Moving is traumatic.
I wish I could soften this blow somehow, but even the Lesbian Housewyfe has to admit that uprooting your entire household and taking it somewhere else, even if it is just next door, is not as easy as we all wish. Whether you have a truckload full of professional movers or a handful of drunk friends, the experience is always memorable. That’s just the nature of moving.
As theological offspring (secular translation: a preacher’s kid), I began moving at an early age. My valuable moving lessons included Possessions Can Be Transient (if one is or isn’t careful with the breakables), Your Childhood Room Defined Through Your Presence, and How to Pack and Move An Entire House in One Month. Recently I was able to put my extensive knowledge of moving to good use as Stephie and I made our first move as an old married couple.
The beginning of our moving process plays like a soap opera. This particular morality play brings to light the plight of the renter in the 90’s. Renter, of course, meaning, “Landless rabble who give a portion of their income (after taxes) currently at the rate of 25% to the landholder of their choice. Alternate definition: Those who throw money down a rathole.” In our case, the house we were living in was sold out from underneath us. The new landlord (Skippy, a.k.a. The Evil One) increased our rent geometrically and took away all our storage space. We got out of there as quickly as we could, which is to say about four months. The process went something like this. I can’t be entirely specific because the most wretched memories are quickly being repressed, even as I write this.
I began by setting aside the last month for packing and finding a new house. I would have begun packing earlier but, for some strange reason, both Stephie and her mother had a definitively negative reaction to the suggestion of living out of our suitcases for three months. Also, searching for a new house to lease doesn’t really work out more than a month into move-in because of the quick turnover of properties. No one wants to leave their rental property vacant for two or three months until your lease is up. Funny that.
Anyway, as my self-imposed deadline slid up with the silence of a snake in the grass, I gathered boxes. All kinds of boxes. Big, small, found, bought, cardboard, and plastic. My favorite were the big plastic 18 gallon storage boxes which one can easily find on sale at Target or K-Mart (or WalMart I suppose. We didn’t really have one handy here, but I used to frequent them all the time when I lived back in Arkansas). Some of the most handy, though, were the 32 gallon plastic trash cans with the little wheels on the bottom. I moved my whole kitchen with those and didn’t nick one dish or break one glass. And my movers were the handful of drunk kind. One of the unfortunate side effects of this behavior is that I still scour the Sunday advertisements for sales on those big plastic storage boxes. I just can’t help it.
I also sneaked around and packed things while no one was watching. Stephanie and her mother started getting that “deer caught in headlights” look whenever they heard me say, “When was the last time you used this?” Everything over a year out of use was either stuck into a pile to sell or packed away into one of our big plastic boxes. I was pretty ruthless. Or so I thought until I got into our new house and found about ten thousand things I should have just thrown away. Of course, who knows when you will next need a cute little egg cup made with a chicken foot as a base? These are the types of things which can unexpectedly come in handy, you think as you pack it.
What was I thinking?
As our allotted time in the old house dwindled, we began looking for a new house. I can’t tell you how many houses I walked through. We sorted through the newspaper ads using our highly selective criteria (two bedrooms and cheap!), made phone calls, and set appointments. I looked at full houses, duplexes, apartments and ratholes where you wouldn’t send a dog to sleep. I questioned owners about gardening (Can we dig up the yard?), pets (Our two cats are really well behaved and completely litter trained. Really.), and what services they paid. I talked to people from one end of the spectrum to the other. When I thought I couldn’t go on, a wonderful little dyke came along with a cute little house and said all the right little things. Don’t you just love it when you meet someone who can do that? She even gave us an invaluable week of overlap. Of course, she knows Lesbian Law #16: Rent your house to ‘Family’ whenever possible. Lord knows, we need to stick together.
When the search had finally ended, we gathered the forces which consisted of a handful of students (who came to help in return for free beer), friends (who came to help in return for free beer), and indentured servants (who came to help because we helped them). Stephanie’s mom found a guy who would rent his enormous moving truck out for almost pennies and we set the date, the Saturday before Memorial Day.
As with all good moving days, it rained. We persevered however and, with the help of Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and the Miller Brewing Company, got every one of our large things moved on that very day. The small moving party went well and everyone cleared out in time for us to go back and retrieve the cats from the old house. When we walked in, they were staring at the door. I can tell you, the ride back to our new house was quite noisy. Once we got there though, they were pretty happy. The new house has carpeted floors, a nap-time luxury at our old house. Everyone settled in quickly.
The last week before the move-out deadline at our old house, we gathered odds and ends which would fit into a small Plymouth Horizon and transported them back to be unpacked. Plants, small but awkwardly packing objects, and the most fragile knick-knacks were moved this way. The rest of the stored things were smushed into a rented moving van and trucked across town. On the night before the last day, we cleaned that old sweet house from top to bottom.
I felt a strange sadness in the pit of my stomach as I closed the door. I had never put so much work into a house. This place had been our first home. I learned to garden here. The vivid memories of my first household came flooding into my mind as I took one last look. The first tomatoes devoured greedily off the vine. Losing all my basil last year because I didn’t make the pesto quickly enough. Finding that I really did enjoy the quiet zenlike quality of the cleaning process. Having my wonderful Stephanie give me the space to write again.
Fortunately, the feeling was fleeting because I really was too busy to dwell.
Stephanie did the walk-through with the old landlord the next day and at approximately noon, mountain standard time, we were free. Free as the breeze. Free from Skippy (a.k.a. The Evil One), free from the burden of such a big house (our new one is nice and cozy), and free from my mother-in-law! Oh yes, during this time, she moved out to a whole new house by herself! I mean, I love her but, well, have you ever tried living with your mother-in-law? I can’t recommend it. Especially in those first few months when you’re still shifting the balance of the chores and wondering what brand of milk your honey likes the best.
But now we are in our new house, unpacking. Y’know, it took a month for us to pack and now I find we’ve taken a month to unpack. We’re almost done now! And my theory seems to have held up because, when one undertakes a new task, it always pays to remember Lesbian Law #1: Never Underestimate the Power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.
Now, where should I put my garden?
Twenty-two years in the future, the moving process isn’t going quite as smoothly. While we’ve managed to get out of the grip of the landlord, our zeal to remodel and improve our home has delayed our unpacking by months. My sweetie persists and I know we’ll be unpacking most of the boxes by the end of the summer.
Just in time for that fall cleaning!
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