have a fireplace at our new address which is nice since our old crappy couch is now firewood. Mike ripped it apart today, which is why I pull back my hand when he tries to take it as we leave for the new house again tonight. "Ew! Your hands are so rough!" I tell him. He looks at me dejected. "Did we eat lunch?" he asks. It's 7:30.

On the twelfth day of moving…

At the new place, the cats still hide under the bed most of the day. At first, they were afraid, now, they're just mad. Sometimes they come out to complain about their food or to scratch the carpet in the hallway. I leave the shades up and park dressers and bookcases under the windows.

Eventually, they'll love it here.

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