The Big Move Part III: Resignation

Part I and Part II if you’re interested.

Cat wrangling, much like ballet, is simultaneously an art and a sport. It leaves you breathless as well as creatively drained. On the morning we were to finally leave, the Thursday after Valentine’s Day and a day behind schedule, our furry children had to be put in cat carriers to be transported for the long drive. This is that story.

We rose on moving day at about 4am. There was, of course, more work to do because moving is interminable. In fact, I believe a shadow of myself still haunts my old house, forever carrying boxes from one room to another, lingering in doorways and sighing mournfully over dust. We loaded the bed, frame, and headboard into the truck, Husband packed away what little food we had left, and I did a final sweep for things we may have missed. I attempted to ignore the fact that this was likely the last time I would ever be in that house. You see, I loved that house. I knew it was to be our home based on pictures alone. I frequently hugged the house, I loved it so much. So I focused on just getting the work done, powering through, but then I broke the seal.

Let me take you on a little side journey, Dear Reader. Husband and I used to have two cars, one of which was a Dodge Stratus. It was a little, navy, two-door, rusted, low-riding piece of shit that we acquired after my Chevy Tracker was totaled (notice the very purposeful passive voice here) back in 2010. I resented the Stratus for two reasons: it replaced the car that had been the love of my life up until then, and it was so goddamned low to the ground that me and my broken pelvis could barely get in and out of it. Also, I had zero say in picking it out which was pretty fucking annoying, but that was eight years ago, so maybe I should get the fuck over that.

Anyway, that car took Husband, when he was still just Boyfriend, Bart and Di, and me all the way from Ohio to Florida with all our belongings crammed into it. Despite the ire I held for it, I came to love that car so much that when we donated it because it wasn’t even worth selling in 2016, I cried big, fat tears on multiple occasions. You might be noticing a pattern here, but I actually felt bad for the car. Guilty for abandoning it. Why do I tell you about that car? Because I hung from the rear-view mirror a little sachet for good luck and safe travels (side note: I’m a witch, don’t worry about it), and when we got rid of the car, I removed the sachet with those big, fat tears pouring down my face, and instead hung it around the house’s door handle for the same purpose: to protect us whenever we crossed the threshold.

So as you can imagine, removing the sachet from the handle not only made me sad to leave the house, but brought up all the sad memories of abandoning the car. And now I was abandoning the house. The sink had been right for breaking all along. Blubbering notwithstanding, I tried to just hold it in and move on. I asked Husband to get my wooden turtle wind chime down from the front entryway, but my voice cracked with the question, and all I could do was point and sob. So this wasn’t a great set up for what we has to do next which was the aforementioned cat wrangling.

Rutherford, the baby, was first. I threw a toy into the car carrier and he bounded in after it. The mistake here was choosing a jingly ball as that toy that I would then have to listen to for the next eight hours. Next, we got Bart. Bart is an old soul, and I’m pretty convinced he understands human speak in the way that dogs do: he doesn’t know what you’re saying, but he knows you’re trying to convey something, and he desperately wants to make you happy. I asked him to get in the carrier and though he hesitated, when we made eye contact, and I said “Please?” he could read the exhaustion and brokenness in my soul, and instead of using it against me like his brother would, he relented and climbed inside and laid down because he is forever the goodest boy.

Then came Di. Unlike Rutherford who is evil but stupid, I’m pretty sure Di means well, but unlike Bart who wants to please you, Di is significantly more interested in his own security. Throughout the moving process Rutherford wanted to play and Bart just wanted attention, but Di, the smartest of the bunch, knew the horrors that were to come, and immediately holed himself up under the kitchen sink. After 48 hours of packing, moving, loading, bruising, worrying, complaining, barely eating, and crying, it’s hard to have patience with a dumb beast who doesn’t know what’s best for it. Like, seriously, bud, who’s going to feed you if you stay here alone? Who’s going to snuggle you? Who’s going to give you chicken? The ghost of me will be too busy feeling sorry for herself to do any of those things.

Husband tried first since Di loves him the most. He gently called to him, spoke in a quiet “it’s okay” voice, but to no avail. He looked at me and simply said, “I can’t do it.”

But I had this, mostly because I’m the one small enough to fit under the counter. I slid him out, all 19 of his nails (one is missing, that’s its own story) scraping across the wood, and put my body between him and where he had been. The carrier was waiting for him, and he howled “nooooo” in that horrifying way that only cats do. Once he was in the carrier, after a lot of heaving and reorganizing of limbs, my black leggings were white, and I was picking fur out of my teeth the next day, but I’d be damned if we were going to leave one of these fuckos behind.

I decided to have Di ride beside me in the car since Husband was driving the UHaul, and Bart and Rutherford filled up the backseat. This turned out to be the best decision possible for two reasons: Di does a lot better when he can see you, and when Di inevitably shits himself in the first hour of any car ride, you can easily access the cage to clean it up. Because that’s exactly what he does, Dear Reader. He gets car sick, but from the other end.

So I drove about eight hours in the car with naught but meows and Billy Joel to keep me company. The cats were surprisingly well behaved, especially Bart who answered when I called to him to see if he was still alive, but otherwise just chilled. Rutherford had one attack of the crazies, but when he discovered he couldn’t rip open the cage to run circles around the interior of the car, he gave up, and Di cried on and off while looking balefully up at me to let me know he was blaming this discomfort on me forever which, honestly, that’s nothing new.

And, Dear Reader, we made it. We’re all in our new apartment and we’re all alive. The cats are still very uncomfortable, but most of our things are unpacked and save for a package containing a Costco-sized soy sauce and maple syrup busting in the back of the UHaul (a placement Husband now admits was a terrible idea, obviously brought on by the mania of moving), we made it mostly intact. Here’s to a happy future and great things! Oh, and regularly scheduled blogging.



The Big Move Part II: Betrayal

Have you, Dear Reader, ever felt betrayed by an inanimate object?

I often attribute human characteristics to objects. I mentioned how Mari Kondo does this in Letting Go, and I said it’s probably a little nuts to other people, but on some level I think most of us do this. I apologize to or become infuriated with things when I bump into them, dependent on my mood, and that’s probably not that rare. But when an object broke on me while we were moving, I felt betrayal in the very core of my being.

On day two, the “extra” day that I had so optimistically considered a gift from The Universe, things were going well enough. It was Valentine’s Day, I had expected to be driving all day and instead I was boxing things up, but I still felt ahead of the game. My cheeriness only increased with every snag or problem. It would be fine, I insisted, everything was fiiiiine. Getting upset would serve no purpose, so I plastered on some faux confidence, and pushed through.

We were nearing the end of loading, and the sun was setting. We tried to clean out rooms as we went, and I was actually starting to feel genuinely good. I’d faked it til I made it, you could say. As I cleaned our master bathroom after everything had been moved out, I found the sink stopper underneath the counter. I set it on the counter, finished scrubbing down the mirrors, the sink, the faucet, and with a giant smile, popped the stopper into the sink, the pièce de résistance on my beautiful bathroom. The stopper slid all the way down into the hole, sealing it, so I shrugged and pushed on the back of the faucet to pop it back up. Dear Reader, it did not come up.

Then it hit me: the reason we were storing it under the sink to begin with: the stopper mechanism in the pipe was broken. I tried frantically to remove it. It would come out, of course, if I could slide my nails under it. Or perhaps with a pair of tweezers? Or a screwdriver? But in all my prying and pulling and profanity, I’d only managed to lodge it deeper into the drain, rendering the sink in the house I was about to drive away from and hope someone would soon buy so we didn’t have to have carry a mortgage and rent at the same time, absolutely useless. In a last ditch effort to get the stopper out, I slammed the screwdriver into its side, and popped the domed top off the actual stopper, leaving the rest of it just below the sink’s edge, proving that I could, in fact, actually make a hopeless situation even worse.

And so, Dear Reader, I proceeded to have a mental breakdown. Every ounce of frustration and rage I had compressed into my bowels and tried to band-aid over with fraudulent joviality came erupting out of me like a swarm of Africanized honey bees. I threw down the screwdriver, somehow not chipping the tile or shattering the porcelain, and screamed at the sink, “HOW FUCKING DARE YOU?!”

The insinuation/question was completely organic; it was exactly what needed to be said. I felt, in that moment, that somehow the sink, the stopper, the entire goddamned house, had conspired against me so that I would not be able to leave it–and that’s completely insane–but it’s where my brain went.

From there, it was a snowball of epic proportions. We skipped having any kind of dinner, and continued to pack and clean while going back and forth on how to resolve the Sink Horror 2018. We made a trip to Home Depot for some possible tools which I quickly learned upon return to the house that they didn’t and couldn’t work and now I just had MORE SHIT to pack. I stifled tears even as I scrubbed the kitchen into gloriousness. I could tell it looked good, beautiful in fact, but I felt defeated.

The rock inside the snowball manifested when I was emptying out the last remnants of the garage and found a box of paperwork that I had been meaning to shred. I’d had this box for literal years, carried over in our last move from one house to another, I’d seen the fucking thing every damn day while maneuvering around it to get in the car for work. I’d said to myself every time I saw it that I should just load it up and take it to Staples, a literal half mile from my work, and have it shredded, but did I do it? No. Instead I pretended it was an inevitable but minor obstacle to always be in my life, and now there it was being exactly that, and there I was, paying the penance for my past laziness kneeling on the unswept garage floor. I tried to reorganize the papers because the box had been moved and gotten wet at some point, so it was falling apart, and as I repacked this box of paperwork from decades earlier (literally, it had documents from the 90s in it) I devolved into full on weeping. Another goddamned thing had to go into the truck that everything else barely fit into already, and I had to pack it, tape it, and we had to take it with us, I cried, and I couldn’t fucking believe it.

But, Dear Reader, all was not lost, because I have Husband. The yang to my yin, the cheese to my macaroni, the sane to my cray-cray. He got a neighbor to fix the sink, expertly navigated cleaning and boxing what I skipped, and when he found me crying in the garage, he made everything better.

We ended the night by eating the remnants of a few different meals in bed (the bed was to be packed last the following morning) and passing out. I fell asleep without the optimism of the prior night, but without dread either, just a yearning for everything to be over. It almost was.

The Big Move Part I: Optimism

If there is only one universal truth to life, it is surely this: You are never really prepared to move.

You can have a plan laid out, you can do as much ahead of time as possible, you can watch all the tips and tricks videos that exist, but you will never truly be prepared for the physical, mental, and emotional shitfest you are about to embark upon when you decide to uproot your entire life and trek it across the country.

That isn’t to say it’s all bad, but let’s be honest: you are not here for the warm fuzzies.

So Husband got an awesome new job in a new city in a new state. We’d lived in and around Tampa, Florida for almost seven years, the majority of our relationship, but in four different homes: two apartments and two houses. Including our time in Ohio, we’ve moved together a total of five times with increasingly more things. We accumulated plenty of stuff, and I did my best to purge it (see: Letting Go), but it’s never enough. You know those weirdos who can fit their whole lives into a single duffel bag? They have life figured out. The couple weeks leading up to the move, we threw away and boxed up so much shit. We made four trips to Goodwill with our Jeep Renegade FULL of things to donate, we filled our giant trash bins to the brim at least four times, and I pawned off and recycled what I could, so when I looked through the house the night before we got the moving truck, I was incredibly self assured. I mean, I was fucking pumped. No part of me dreaded the upcoming process, I was all smiles and checklists and positive affirmations.

And then we started.

The plan was to pick up the truck Tuesday morning (I had worked on Monday, mind you, my last day, and had been slowly packing the week prior), and we would take a load of large items to the dump, return home, load the truck, clean the house, sleep for a few hours, then get up at about 4:00am on Wednesday and go. That didn’t happen.

I did my best to stay peppy and upbeat, and even if everything had gone perfectly, the physical act of moving is exhausting. We did get the truck on Tuesday morning, and we did take large items, including our couch, love seat, and recliner, to the dump (I tried very hard to give these things away, but no one wants baby-barf brown, cat-shredded furniture nowadays: beggars really can be choosers, Val). On the way back from the landfill where, I have to say, I had a great time throwing a metal filing cabinet on top of a mirror and absolutely shattering it, I looked at the clock and chirped that we were making great time, it was almost noon, and we could go grab some of Husband’s favorite Thai place for lunch. Little did I know, he had already turned pessimistic (see: realistic), questioning if we had time to stop for lunch or even if we’d get done that day. Of course! I declared through a pearly white smile, we’d be done in no time! All we had to do was fill up the truck and sweep up the floors. THAT’S IT.

That was incorrect. As we Tetris’d our belongings into the moving truck, it became apparent there was much more to do. I uncovered what felt like whole rooms of things that still needed to be boxed up, including almost all of our breakables. I held off on buying packing supplies specifically for dishes and stemware for gods know what reason, and I ended up stuck using napkins and extra blankets to buoy the most fragile things we owned. (Spoiler alert: NOTHING FRAGILE ENDED UP BREAKING SO YOU CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF, UHAUL, WITH YOUR $20 DISH KIT!)

When evening came I was beginning to crack ever so slightly. I could feel a hot rage boiling beneath the surface, pricking at my skin, begging to be released, the sight of cardboard boxes and tufts of cat hair long hidden under furniture inciting a primordial ire in want of release. But Husband quelled it without even knowing it: “I have a proposition,” he said.

We just don’t move and stay here, jobless and miserable until we die and the cats devour our corpses sans remorse? I asked, but only in my head.

“Why don’t we just leave on Thursday instead?”

“I love you.”

It was the perfect Valentine’s Day present, and it didn’t even feel like defeat, just like an admission that our goals were too lofty. And too-lofty goals aren’t the worst thing. It felt much like being ahead of the game, like “O, wow, I have just been handed an extra day to do with whatever I want!” And I went to bed that night very happy, lulling myself into another false sense of security. I did not learn, Dear Reader, and that was my first mistake.