Seven years ago, we moved away.
We had to move. I had lost my job: more precisely: I had been removed from it, and at the same time, my wife and children found that most of their friends had been taken away from them. (You may read more about that chapter here.) We had to go. I had to find another job, and I didn’t have long to do it.
I did find another job, and we knew we needed to leave, but leaving was hard. We were not in the place emotionally to move on: we were just moving away, and pretty much against our will at that. For me, it was a necessity: if we stayed, there would be no food on the table and no roof over our heads. For the children, it was leaving behind friends, schools, piano lessons, violin lessons, dance lessons, and summer camp (none of which they’ve ever been able to do since, because we couldn’t afford it anymore). It meant leaving the place where they were born and the only home they’d ever known. We tried to keep things as “normal” as possible for them until the very last. As a matter of fact, we could not bear to pack up their playthings, to the point that when moving day came, their playroom had not even been packed at all, and we ended up leaving everything as it was, with toys all over the floor. We came back a couple of weeks later (a friend of mine had bought our house to make it easier on us to move and gave us some time to do any last-minute things before he resold it) and packed the playroom, but even then we just threw things in boxes and got out of there. It was too painful to stay for long, or to take the time to go through their things.
When we arrived here, we rented a mini-storage unit for those things and some other things we didn’t have a place for (our rental house here has no attic and no closet space to speak of). For seven years we’ve paid rent on that mini-storage unit. The other day, we borrowed a pickup truck and went to the storage unit to clean it out. It was very hard going through some of those boxes, mainly because of the playroom items. They were reminders of my children’s lives before they were so abruptly uprooted. Some of those things I know they would have enjoyed after we moved, and others I know their younger siblings would have enjoyed discovering. But we had not been ready to move on: we were just being forced to move away. Looking into those boxes was almost like looking at someone else’s life: the life our children had before we had to move away was so different. If we had simply moved on from that place, I’m sure I’d look back on it fondly. As it is, I look back on it and grieve that it was ripped away from us, and from them. I grieve for what they had to leave behind, through no fault of their own.
This time, we’re not moving away: we’re moving on. Yes, we will miss many people here. We’ve made some dear friends over these seven years. Some have moved on themselves, but others are still here and are sad that we are going. We are sad that we won’t see them anymore. But we’re moving on. We’ve sorted through the baggage–literally–from the last move, and we’re moving on. We took many things to a local mission to donate, many others to the dumpster, and some things back home (including some long-lost favorites among our LPs, which we are determined to convert to audio files!). Today, we took down the now-rusty swing set in the back yard and discarded it. The youngest shed a few tears as he saw me take it down, but his older brother (7) comforted him by saying, “Maybe we’ll get a better one at the new house” to which the youngest replied, “Yeah, I want a TIRE swing, Papa!” We’ve thrown away lots of magazines and worn or torn clothes, and we’ve donated outgrown clothes, toys, bikes, etc. There is still more to do. I spent a good portion of the evening matching dust jackets to children’s books and sorting the books by type. I don’t want this move to be a “throw stuff in boxes” affair, because we’re not being “run out of town” this time: we’re just moving on.
Moving is a huge pain, no matter what. But when you’re moving on instead of having to move away, it’s a different kind of pain. I wish, seven years ago, I had been able to think of our move as moving on instead of moving away, but I couldn’t. The pain was too much: the hurt was too deep. I know that this has colored my experience here, and I am sorrowful for that. I am grateful for those who tried to understand and who were very patient with me as I tried–as we all tried–to heal. We have, I think, for the most part. And we’re getting ready to move on.