Sometimes, when you move, you do your own packing. Other times, if you are lucky, and an employer hires a service to do your packing, it seems far less of a chore. However, I discovered years ago that it’s almost as much work as packing yourself.
Probably all of us have gone through a move at one time or another in our lives. It’s always hard to sift through your belongings and determine what is worth moving and what is not. So we put out boxes and trash bags, some containers marked “toss,” others marked “Good Will,” and still others “keep.” But going through those boxes can be an adventure, and if you have a packing company coming in, you don’t always have the time luxury of carefully sorting before they arrive. From experience, I can tell you that it does not matter if you put huge signs on things that are or are not to be packed; if it’s it is in sight and is “legal” for the length of the move, you find at the unpacking end that you have far more items than you expected.
During our most recent move to the Caribbean, the selection process was much more difficult because it involved cutting down to “bare bones,” as our belonging were traveling over land first, and then my shipping crate on a cargo ship. As such, we were limited not only to the number of boxes, but also to the total weight. Because my husband fancies himself a “hard core” science fiction literary critic, his entire SF book collection was packed up, regardless of my pleadings to winnow the collection to his most important volumes. Thus it came that his boxes outnumbered all other boxes combined, weighed three times more than everything else combined, and–worst of all–my own collections by favorite authors (mostly first print, first editions) were tossed, distributed to friends and the Good Will Bookstore, or shipped to by children for their children (the entire first edition collection of Harry Potter books, the first editions of the Hunger Games series, and assorted other books that my grandchildren could save and cash in on when the market was favorable). Meanwhile, my husband’s idea of winnowing excluded winter clothes that he would never wear–or fit into, for that matter–and clothing he had since college (he was 64 when we moved, and if he ever dreamed of fitting into these ever again, he would have to go on a starvation diet for a year at least).
But I’m off the track. When the boxes arrived on the island three weeks later than promised, I had the “privilege” of unpacking all the items and re-boxing those things we could never use here. In one of the boxes, I found pet items that belonged to a dog and a cat no longer with us, as well as Stan, Shadow, and Rincewind’s kitten/puppy collars, almost destroyed pet toys, and a variety of things that were meant for the trash, not a shipping box. Credit to the packers here.
As disgusted as I was with the packers, who clearly didn’t bother with my signs (although they may not have been able to read the two-inch letters on the signs that were packed with the items), it was actually fun to sort through the old toys and collars, and remember back to the enjoyment they gave to former and present pets. It is amazing how one tiny kitten collar can being back memories of a bouncy, independent kitten; or a chewed up dog brush, the feisty mini-schnauzer mix Izzy hated so much that she tried to chew to pieces and hide in unusual places. Rincewind’s first harness–a blue one with puppy items all over it–was part of the mix, and it was so tiny that I could use it on one of the cats–as if my cats would ever condescend to be harnessed!
Among my own things were only the necessities–clothing and skin care products that should never have been packed, kitchen items that had corroded during the trip or that were not meant to be packed anyway. Yet each of these, too, had brought back both happy and sad memories–the mandoline slicer that almost cost me a good portion of my thumb, the favorite “stainless steel” peeler that would never see daylight again. Warm-weather clothes that fit perfectly when we left Los Angeles, but were so large that they would need to either be given away, cut into quilting pieces, or re-worked into a smaller size (that never happened). There were business suits that found their way to local charities, of which there are so many on the island, because I am not good enough a seamstress to even think of altering them; woolen scarves and gloves that would be eaten by moths. I hadn’t realized that I had lost so much weight between the time I started packing, and seven weeks later when the items arrived. I had been stunned–although not unhappy–about being back to the size 8 I had worn before I married Joe, my loveable though “unathletic” husband–the man who would rather go to a movie than visit a local historical site, no matter where we lived.
And so, not only did I find old memories and a new energy level and clothing size, but I found a great reason to do something I love to do–shop for clothes! It didn’t take long to go from an empty closet to a full one again, and a few trips off-island added to the growing wardrobe. I wish I had known at the time what I discovered almost two years later–that the weight loss was due in large part to illness. Specifically, depression. The island is so small that it was impossible for me to find a job–especially since, at the time, retirement age here was 60 (they recently raised that to 65), too late for me to be employable even if I went through the hassle of obtaining work papers.
Thankfully, the movers did manage to pack certain items in which I found solace in terms of keeping busy–the examples to be used with the yet-to-be-written manuscript for a book on teaching adults to write; a few of my books on English language learning resources; a few books on special education–those I didn’t send to my daughter, who is a fairly new teacher of learning disabled and autistic children in inner-city Philadelphia. But there was enough to keep me busy, if only I could get the energy to put the works together.
In other blogs, especially in one special one shared by our Writing 101 instructor, we read about the destructive powers of depression. For me, medications have never worked; instead, they depressed me more and made my short-tempered and downright mean. With help from the local mental health clinic, I managed to find my way back to humanity. Some of those items that accidentally made it to the island helped. Maybe the packers were attended by God or the spirits of happiness to come. But, even after the deep depression into which I more recently sank (that I discussed in an earlier post), some of those old pet items–which are still tucked into a plastic container in the loft we use for storage–brought me back, as well as my friends both old and new, and pets old and new.
Today, I am taking this writing class (one of many that I’ve taken across twenty-five years of self-improvement), a recently discovered “talent” for drawing, friends who meet me for lunch when they have a few hours off, and–much to my own amazement–starting a new business. All of these things have helped me become a hopefully better person, and are keeping me very busy.
Maybe life isn’t finished with me yet.
PS: I don’t think I actually met the requirements for the Day Sixteen assignment, but it made me feel better to write about the changes I’ve undergone during the past two+ years since first coming to this island. I will admit that I came here under duress–I did not want to leave Los Angeles which, for all its problems and earthquakes, I really love. Life here is very different from what I have experienced in the past. I am learning about a very different culture and set of mores that I never would have had the opportunity to learn about on a 2-week vacation. I would never have met the wonderful “locals” and the customs of not one but two worldviews–local customs that differ subtly yet uniquely on both the French and Dutch sides of this tiny island that would fit comfortably within the boundaries of Los Angeles, even with the lagoon that takes up at least one-quarter of the dot on the outskirts of the Caribbean Sea.