Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Move

In the Beginning, there was the packing
Three days before we are supposed to move, Jack gets the beginnings of bronchitis. We run him to the doctor’s while we still have health insurance and get an emergency prescription just in case we need it on the road. We lose a day of packing, which even for people who have practiced non-accumulation as diligently as John & I have, ends up hurting us immensely. We end up staying up all night sorting and packing and yet we still keep finding stuff that we didn’t know we had. Our place was small - where did all this stuff come from?

The day before we were supposed to leave, we are up all night again and still there was more to do. Jack gets sicker. Thankfully, out landlord isn’t re-renting the place so we had the luxury of pushing our move out date back a day, which we did.So the day we were supposed to move, has become the day before we move and we have the whole day free to pack and MOVE. It should be fine. We should be able to get it all done. But wait! There is a problem with U-Haul. We have to go back to U-Haul three times before we can get the trailer. We push the movers off until Friday and stay up all night packing. Again, where did all this stuff come from?

Most of our belongings are being left behind. Most of it is hand-me-down junk that we either found or bought for nothing, so I don’t really lament the loss, but it is an eerie feeling seeing ten years of my life being dumped out on the curb, waiting to be picked over.The pile rises and falls with the passing of the day and strangers. John and I get strangely possessive over people’s reactions to our junk. We go out at various intervals and report back on what has and had not been claimed.

“I can’t believe no one wants our bike rack.”

“Why would anyone want the bike rack? No one has a car.”

“That’s true, but, it’s a nice bike rack.”“Do you want to take it?”

“No it was cheap. We can replace it when we get to California.”

The day we are supposed to finish packing, which was supposed to be the first day of our road trip, arrives and poor Jack is still sick and I am plagued by morning sickness. We are kicking up dust like it’s our sole purpose in life. The mosquitoes are vicious, evil, blood-sucking monsters that no matter what we try, we can not keep at bay. Jack can’t go to daycare, so he has to mill around our dusty, empty apartment, amongst all the boxes, feeling confused and distressed. The day goes by fast and we’re still ankle deep, so we set up the pack n’play in Jack’s room and hope to finish in a couple hours.

By 1:00am everything is organized and we finally drive off at 2:38am. We’re aiming to get to New Jersey to miss the morning commute and hit the road after a few hours of sleep. It’s quiet on the BQE. There are only a few cars and us, in our Blue Van, pulling a 6x12 foot trailer. Finally, all the drama, the dirt, the mosquitoes, the dirt, the dark apartment and the dirt are left behind.

Suddenly someone drives up beside us and says, “Your stuff is falling out!”

“What did he say?” John asks.

“Oh no. He said our stuff is falling out! Stop the car.”

John pulls over on the Kosciuszko Bridge. For those of who’ve never had the pleasure of driving over the Kosciuszko, let me describe it for you. It’s a deathtrap. It’s old and rickety, rises about 4,000 feet in the air and curves around at a sickening angle on one of the busiest, narrowest interstates in the United States. The bridge sways and groans as semi-trucks whip by you at alarming speeds. You can see the Newton Creek through the crumbling concrete below and you have to find grooves in the steel grating or your car will swerve all over the place. On any given day some of it is covered in tarps. Construction equipment often sits off to one side, giving the illusion that someone is working on it, but no one is ever working on it. The equipment is just a prop that adds an obstacle course element to the experience. On the Kosciuszko you get to drive on a less than encouraging piece of construction, up high, fast, along side semi-trucks while dodging construction equipment. It’s fun!

And so, we stopped on it.

Then, I got out and walked on it.

When I got to the back of the trailer, I found that our stuff was indeed, falling out. John didn’t get the latch secured correctly, so as we entered the highway, the back door slowly rolled open and – the rest you can pretty much figure out for yourself.

We didn’t lose much but, I am afraid that we may have caused some road rage.

Plus, John had worked so hard at getting everything into that tiny little trailer that it was a very disheartening moment. What we had hoped to be a low-stress, bittersweet goodbye to our beloved Brooklyn ended up being just bitter, stressful and sad.

Then there was the Road Trip. The Gods saw this Road Trip and groaned...

We arrived in New Jersey, found a hotel and fell into bed around 3:30am. Jack woke up promptly at 6:30am and wanted to “get out” of his pack n’ play, a banana and his trains. I took him and downstairs and let John sleep. We went out to the van to see if I couldn’t make a little more sense of our car.

It’s been a decade since either John or I have been on a road trip and we planned everything wrong. We over packed clothes and toys, we brought too many perishables, we put things in uncovered, un-stackable bins and packed ourselves in so tight we couldn’t move. It was all wrong and illustrates a fundamental difference between John and I. John is very good at Tetrus. He can find a space for everything. When we first started living together, he’d filled our apartment, literally every corner of it, with something. It was always neatly stacked and arranged so, if you weren’t really looking, you might not immediately notice that there was ManGear hear and ManGear there, ManGear, ManGear everywhere, but there it was. I, on the other hand, am a master de-clutterer. I can not stand stuff and have spent the better part of our marriage encouraging my husband to think lean.

These two things served us well upon packing. I was able to ruthlessly weed and dump and John was a wizard at getting the kept junk packed into the trailer and van. He did an amazing job of packing it all in. Everything fit perfectly. The van and the trailer were packed perfectly full. Like Tetrus, every corner had something in it. To that end, he did a Good Job.

However, it was completely unworkable. This became my first Road Trip Obsession. I simply could not fathom driving across country in a vehicle where, as the “stewardess”, I would not have ready access to food, clothes, items to distract Jack, etc. I spent the better part of the morning rearranging the van so that we could function in it, while ensuring that Jack didn’t eat rocks, open car doors or step into traffic.

John eventually got up and helped me move stuff around and out of the van. In New Jersey we left: 2 empty toy bins, clothes, dishes and food.

And now we were ready to head off into the great United States of America!

We got about 2 miles before we had to stop for ice, lunch and a diaper change.

And now we were ready to head off into the great United States!

This time we made some distance, but by the end of the day we’d only gotten as far as mid-Pennsylvania. We checked into a crummy hotel, in a crummy little town and went to have dinner at a crummy diner, where, and I swear I am not making it up, a toothless waitress named Florence sat us down and encouraged us to get the salad bar. Being 10 weeks pregnant and starving, I took her up on her recommendation. It was gross, as expected, and I ended up eating all of Jack’s chicken fingers which he didn’t want anyway. Afterwards we put our now completely wired and overtired child to bed in what he lovingly renamed his “cribby” and hoped for a better day tomorrow.

In the interim, I developed the second of my Road Trip Obsessions: The Laundry. Just before the move, we’d accumulated about 2 weeks worth of laundry that I’d planned on getting done and packing before we left, but (and this shouldn’t come as a shock), I didn’t get to the laundry.

So sat there in the van, tauning me. It vexed me. It felt wrong. Out of order. Dirty clothes are something you have at the end of the journey, after you’ve played and seen the world. It was unfinished business. It reminded me of the stress, the chaos and duress we were under before we left.

Plus, all our socks and underwear were in there.

The next morning I requested that we get started a little later so we could do some laundry. This was our first Road Trip Argument. John didn’t see the need to wash the stinking laundry, had been annoyed that I made him rearrange the van and wanted to get going. Clearly, he was wrong on all accounts. Clearly.

But, I believe in compromise, so after some bickering and silent treatment on both sides, I agreed to wait until we got to our hotel that evening to do the laundry.

It took us about 5 hotels to get all of the laundry done, which if you do the math, at one hotel every night, should have meant we’d be in Spokane about the same time we were drying our last load, but, as you will see, we weren’t even close.