We are moving into a new house next month. A lovely single house just a few blocks away, with a gorgeous deck, a yard that backs up to woods, and (gasp!) our very own driveway. Same town (good ol’ Drexel Hill), but a new township (very good news for taxes and school district, should we ever opt for public).
For a gal who grew up in a rowhouse, then a twin, then a series of apartments, then back into a twin, this is a very big deal. I have never not shared a wall (or a ceiling, for that matter) with another family. A friend (who also grew up in a rowhouse) shared that the first night she spent in her new single house, she was freaked out. She felt so exposed; like an island. I’m wondering if I will feel the same.
I have extremely mixed feelings about this move. It will be my eleventh move, and hopefully my last. This the longest place the hub and I have lived since we got married. It’s the place our babies learned to crawl, then toddle, then walk and run. It’s where our kids made their first friends, and where I’ve sat on the deck many mornings sipping coffee and petting my sweet Rocco.
While I’m excited to move into a bigger place where we can spread out, entertain more, and really establish ourselves, I’m finding it difficult to uproot and replant. As my house fills up with boxes and the walls grow more and more empty, it doesn’t feel like home anymore. And I’m wondering when the new one will.
Which leads me to packing.
As I said, this will be my eleventh move. Over time, I’ve become an expert at weeding and purging. I’ve always tended to force nostalgia into the backseat and let necessity ride shotgun when packing. Nowhere in my treasure troves will you find dried-up corsages, certificates of participation, or doubles of photographs (hey, remember those?). I always prided myself on how many Glad bags I could fill up when moving from place to place.
But after an extremely eventful eight years in this house and in my life, I’m finding it more difficult. With each artifact I uncover, I am pulled down a rabbit hole of memories. The welcome letter from the principal at my first teaching job in Jersey City. The first “congratulations” card I received upon learning I was pregnant. The sea animal set that TJ picked out after a magical day at the Camden Aquarium. The beautiful Kairos notebook created by one of my favorite Villa students. Kelly’s first baby doll (which, I insisted, had to have brown eyes just like her).
Why did I save these things? Definitely out of necessity, at first. And now, nostalgia is taking over. That welcome letter brought me back to St. Mary’s High School in Jersey City, and my beautiful students (Shameka, Kyle, Josette, Khabir, Kevin, Ysis, Yolanda…I’m shocked by how clearly I remember their names and faces). That congratulations card brings me back to the terrible day I thought I was losing my first baby…and how it was the first time in my pregnancy that I felt that primal maternal instinct kick in. The sea animals remind me of 2-year-old TJ trying valiantly to count the fish in the giant tank: “One, two, three…ALL fish!” The Kairos notebook reminds me to “doubt the first, cry the second, trust the third, live the fourth”…and that everyone has a story to tell. The baby doll reminds me how shocked I was to have a daughter…and how much I now love having a little girl AND a boy.
So the McDonald’s toys and old receipts and tests/quizzes I kept before flash drives are slowly making their way to recycling–no problem. But as I prepare to say goodbye to one home and move into another, the nostalgia trip is bridging the gap.