We piled in my suburban, Mini Pearl (yes, I name my vehicles). The “last back” was down, and from where two of my children sat in the middle bench to the hatch, was filled like a Jenga puzzle with suitcases, house plants, blankets, cleaning supplies, and one of our two cats. The bike rack was attached to my hitch with four of our nine bicycles strapped and secured. Superman drove in front of me in his beat up black Chevy he will someday pass on as an heirloom to our oldest son. He carried two more children, the dog, and other cat; adding new layers of odor–animal, sour breath, sweaty child–to his cab’s already heavily scented aroma of dust, stale coffee and antiquity. His seats, floorboards, and truck bed were piled high with more belongings: the rest of our bicycles, file boxes, photo albums, jewelry, two laptops, the printer, a basket of light bulbs and junk drawer items. He was pulling an 8X10 U-Haul, also Jenga puzzled with our personal goods.
That was thirteen days ago and we were moving on. So much preparation. Hundreds of Ziploc bags in every size imaginable, filled with our belongings. Days of touching everything in our North Carolina home. Piles of items labeled neatly for the packers: “Home Décor: Storage,” “Home Décor: Kitchen.” “Professional Books: Storage.” “Professional Books,” “Professional Books,” “Professional Books…” I think you get the idea. All 22,000 lbs. of it was handled by me in some capacity. “Do I want to see this in Virginia?” I would ask myself. Superman made more trips to the dump in that one week, than he had the past six years combined.
I buried myself in getting ready. My crossfit friends started noticing the moving yuck in my face, my voice, my slumped shoulders. “Well, it will get there one way or the other!” people would say. Inwardly, I grimaced. Only one way, became my private battle cry, not the other. As long as I had my pre-packing obsession, I had my focus. I didn’t have to think about the six years I’d called that house on Bay Pt. home. I wouldn’t have to face the fact that somewhere in those years, it really did become home—my home. The first place I’d really felt was home since leaving the home of my youth.
And now, here I was, pulling away from my home for the last time. Like I was headed to Food Lion for our weekly stock up, or baseball practice for one of the kids. Only I wasn’t. I was staring full on at the back of a U-Haul trailer in front of me, my rearview mirror flashing the proof that this time was different. My obsessive organizing couldn’t save me anymore. There was nothing left to label. Nothing to Ziploc bag. I couldn’t even watch with equal amounts of awe and fear as the movers fit my possessions (all 22,000 lbs. of them) into the most giant of Jenga puzzles ever constructed. Even they were gone.
My stuff was gone. My home was filled with only the sound of our echoes. My garden soon would be someone else’s to tend. It was time to move on.
I cried and cried, under my breath, behind my sunglasses. My Isaac, sitting in the front passenger’s side, noticed. Thankfully, he said nothing. He just periodically turned his head to watch me—like he was checking to make sure I would be okay. I could see his blurred face out of the corner of my eye. But I couldn’t let him into my sadness. It was only mine. I knew my children were sad. I’d spent the last several weeks affirming them, encouraging them through it, allowing them space for their sadness, but not allowing down right sorrowfulness.
I think I cried silently on and off over the next 20 mile. Somewhere on 87 a friend called driving home from picking one of her boys up from school.
“I just passed you guys,” I heard into the phone. “I was driving home from Grace and I noticed the black truck pulling a U-Haul and then saw your white suburban and I knew it was you. I can’t believe your finally going! We are just devastated. Be safe. Drive safe. We miss you already!”
I could barely answer her back. I cleared my throat, then smiled to make my voice sound chipper, “Yup. That was us! We’re on our way to Virginia. Remember what I said. It’s only three hours. Please come. You must come visit. Then the kids will see how we all can still stay friends, even from a distance… Thank you so much… Sounds good… Okay… Bye.”
More silent crying.
When I moved to North Carolina I had three boys. I was “the three boys’ mom.” I homeschooled. I ran. I was an Army wife. I had a husband who was finally done training to be an anesthesiologist. I was ready for some real living.
I left North Carolina having done more living than I could have imagined; most of it I would have rejected had I only known: deployment, adoption, discovering my writing blood, transferring my identification of “home” from Illinois where I grew up, to North Carolina where I have grown full. It is the first home I was able to press my thumb into; creating gardens and outdoor spaces meant for morning coffee, evening wine, private wondering, and writing down to the bones. Good ‘ole fashioned front porch sittin’.
Now I am a Virginian. A new house. A new porch—this one in the back. New bird songs in the morning (mostly crow calls, so far), and mountain sunsets at night. My Mini Pearl and Superman’s truck have been unloaded for some time now. The multiple Jenga puzzles have been undone; the boxes are broken down and gone.
All that remains is getting through this season of moving on–hopefully with more grace than grit.