My parents-in-law just moved from a three-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment.
This move has been all the things that moving always is: logistically challenging, emotionally and physically exhausting, and overall, an enormous exercise in patience, each with the other and with themselves, as important details were forgotten, mixed up, remembered just in time, and let go of.
In addition, this lovely couple had not moved in fifty years. Every aspect of this move seemed somewhat foreign to them. They didn't remember how long everything would take. They didn't realize they had so much stuff. At one point, they seemed to question their decision to move, based upon how much work it all was; as if the work and challenge were a sign of a mistake. On the settling in side, they go back and forth between "everything's fine," and "we will never be settled."
It is hard enough to have to touch every single object you own and put it in a box to transport to another location, or to watch as someone else packs up your things. Every item has a story, a person, an event, a holiday, a feeling attached to it. But add to that the deciding of each object you own: does it go in that box and on to the new home or not? Each item has to state its case, and whether or not you're in the mood to remember the Christmas the family spent visiting an ailing aunt, you will be taken down that road, as you pick up the crystal she gave you, or the travel coffee mug you used on the way there, or the nursing home pen you inadvertently brought home with you on what turned out to be the last day you would see her. It doesn't have to be an expensive piece of art or a family heirloom. Throughout the tearful process of clearing out my Mom's house after she passed away, the item that laid me out the most was the piece of cardboard she had grabbed in a hurry so she could write: "I'll be home around 4. Wait for me! I'll be hungry!"
The house itself is, of course, another goodbye. It holds details of your life that you don't realize it knows. Until you get up in the sleepy hours and head down the hallway for the bathroom in your new home, you won't realize just how well you knew each other. The familiar creaks. The quality of the afternoon light in the different seasons. How much echo is in the bedroom, how hard you have to pull the sliding glass door to close it. When we choose our homes, we imagine what we'll do, who will visit, how we'll accommodate book club, which room is right for the baby. It's like we pre-program memories, or memory receivers, into the house. It's no wonder when we leave, we discover that it worked - the plans and dreams are there, in different ways than we imagined, perhaps, but there they are. Then the process begins for the new place, with whatever new life situations we have to plan for.
"And you know I come here often and park across the street from my home…
The big old avocado tree is kicking up the walk
The dreams we shared, the plans we made
If these old limbs could talk
They're holding my first kiss there, the time I ran away from my home…
And through the window no familiar face
The world's a stranger but God I know this place"
from I Am Home (Debra Davis, from the album Angels in the Attic)