Weeks out from a move, I aspire to prepare for the day responsibly; to embody the type of woman that my mom can be proud of, the type of woman that washes new jeans before she wears them and remembers to close the shades while she changes.
I promise to myself that this time I will pack all of my belongings in brown paper packages tied up with string. I solemnly swear to perform the careful work of rolling glasses and dishes into yesterday’s newspapers and to list the contents of every parcel in its upper right corner in bold black letters—kitchen dishes, paperwork, winter clothes, linens, nonfiction books.
As I dream up this scenario, where I succeed at moving, I wear an outfit a cross between Rosie the Riveter and a woman in a 1950’s Airstream ad, hair pulled back behind a bandana tied in a bow on top of my head.
I pile on further expectations, the type I built up for childhood Christmas Eves, the days leading up to Drew’s proposal, or my high school graduation.
I expect to feel a certain way, to be moved while moving…
I attained most of my visions for young adulthood from the dramadies and sitcoms of the early 2000’s. I expect moments to arrest me with their significance. While moving, I think I will stop, pause, put my hands on each closed box, and stare into the distance as I sit with my stories: gin cocktails at my Great Gatsby party, the summer we piled into my apartment every night to watch the Olympics. I will exhale, sigh, smile, and shake my head— repeat.
As we go through the process of emptying my home of two years, my moving crew and I will hold and release eye contact throughout the day until, by serendipity, I am left with a private moment in my empty room, accompanied only by the friendly ghosts of the last two years moving before my eyes. A montage to a Sarah McLachlan song.
My eyes will acknowledge the place, baptizing each square inch as sacred ground, the place where this or that thing happened. I’ll gently graze my finger across the window sill and feel the breeze from the picture window overlooking Leavitt Street one last time. I will carve my name into the closet as a memorial: “Meredith was here.”
Closing shot: I set the keys down and walk out the door as the studio audience claps and the credits roll.
(Screeching record sound-effect)
Fast-forward to day 6 of my moving process. I am on the floor sitting in a pile of hangers that I do not want.
My mom told me where babies come from, but not where hangers go.
What I meant to be a “last night in my apartment, introvert hurrah, transitioning from singlehood while acknowledging memories and writing about the emotional experience on my blog” finished on the floor of my apartment digging my spoon deep to find the cookie dough and brownie pieces in the fro-yo version of Ben and Jerry’s “Half Baked” ice cream, which does not deserve its name; it is a disgusting impostor of the worst caliber.
Instead of a fun episode of Call the Midwife as a treat, it happens to prove the most graphic episode to date, including an extended abortion scene that takes place on a kitchen table. Not so suddenly, I lost my appetite for moving…
I. Moving day one.
Boxes packed: four.
Fights with Drew: one.
I am headed into the city with a plastic sack from Taco Bell balanced on my lap. In the extreme heat, my jiggly bits start to graft with the leather seats and the plastic from the bag: I am a wonder.
Upon arrival at the Shell Gas Station U-Haul facility, a man wordlessly beckons my dad and me into the bowels of the structure. We follow him through a doorway, down a hallway, into a closet, through the back of the closet, and into a smoked filled room where a man lounges behind a laptop. He offers us a seat on a black leather rolling chair decorated with a needlepoint Harley Davidson pillow.
When I’m anxious, my sentences come out in short exhales. “It says here our truck has been cancelled, but I didn’t cancel it.”
“You not come on time, I cancel, and it’s as simple as that. I’m here to make money. I called you.”
“You didn’t call. My phone has been on all day and there are no missed calls” Living in Chicago, I have learned to raise my voice to show that I am the most right. It never works, but this is the city of big shoulders and “THAT’S MY PARKING SPOT!”
“Well then, you should have called me! Listen it is your truck, not my problem.” He never looks up to meet my eyes and clicks a few more keys on his laptop, probably ruining the life of another young hopeful trying to move today.
“But that’s not what the email said, it said I had the truck for 24 hours…” He holds up a wagging finger in my face, shaking his head as he takes a phone call. On the other line, a patron yells so loud the man must hold his flip phone away from his ear. He repeats his liturgy, “You not come on time, I cancel, and it’s as simple as that. I’m here to make money.”
I wait, whispering to my dad, trying to prove to him that I am a real adult and that I read the fine print. This shouldn’t be happening, and I’m smart, I promise, please let this not be my fault…
As we stand waiting, another patron calls. This one does not speak as loud, so we must guess his complaint from the mans answer puffed out between drags on his cigarette: “You not come on time, I cancel, and it’s as simple as that. I’m here to make money.”
If there was no hope for a truck, I imagined his minions would have shot us or dragged us out by now, but he had kept us in the holding cell. As he hangs up the call, I decide to try a new tactic: acting dumb.
With apologies for my silly brain, pouting and running my fingers through my hair indicating that I am frazzled, and a few flattering comments about the man’s kindness to fulfill my order, we left with a truck. He asked his minion to pick one up from a neighboring U-haul, and unlike the trucks we had seen when we pulled in, ours had no gang tags.
Somehow, Drew and his roommate finagled my heavy antique furniture and Ikea fixtures that topple over if you open more than one drawer down three flights of stairs and out of my apartment. My mom and dad continued to earn their sainthood packing my belongings as I fluttered between anxious pacing and bursts of moving small objects to the truck.
II. Moving Day 6
How did I expect to fit all of my remaining belongings into a Honda CRV?
Boxes and packing material: none.
Unfortunate comfort foods purchased: one.
Where did all these hangers come from, and why do I own things like erasers, a jar of those extra buttons that come attached to shirts, and a book teaching how to make towel animals? The odd items always befuddle me in a move. I keep shedding odds and ends with each location I move to, wriggling out of my old skin in each new season.
With no more traditional packing materials on hand, a pair of yoga pants inspire me to start wrapping mugs and other breakables in any clothes I haven’t packed yet, mostly all those t-shirts from high school and college, created for any activity or group with more than two participants.
I resent each ramekin as I bundle them in college residence t-shirts and a handmade native american costume from last halloween. I try to tuck two dishes in each shirt, shoving the bundles into a Trader Joe’s bag.
I got the ramekins to impress guests at a dinner party. The individual macaroni and cheese with bacons hardly seem to balance out my present sufferings. I do not care how adorable individual peach cobblers are, I now hate all ramekins, but mostly I despise myself for moving like this again.
As I pull away from my parking spot on Addison, I do a ceremonial look out my back window, but plastic bags filled with hangers and kitchen-wares obscure my view. No need to make this my moment, still plenty of my items left in the apartment to deal with in the next few days. My car clatters over each speed bump as I curse the grocery store for not having the normal Half Baked in stock.
To be continued…
Check back in next week for the rest of my moving saga!