July 23rd, 2008



Bring up moving in conversation and it jump-starts things. People either love to do it or hate it with a passion, it seems. Even talking about packing and/or unpacking in conjunction with a trip raises all sorts of sympathetic flutters and groans of compassion. I've always liked packing and unpacking. There's something very Christmassy about it. When it's for a trip, packing is like wrapping up presents to give to yourself during vacation or traveling. And when it's for moving, unpacking is all about opening great big boxes of presents you haven't seen in awhile, and giving yourself the gift of where to put them in your new place.

Anders' parents have reached the point where they have decided it's time to sell the house they have lived in for 41 years and move to an apartment in town. 41 years is a lot of accumulation. I can tell his mom is having a hard time with the whole idea of moving, even though she's all for the decision they've made and thinks the time is right. She gets teary-eyed talking about the chore ahead of sorting and purging through all of their stuff, to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. They have to pare down, of course, because they are moving from a big family house to a suitably-sized apartment. And the thought of leaving her garden is making her really sad.

The kids and I were there today for lunch (before I went to town to get my hair cut), and she started going through closets, showing me clothes that she doesn't want to part with and reminiscing about the occasions she purchased them for, and asking if I wanted any pillows; proceeding to climb up on a stool and empty an top-story cabinet of throw pillows, and then telling me later that Maria (her daughter) and I can divide up the large potted outdoor plants between us (later, when they actually move out, not now, of course). She said, "I have to get rid of the philosophy of "good-to-have"...we're past time for "good-to-have", too old for it now."

I've moved a gazillion times in my life, 29 to be exact, and sometimes the urge to be moving again is overwhelming, so I am very familiar with the awful dichotomy that moving engenders: exciting and sorrowful at the same time. But I've never made a move knowing that it might be my last or that my next one will probably be my final one, to an elderly care home, for example, and it's hard to know how to strike the right note of understanding and sympathy with the positive "think of it as an adventure!" attitude that I was raised with.

I am always on the purge bandwagon, simply in order to keep the mountains of stuff that a family accumulates under control. It seems that no matter how often I go through our closets and prune severely, they are still FULL of clothes. No matter how many bags of toys and games I remove from the playroom to give to the daycare or take to the flea market, the remainder simply swells to fill the space. The spaces I have moved to have incrementally increased during my lifetime of moving and my/our stuff has only expanded to fill it.

Having to REALLY purge, like an ENTIRE ROOM FULL OF STUFF, is unimaginably hard: Things you have sentimental attachments to. Things that belonged to your grandmother. Things you and your husband bought together when you were first married. Things that fulfill a function or give your heart joy. Things you were given or purchased or acquired somehow once upon a time that have moved with you through the years. Multiply that by a lifetime and it begins to feel daunting in the extreme.

Someday I'll have to face it, too, but for now, hopefully, I can be the objective voice of reason for someone else who is trying to pare away the unessentials (and hopefully not end up taking them all off their hands into my own home...eek!). I know when I am going through my own closet, hemming and hawing over items that I haven't worn in years, but love too much to ditch, it always helps to have a friend (or sister) on hand who can help me look objectively at that pair of leggings from the 80s with one eyebrow raised, saying, "Um...no" to get me to release it back into the wild.

Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: Loose Woman

More Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Ghost Carousel

Yet More Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Stone Gods

*Matsuo Basho