In May of 2014, I posted “Boxing Up My Life,” as we packed and prepared to ship our household goods to Germany. And then I blinked and it was June of 2016, and I find myself, once again, knee deep in the boxing up process. I am amazed, and a little dumbfounded, by the inertia of my life. A body in motion tends to stay in motion– but that doesn’t make the move process any easier.
Nobody likes goodbyes– it’s hard to wrench yourself away from people and places that you love. And for some of us, even the simple motion of boxing up our domestic goods brings on certain pangs. It’s a hassle, to be sure, but it’s also a poignant process– the handling, organizing, and thoughtful packing of the things you accumulate. It’s a time to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to remember why you’ve collected certain items in the first place. Some objects are curiosities, others are fond memories, and still others are nearly totemic in their connection to the arc of your life.
The handling and packing of these things is gratifying in lots of ways– it’s like watching a retrospective study on your life– but it’s also maddening to ship these things out, in hopes that they will come back to you intact in a few months.
Here is my perspective from two years ago:
My material things don’t equate my life–let me just say that up front.
I’m a magpie. I collect threads and scraps as I move along, and they pad my nest. No, that’s not exactly it. They become the fabric of my nest. The baubles I collect as I keep wandering represent my life. And it’s hard to watch them all be packed up, some to load onto a slow boat to Germany and some to sit in storage for a couple of years. So many of my things feel like old friends, like artifacts of adventurous times, not like run of the mill stuff at all.
And, yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I have too much “stuff” too. I’m not proud that among the boxes being packed up in my house there are “As Seen on TV” products, old DVD’s and VHS tapes of bad sitcoms, some dog figurines…well, it just gets ugly. But let’s focus on the beauty here:
There’s the portrait of Teak, the first dog my husband and I owned–so beautiful and so smart. He was the beginning of a small menagerie of children, dogs, and goldfish who share our life.
There’s the old dollhouse from England, bought at auction. It’s a Tudor, half-timber design, handmade, and sporting a “Toy Town Antiques” sign over the door and a little antique shop in the front room, visible through the window.
There’s the 300 year old walnut chest that may or may not house a ghost. (We call her Emily.)
The church pew from the Ripon Cathedral in our old hometown of Ripon, England (legitimately bought, not carried out of the cathedral–thanks for asking). It is quite beautiful, but impossible to look at without imagining the people who were there before you. Brides and widows. Carolers and clerics. Young, old, rich, poor, inspired, and downtrodden. A microcosm of life on one short bench.
There’s the old pocket Bible from WWII that bears King George’s stamp and message to soldiers in the front cover, and is partially hollowed out in the middle so the owner could hold cigarettes or pass notes. It came from the estate of a former British soldier; he was a POW in the Pacific theater.
The Turkish carpet we bought from a man affectionately (?) known as “the one-armed bandit” in Kizkalesi, Turkiye. He lived in a coastal town not too far from where we lived and knew our car the minute we drove into town for the weekend. He’d flag us down, bring us into his home, close the curtains, and then pull out his stash of carpets, jewelry, and antiquities for sale. All a little shady, but in a seductively high intrigue way. We felt like James Bond in Istanbul, wheeling and dealing. And, yes, he had just one arm. (No doubt, there’s an interesting back story there.)
The list goes on. And on. And on.
Each item is its own story–some love stories, some comedies, some tragedies, some mysteries. Inanimate objects? No way.
Some of it is just stuff. But so much of it runs deeper than that. The artifacts of a life lived and loved. Who could possibly fit that into a box?