Last week our neighbors in the circle moved out. This week, the new folks are moving in. The street was blocked yesterday with two trucks, and from my window I could see the rows upon rows of tall cardboard boxes in the driveway and garage — the staging area for moving in — and I felt that pang in my gut. God knows I’ve moved enough. It reminded me of our last move, in the blustery cold of January, from Minneapolis to northern California. I’d stressed myself into a nose bleed, I’d lost my voice, and the movers left the doors wide open to cart stuff out so I was dressed all day for the 30-degree outdoors. Here’s something I jotted down about that day:
After a long walk on the snow-packed trail – the longest I could stand considering the icy air – my dog, Lea, and I returned home to chaos. All artwork and pictures and knick-knacks had been stripped from the walls and shelves, making it appear as though we’d been robbed. Cardboard boxes and giant blue packing-blankets had been strewn like tossed trash through every room. Kitchen cabinet doors gaped open, making me feel, suddenly, exposed. In my bedroom, a man’s burly hands gathered up my most private under-things and tossed them into a box labeled “Master.”
My goodbyes were catching up to me. In the last couple of weeks I’d had lunch or drinks or dinner with this friend and that — neighbors, tennis partners, college peers, book club — for my big send-off to the west coast. No matter what we said, all good intentions and kind words aside, I knew, even as I offered my last hug and wave, I’d never see most of them again. These farewell tours were exhausting. I envied my brothers and my family – those who’d never left the place of their birth – in this. What would it be like, I wondered, to forever be surrounded by the people you liked or loved? To never even change your zip code? To return, time and again, to the house you grew up in, park in the same spot, sit in the same chair, talk about the same familiar thing? In a more practical sense, what would it be like to see the same doctor or dentist, year over year? To pay taxes in the same state every April 15? To send your children to the school you went to? My thirty moves were getting to me. Sitting there voiceless on the closet floor with my dog, I realized I couldn’t even bring myself to go see Ned, my homeopathic doctor, who would surely have had a simple remedy to soothe my throat and help me regain my lost voice. No, I couldn’t even see Ned. I was that tapped out. I could not bear to say goodbye to one more person.
The physical moving is hard enough, but the constant ‘leaving’ of people you’ve let yourself care about — and who you depend on caring about you — is the worst. From my window today, I wish the new people on our street good luck. And I’ll be sure to walk down and welcome them when the trucks leave and their garage door closes.