August, 2018: Earlier this year, I helped my mother and stepfather move from a house they had lived in for 20 years into a retirement community. I flew from Florida to Seattle and spent five days taping together cardboard boxes, filling them with possessions, marking them with sharpies and stickers so the movers would know which rooms to put things in, stacking the boxes in garages and spare bedrooms, and making trips to Goodwill. I was a packing machine. Together with my mother’s organization skills and the help of my friend Jennifer and son Emile, we packed up their house in a matter of a couple of days. I took pride in my mad packing skills.
Now it is our turn, as my husband Curt and I are moving across the country, from Gainesville, Florida, to West Sacramento, California. There’s the furniture, the car, the truck, the boat, a cat, a dog and two humans that need to be exported from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, a journey of about 3,000 miles, no matter how you slice it.
I packed my first box, and as I finished it, I could feel a whine rising in my throat.
“This is SO much harder than packing my mom’s entire house!” I groused to my spouse. I knew it was ridiculous. I also knew it was true.
When I told my mother about that moment a few days later, she said: “Well, you are dismantling your life.”
We are applying what I call the “California Standard” to our move. It’s very simple: Is the item important enough to one of us to haul all the way across the country in a plane, truck or automobile? If the answer is no, it goes.
The dismantling sometimes produces unexpected feelings. We decided to sell our formal living room furniture. It came to us used from Curt’s parents and has been well-used by two generations of people and pets. It has served its purpose, and it was ready for a new home.
I was completely on board with this, and when a woman came to buy our dresser and said she wanted the sofa, love seat and ottoman, we gamely helped her load it, giant pillows and all, into her truck and trailer.
As we moved the love seat, I spotted a black and white blur, and realized with a sinking feeling that our cat Tidbit had been in her favorite hiding place. She looked dazed and confused and headed for the back of the house. I suddenly remembered how much she liked the ottoman, perching on it like a proud lion, waiting to greet me when I came home from walking or yoga or dance.
When it was gone, I felt a little bereft.
I know there will be many more such moments during this journey. Moving can be bittersweet. Saying goodbye to furniture is nothing compared to saying goodbye to the wonderful people we have come to know here in Gainesville. But it is important to acknowledge the endings so you can fully enjoy the beginnings.