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On moving day, you can take it with you

It's finished. I'm alone now in my new apartment, ready to slowly (very slowly) settle in.

I'm surrounded by cartons, some open to check what's in them, others haphazardly parked in the kitchen, the bath, my bedroom, the long living and dining room that will eventually serve as library and writing space.

A number of sealed cartons are carefully labeled: "Open now." "Open later." "Open last."

I sound terrifically organized, don't I? But no matter one's level of planning skills, so much unexpected disorder happens prior to moving, during the sorting stage, and the packing performance, and the sheer intensity of the move itself.

My laughter at the little annoying things must have frequently sounded like borderline hysteria.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2005 and 2006 nearly 4.8-million people ages 45 and older moved. When the Bureau compiles its count for 2008, I too will have become a statistic.

I promised myself to be prepared for any exigency. I read How to Get Rid of Practically Anything, Scaling Down and among the several feng shui volumes, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

I listened as friends and family repeatedly advised, "This is the perfect time to get rid of some of your stuff."

I made lists: daily lists, weekly lists. I finally copied the lists into a notebook that I've kept. Sometimes now I smile at it; other times I just shake my head in disbelief.

On the lists, questions such as which of my sons would take what to my new flat. Who would rent the U-Haul van? Should I empty the dresser drawers into cartons or carry each drawer intact? Will my plants survive? And what about my prized art and pottery collection? What is a hand-truck?

In early January, I decided that moving day would be March 1, and I started planning each step:

• In January I would sort, shred, toss and still have time to read two books that I promised to review for a newspaper.

• February was for the last of the sorting and all the packing.

January proved to be easy. I discovered books that were welcomed by the library for its annual sale, children's books to carry to a school, clothes that would no longer wait for a style comeback. I shredded old bank statements and IRS returns that dated back further than I was willing to remember.

Then I looked at my nemesis, the other file folders — miles of files, containing research gathered over years. Some writers adore research even more than writing.

Beyond these files, tucked away in a large closet, were unopened boxes. Stored within were my ghosts — things that were not for sorting, classifying or placing in piles.

Here was my past with people I loved. Here were my parents' books — many bought on the streets of New York City by my father for my mother, before they married. On fly-leafs were words of love written for his Mollie.

Here was her crystal, her English bone china, unmatched teacups and saucers collected over years and that had been set out gracefully for company after each holiday dinner and sometimes for afternoon tea.

Here were handwritten notes, cards and carefully crafted projects made by my children — now sharing space with gifts created by my grandchildren. With care, I touched all of it.

Here, too, were photos of long-dead family members — my own dear Edward, my fiance who died just three weeks before our wedding day. And there were more photos of children and grandchildren, some in albums, some not.

I gently replaced everything but the teacups and their matching saucers; these I repacked carefully and would carry myself to my new apartment.

With the clock moving closer to M-Day, I relied on shortcuts, but I bargained with myself: If I couldn't look through all the files, I could set aside an hour each day after I moved.

As the short days of February drew closer to March, I began awakening at 3 a.m., wondering, what have I forgotten to pack? In spite of my deep-breathing exercises, meditation and yoga, stress swirled around me like fog. Finally, I admonished myself: It's not as if I'm bringing order to the world; I'm only moving elsewhere in town.

Now, more than four months after the move, my parents' books live on several bookcase shelves, and I note those volumes I have not yet read. I have served afternoon tea from my mum's delicate English teacups. Friends have complimented me about their beauty.

But I also see cartons not yet emptied.

I long for Japanese-style understatement in my new home: two orchids always in flower, embraced by one always-green, tall leaf in a tasteful clear glass vase; a small bowl filled with meaningful black stones. Everything in its place. No clutter. Unseen files.

Perhaps in my next home.

Freelance writer Rachel Pollack moved to another part of Denver last March.

On moving day, you can take it with you

07/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:17am]
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