Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Long Journey, Part the First

When last we left our heroine, she was mourning the fact that her birthday weekend was going to be spent packing her life into a shipping container...

It looked enormous - four feet off the ground (with no ramp!), 20 feet long, 8 feet high and just as wide.  A big empty box waiting for every nearly every possession we have, whether precious or mundane, to be packed onto it in the space of three days.  By ourselves.  And we'd barely made a dent in the boxing and packing in the house.  Our moves are always like this.  Too particular to trust the packing and moving to professionals, too proud to ask for help, we leave it to the last minute and confidently insist that we can "do by self" as the toddlers are wont to say.

The container was dropped off on a Friday evening and was due be picked up the following Monday.  Two days, three nights.  D was sure that the container was more than enough to swallow what was left of our possessions after countless trips to Goodwill and the dump.  How hard could it be?

We had no idea.

Fortunately, we have two very dear friends that practically insisted that we needed their help.  They packed up their two children and their two dogs and all the extra moving blankets and packing tape they had lying around from their recent cross-country move and drove nearly two hundred miles from Seattle for the weekend.  Boy are we lucky they did because, seriously, the job would have been impossible - wait let me all-caps that - IMPOSSIBLE to complete without them.

After two very long days and two very late nights and nearly 3,000 linear feet of stretch wrap, we got the job done, just.  And we still had to leave behind more than we planned.  D was a machine... he and our friend S carried everything to the truck and then D fit it all together with the finesse of a world-class jigsaw champion.  In doing so, he lifted nearly every item we own no less than twice, often three times or more.

S was the king of stretch wrap - have you ever used this stuff?  We encased nearly everything in this industrial plastic film to ensure it was secure, watertight and sticky enough to be fit together in a big block that won't slide around at sea.  S quickly developed a two-man technique and stretch-wrapped like it would earn him time off for good behavior.

My friend R was a rock.  She's a packing genius and systematically reduced all the random things laying around our house to neat packages for the boys to heave out.  She made me laugh, provided critical moral support at a particularly low moment when I was exhausted and convinced we'd never be done, and generally reminded me why she's one of my best friends in the world.  And I'm very glad it was a dear friend packing up my things, because one revelation I had that weekend was this: if you are going to let someone help pack up your life, you want them to be either a chosen sister who won't judge your housekeeping or the ridiculous detritus of your life... or a stranger you will never see again.

What did I do?  Ostensibly, I was directing the efforts inside the house while D manned the trailer, but I'm not entirely sure I was much use. The weekend is all a big, mentally exhausted blur.  But Monday morning, we finally shut the door on the container and waited for the trucking company to come haul it away.

The truck driver was brilliant, assuring us about the security of our shipment while D (in his own words) "clucked about like a mother hen."  This was our entire life packed in the giant box and it feels a bit weird to watch it be hauled off for a 15,000 mile, months-long journey by sea.  It had started to snow and I went inside as the container was pulled off the drive.

A few minutes later, D still hadn't come in.  I went outside to find him looking into the distance as the driver gingerly negotiated the potholes on our long country road.  He watched until the trailer finally pulled out of view.  Then we turned and went into the strangely sad, nearly empty house that was still going to be home for four more days.

But the journey was begun.


  1. Thank goodness for friends, yours are true gems! Really glad your furniture started its long journey all safe and sound. Looking forward to the next installment and hearing all about your new life.

    1. Helen - Those friends are true gems. I'll never forget the phone call I got last summer when R rang to tell me, "We're moving to Seattle!" (from the east coast) and I said, "Great! We're moving to England!" Doh!

      Ah well, we've remained friends despite the distance for years now. I'm sure the little matter of an ocean in between won't make a difference. :-)

  2. Wow.

    Also, "if you are going to let someone help pack up your life, you want them to be either a chosen sister who won't judge your housekeeping or the ridiculous detritus of your life... or a stranger you will never see again."

    YES!!! I usually go with strangers, but when I moved from Colorado to Memphis without actually being present, I had my bestie pack me up. I received boxes labeled "Books...and love," everything was "....and love." She had to work her way through what must have seemed like miles of junk. Then I got to my favorite box-- labeled "CRAP... and love." Can't blame her...

    1. Sadie - That is brilliant! I love the way she labeled the boxes; what a beautiful friend.

  3. Besties are the best arent they? I stress something wicked at moving time and become less than pleasant to be around but my bestie has help me move a couple of times, the last into my current home, I had put my back out the week before and had various friends and brother in law move me while she cleaned the rented place and unpacked boxes in the new place while I shuffled around being next totally useless. She is my rock.

    1. I do think that moving is a telling testament to the depth and strength of a friendship. It's a horrible job to have to do for yourself, and those that are willing to step up and dig in to the thankless task on your behalf are definitely true friends. Yours sounds a keeper!

  4. Ahh. Can't believe I missed this the first time. It reminds me SO MUCH of our overseas moves...even though we used a moving company. Still.