A House is Only Four Walls (Part 1): Unboxing A Lifetime of Moves

I was 8 the first time I moved. I remember boxes and Rubbermaid bins filling each room. My mom labeling each container by designated room and its contents. The moving truck was so long it took up most of our small South Philly side street. I didn’t think we’d fill it all but we ended up leaving behind our backyard grill and squeezing in a lamp that eventually broke in transport.

I wanted desperately to ride in the large moving truck with my dad. What 8-year-old wouldn’t? I believe I ended up in my mom’s car, sitting in the backseat next to our cat’s carrier.

We were moving to New Jersey. And ten years and three months later, I would move back to Philadelphia to attend college. At that point I desperately wanted to live in a city. I was over rural New Jersey (still am). I found it dull, annoying that it’s not walkable, and it takes 20 minutes to drive everywhere. Yeah there’s some fresh air, but popup developments with cookie cutter houses don’t do much for me. I didn’t plan on going back there to live. Of course, I would visit, but I wanted to spend all my time in Philly or anywhere. I needed to grow, and all that open space doesn’t let you grow, it only shows you the same people over the same landscape, keeping you the same.

We had barely pulled out of our development when a plastic bin flew out of my cousin’s pick-up truck causing us to pull over, collect the contents, and re-secure the piles of boxes.

In some ways I want to say that bin flying out of the truck was its way of protesting the move or even foreshadowing that the moves would get harder. But it was only a box caught in the wind. Maybe in hindsight, I should have taken this as a sign to start owning less to ease my future packing frustrations.

What moving really is, is a time for reflection. Moving is physically closing one door and opening another. But it’s not until this in between time that the reality hits us of what we’re leaving behind and what we’re moving toward. When the last box has been put on the truck and you’re about to close that front door, it hits you. The memories, the echoing sounds, all that happened inside those four walls. But houses, apartments, trailers, dorms, are only that—walls. The memories aren’t erased, the meaning or significance doesn’t disappear—they move with you. I give a lot of credit to my younger sister for saying this.

Moves tend to correspond with life changes: going away to college, outgrowing your parents’ house, getting married, having children, or landing a new job. Maybe you need a change of scenery, and that could be a reflection of internal changes as well. Maybe you outgrew your roommates or wanted a place to call yours entirely. These changes are defining moments for us all, whether they be external or internal.

With three months left of my freshman year, I moved into an apartment (a stupid financial otherwise great decision). Then when that lease was up a year and a half later, I moved into my grandparents’ basement and I will be forever grateful and indebted to them for the kindness they bestowed on me 5 years ago.

That summer was filled with complexities and it’s grown a bit fuzzy since. My moving into my grandparents happened to coincide with my parents selling our New Jersey house, the one I moved into at 8.

Of course, I was there to help my mom move into her apartment (barely a mile from our house) and help put the rest into storage. Then when it was time, my dad and I moved our things into his apartment. As time went on storage units were moved around or emptied out altogether. Eventually my dad moved into a house and I cleared out my belongings. Then my mom moved into a house. All of this was happening in the span of 3 to 4 years.

This has reduced my idea of home to a simple yet complex one. But that’s for later. This post is about the act of moving.

Once my mom moved into her home the fall of 2016 (even closer to our original home than her apartment), I figured the moves were done. My parents were settled. I was living rent-free in my grandparents’ basement and was instructed I would be doing so until I was married. I agreed, being only 23 at the time and not inclined to pay rent.

Then I “moved” to France, something that was never on my radar until I met Julien, last summer (which started this blog). Since moving to France, we’ve changed apartments twice and are preparing to move into our third next month. Don’t even ask if you don’t already know – it’s complicated.

If you are reading this and think that I am someone that really likes moving, you are wrong. The only thing I like about moving is decluttering and the opportunity to redecorate (talk to me about our DIY bedroom closet because I’m in love and it’s not even built yet). Almost all of these described moves (I count 10 so far) have been circumstantial. Some have even been the consequence for decisions made by others. Moving is like that. Life is like that. At least I am fortunate to have the ability to move when I need, to know people willing to help, to have the resources necessary.

And it doesn’t stop there. A couple weeks ago I ventured over to the US for a visit and was greeted by a for sale sign.

My grandparents intend on moving. They intend on selling the place my things call home; the place I’ve used more so as a hotel this last year. They didn’t intend to move out that week. But I did. In one week I packed up, discarded, and donated all of my belongings. Labeled 15 boxes to be stored in my mom’s basement with two pieces of furniture and a mattress.

I am officially out of a designated living space in the US. I have a flight booked for two weeks in December though, so if you’re looking for some guests please let us know and we will happily accept your hospitality.

I left for the airport on Tuesday, August 14 at 8:30pm. I said goodbye to my grandparents and place I called home for 5 years. I told them they were the best roommates and that I enjoyed every minute I lived there, even the times I hated it.

That’s the thing about moving. It’s so busy and hectic, there’s no time to reflect until it’s over. Maybe that’s a good thing though.

When my grandmom realized how upset I was on that Tuesday night, she told me she’d unpack my boxes and put the bed back together and everything would be back to normal when I arrived again in December. *Cue light laughter.*

As I sit here on a sunny Saturday in Paris, it almost feels like another life and not last week. How in such a short time everything changed so drastically. I had no time to process the emotion until I realized I was walking out of that house for probably the last time.

I don’t remember all the emotions from every move. When I was 8 I was excited by the moving truck; at 18 I was desperate for growth and newness; leaving our childhood home I was frustrated; moving into my grandparents I was uncertain; boarding that plane to France I was excited, sad, and scared to the point of tears. This last move was more than that. It wasn’t just moving from a house but moving from people I shared it with.

 

 

 

 

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