I thought I'd offer a final list of things to do rather than pop off with these phrases that may mean little or nothing to the recipient, or worse, may cause unintended - but lasting - harm.
It turns out that packing all the belongings you need for at least three months into the back of a Prius is a challenge. Of course, being a guy it’s the kind of challenge that makes life worth living. Anyone who has ever been a Tetris junkie can appreciate the exhilaration of fitting forty-seven differently shaped items into a space made for about half the volume. Yes, I had to jump up and down on the back hatch, and several keepsakes are undoubtedly smashed beyond recognition. But by God, I got it all in there.
While I was basking in the glory of being a master packer, my family was busy feeling. Amy kept up her “four cries an hour” regimen, while three-year-old Zoe melted down whenever she realized this toy or that piece of furniture was not going with us after all. It’s a strange feeling, leaving most of our valuables behind, but for me, it’s kind of liberating. I love the idea of grabbing what I can carry and heading west until I reach the edge of the earth.
Apparently my family doesn’t share the same romantic bug. They like stability.
“This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere,” said Amy, wiping tears aside. “This is home.”
“Yeah, but we’re taking home with us,” I said, trying in vain to employ the typically male strategy of emotional deflection.
“Taking it where?”
We’re dropping the kids off at Grandma’s in New Mexico for a few weeks while Amy and I make our way up to Portland to look for temporary housing. We’ll likely land in a furnished apartment downtown (you know, cause we left all our stuff in Pueblo) until our house sells. Then we’ll find a new home, I’ll fly back and get everything moved once instead of twice. Practically speaking, it’s way easier than dragging everything up and into a rental, then repacking and moving at all again in as few months.
Emotionally, it’s a little bit more complicated. At least if you have “feelings” like the rest of my family. Lucky me to be born with Vulcan sensibilities.
“I’ll miss our couch,” Zoe cried, clinging to it like a binkie. “I love this couch!”
“The couch will come later, honey,” I said. Of course, explaining “later” to a three-year-old is kind of like trying to explain Vegas at a monastic convention?
But there’s no such thing as a monastic convention, you say. Yeah, well, mind your own business.
So instead of focusing on how everything we were doing was the last time we would do it in our home, I decided to make it into a contest.
“I’m gonna be the last one to pee in the back bathroom!” I hollered.
“I’m the last one to sit on the couch,” said Mattias, spreading himself across the sectional like a big starfish.
“I’m the last one to hug this,” Zoe said, squeezing a column between the living room and dining room.
“I’m the last one to cry in our house,” said Amy.
“I don’t doubt that,” I said from the bathroom. After she was done showing the walls some love, Zoe came back to check on me, as she tends to like to do. Apparently she’s unaware of the fact that I’ve been peeing with fairly regular success for thirty-seven years prior to her existence. But somehow, now that she’s here, she’s the pee police.
“Good job daddy,” she said, patting me on the back. Not exactly the best idea while a guy is peeing, but as I said, I have four decades of experience; I can compensate for such minor distractions.
“Thanks baby. Why don’t you give me a little bit of space?”
Zoe, being three, is low to the ground, so not much gets past her if it’s below three feet. We’ve been in “purge” mode for a while, and Amy in particular is a machine when it comes to getting rid of stuff. I’ve found some of my own stuff in the trash lately, but I know better than to reach in for it; it’s probably booby-trapped.
Zoe had a going-away party at her day care provider’s house a couple of days ago and came home with so much new crap you’d think it was her birthday. I could feel the temperature rise in the room when Amy saw the parade of bags coming in through the front door.
The small, flat stuff stayed. Messy, bulky or noisy things found their way to other loving homes. A couple of things simply hit the round file cabinet, like the Dora Hearts. I’m not even sure exactly what they are, except that they’re heart-shaped, plastic and have Dora on them. Some doink in a marketing lab figured out that’s all it takes to trigger the “I want” reflex in three-year-olds, and man, does it trigger.
Especially when they see the Dora Hearts in the trash.
“Mommy,” you could hear her winding up for a tsunami of three-year-old fury, “you threw my heart in the trash! How could you? I loved those hearts sooo muuuuuch!”
“Shut up,” Amy scowled.
We finally made our way to the door after a quick round-robin prayer where we each shared one thing we loved about the house. And of course, faithful to the challenge, Amy squeezed one final cry in following the heart-in-the-trashcan fit, so she was in fact the last one to cry in the house.
As I pulled the front door closed, I reached up and gave the brass lion door knocker a few solid whacks.