The reluctant mover

About two weeks before we moved from our old rental house to our new one, the following exchange between Chris and I transpired:

“I can’t believe we’re moving in two weeks!” I said with a mix of excitement and dread.
Chris looked up at me, a forkful of food frozen over his dinner plate, and said, “Oh God, you’re not going to do that moving thing, are you?”
I opened my eyes a teensy bit wider, trying to look innocent. “What moving thing?” [blink, blink]
He could see right through me but refused to accept his fate. “You know, that thing you do every time we move,” he said.
There was an edge to his voice. I looked down at my pasta. “Nooooo,” I answered with absolutely no reassurance in my voice. “There’s no time for that this time.”

But of course I was going to do that moving thing, my brain already was in the throes of it. I don’t know why I do it, but I do this ... this moving thing, where I get unbearably nostalgic about the place we’re leaving to the point where it paralyzes me from completing the necessary steps to move forward. Literally. I become a weepy mess, unable to pack a box, overwhelmed with memories, second-guessing our decision to box up our stuff and start anew elsewhere. And poor Chris is left to pack around me, taping and labeling and wrapping 50 boxes worth of stuff as I stand hovering over my one half-full box of photos and frames I can’t seem to close up.

In 14 years together we’ve moved 10 times, and I’ve done “the moving thing” almost every time. I can complain mightily about an apartment or house while we live there, but the second we sign a lease somewhere else and start Dumpster diving for empty boxes, I change my tune and decide maybe it’s a horrible idea to ever leave.

Our first apartment in Florida was a 500-square-foot hole in the wall above a garage in St. Pete that faced an alley and smelled like wet cat. It was just us, the palmetto bugs and those ridiculously large Florida garbage cans back there. But the second we decided to move to the other side of the bridge and signed a lease on a cool -- yet tragically small -- apartment right on Bayshore Boulevard in downtown Tampa, I was overcome with regret. “I don’t want to leave here ... it’s our first apartment together!” I remember saying. “We’re only 5 blocks from that ghetto beach we never ever ever EVER go to! Plus there are so many memories in this place. Like the time our pal Shorty left his wife and three kids here overnight to score some crack...”

Over and over, the grass is always greener somewhere else until we decide it really IS greener somewhere else, and that’s the precise moment when my mind freezes up and my emotions kick into overdrive and Chris ends up having to shove me over the fence to get to the aforementioned greener side.

Chris felt no love for this last place we lived. The 1960s tri-level ranch was decidedly not our style, and it had been run pretty well into the ground since its owner had been renting it out. There were holes punched in bedroom doors, towel racks ripped out of bathroom walls, a hopelessly outdated kitchen and a treacherously steep back yard. At the time we signed the lease it was the best we could find in the 24 hours we had to find a place to live. Every night we thanked God to be blessed with such a solid roof over our heads, but we never really warmed to its charms, if it had any at all.

So Chris was shocked that I was the least bit sad or nostalgic at the thought of closing the door behind us for the last time. Actually, I was shocked too. I guess when it comes time to leave a place I stop seeing its physical attributes and start seeing it relative to the memories created within its walls. And it becomes very difficult to walk away from daily reminders of those things.

Kostyn learned to climb stairs there. He saw snow for the first time there, went sledding for the first time there, down that treacherous back yard hill. I paced that tiny living room in the still, predawn hours of March 10 as my body moved through the early stages of labor, and I walked through that front door with my newborn son, Evan, a day later to welcome him to his first home. "How can we leave his first home?" my heart lamented. It seemed wrong. Sad. Insensitive, even.

But somehow — like always — the boxes got packed and moved, and Chris got me out the front door for the last time without much fuss. Thanks to the strong arms and willing hearts of extended family, we’re already settled into our “new” home with fresh coats of paint on the walls and curtains hung in just about every room. Last night the family next-door came knocking with a gift and a welcoming hello. They’ve got two kids, ages 2 and 3, so I’m hopeful the boys will have some readymade playmates in their new digs.

Chris gave me the new house key for my key ring, just like he’s done nine times before, and I dutifully added it to the others on my keychain. And just like he’s done nine times before, he’ll wait a good four months or so, until he knows my mind and heart have followed our boxes of stuff to this new home, before he quietly slips the old house key off my keychain and throws it away.


Lyn said...

Dude...I thought I moved alot! 10 times in 14 years....YIKES! The house we are in now is definitely the one that has felt most like home to us and when we were moving in I told Ryan point blank that I would never pack another box...but who knows? I still feel a twinge of a happy tear when I think of the home we were in when Leah was born...but, like you said, its the memories made...I'll be praying that not too many more moves are in your future!

Christopher said...

If I recall correctly, you still have the key to your parents' house -- now Lisa's house -- on your key chain, right? :)