06 June, 2014

Moving confessions

Sorry, patient readers, I have just a few weeks left here in Colorado and so things are a bit chaotic.

Moving confessions...

1. A couple years ago, I found a shoe box labelled "Cables and Cords." It was securely duct-taped closed, and I had every reason to suspect it had been sealed for at least three years (since leaving Philly) and possible six (a fair bit of my stuff went into boxes when I moved to the UK in 2006, never to be needed again).

I actually opened it and failed to recognize most of the items but didn't throw it out two years ago. Do I pack it now or bid adieu to the mystery cords whose associated objects apparently run on rainwater and daydreams?

2. I think it might be time to donate my collection of semi-disposable third-world cell phones. Possibly to a museum. The last time I traveled to the majority of these places, I sucked it up and paid AT&T for some level of service on my iPhone.

Along the same lines... I found an early-generation iPod (c. 2003) that my sister lent me when I dropped mine from the elliptical one time too many. I gave it back to her as a keepsake because the back had an engraved message from my dad - and because her kids are going to find it freakin' hilarious. Touch wheel? Is that like a rotary phone? 

3. Nothing gives me joy like taking a box of stuff I really never needed to Goodwill. However, Finn caught me giving away a pair of yellow pajamas (the top was a onesie and he is old enough that diaper-area snaps are pointless and annoying). He clung to the bottoms until I finally promised that I would put them back in his dresser...but I smuggled the top out of his room and back into the Goodwill box.

Incidentally, he also tried to rescue an old bottle brush from the trash and an egg carton from the recycling bin. 

3. My most intractable dilemma by far has been trying to choose which items should not go with the movers and be in storage. I've moved three times before with professional movers and I've used storage twice, all without any problems. However, every time I was also driving my car to my next destination, and so I transported important documents, photos, artwork, favorite and essential clothes, my great-grandmother's china and other irreplaceable sentimental and valuable items myself.

This time, we have decided that since 1) the drive is quite long, 2) Finn hates riding in the car, and 3) I plan to sell my car and lease a new one soon anyway, I will dispose of my car beforehand and we will fly back in New York. So on my last two trips to the Northeast, I dropped off large quantities of clothing and shoes, on the penultimate and final trips, I'm planning to bring more sentimental items (and clothes too, of course).

These are the two problems with that plan. One, I trust the airlines no more than I trust the movers. To be fair, they've never permanently lost my stuff, although they did shatter the wooden frame of one suitcase and also provided me with the opportunity to 1) show up for work in a foreign country wearing jeans without underwear and 2) get my credit card frozen by fraud alert for trying to buy suitable job interview clothes from a Houston Target at midnight.

Two, I have a lot more sentimental stuff than I can carry....even excluding the things that are clearly too large (boxes of china, canvas paintings).

A few of the decisions I've made myself crazy over...

4. A can of Mace. Yes, you read that right. Mitch (best described as my ex-stepfather-in-law, if any of the involved parties had been matrimonially inclined) gave it to me several years ago and, while I've thankfully never had cause to even consider using it, it truly was the thought that counted.

However, it's definitely on the hells-no list from the moving company. Rather than toss it (probably also illegal?), I think I may re-gift to someone I care about.

5. My beloved books. I shipped somewhere between 30 and 40 boxes of books from Philadelphia to Denver. I've managed to part with about half, keeping only those that I truly plan to re-read or passionately hope Finn will discover one day. Of the remaining half, probably about a quarter have some personal significance. Some of these include books like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which I read over and over again at my dad's bedside five years ago. I had taken to writing the date and location of my first reading in the covers.

But finally, I conceded defeat. A handful of books that contain personal inscriptions or are no longer in print and expensive or difficult to obtain secondhand (namely, Machu Picchu, photographs with poems by Pablo Neruda) will be carried back in New York in my backpack. Journey from the Dawna child's introduction to early human ancestors, signed by Donald Johanson when my dad took 10-year-old me to hear him speak, also made the cut. My well-worn, beloved copy of the Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining Cookbook - which my parents helpfully gave me as I went off to college and is currently one cent used on Amazon.com - did not make the cut. I hope y'all are laughing by now, but it's no joke - I love that cookbook.

6. A hefty box of cards from birthday, holidays and other occasions. I pondered whether to sort out the ones my dad sent to me. And then I thought - what about everyone else? They matter too, and I have no idea whether I'll get another card from someone or now. Such is life, right? Finally, I chose a few pretty ones from the top and acknowledged to myself that his writing on this site and elsewhere is of much greater value to me, and to Finn someday, than his squiggly signature on a greeting card.

My beloved Berber carpet, in Philadelphia, 2008
I've already selected my absolute favorites of Finn's baby clothes to carry back in my suitcase and accepted that several beloved but, um, large items - like a painting I hauled back from Cusco, and a huge antique Berber carpet from Fez - the dealer tried to throw in his son's hand in marriage, a new twist on a dowry - must be entrusted to the care of the movers. A few small things made it into the padded lining of Finn's diaper bag to carry on the plane. Among them: a beautiful pair of fur-lined leather gloves that originally belonged to my dad and that I hope Finn can wear someday; an abstract interpretation of the Hawaiian goddess Pele that I bought in an art gallery near Kilauea when I was 16 (and took to the collegiate show-and-tell that served as my first-year dorm's first icebreaker); and the little brass alarm clock that I won in second grade for reading more minutes per day than anyone else in the school.

Finn was fascinated by this last object, and that caused me to dwell on why I've kept it so long, and how it had migrated from New York to Virginia to Copenhagen to Atlanta to Oxford (via Memphis, briefly) to Atlanta again to Philadelphia (via Guatemala) to Denver...

Oddly enough, I remember clearly certain parts of the night that I won it. The boy next to me in the audience asked to hold it. I said "no" - for no particular reason - and he said, "But my dad paid for it." Ha! It's funny now. At the time, I think I was embarrassed by my own unkind behavior. The embarrassment spilled over into the award itself, and for many, many years, I didn't think I deserved it. I hadn't been particularly accurate in recording my reading times, and I worried that I had somehow cheated. I realize now - ah, hindsight - that I read so much and so constantly that it is neither surprising that I couldn't keep track nor that I would actually have read more than anyone else. Even at age seven, I read past midnight some nights. I read under the table at dinner and under my desks during dull lessons.

In some ways, not much has changed...except perhaps that iPhones and Kindle apps have made it a bit easier. As a senior pediatric resident, I read the Hunger Games trilogy on my phone during particularly slow deliveries (pediatricians are called in advance for a variety of potential problems, such as meconium staining or IV narcotics).

But back to the moving issues...what do I do with Finn's framed casts of his 3-month-old hand and foot? I have to find a way to fit them in my suitcase, don't I?