Ritual Confessions

January 14, 2008

Moving, and making room

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 9:04 am

As we near the date for our move to Vancouver, our house — which was so neat and orderly a scant few days ago — is now strewn with boxes, styrofoam popcorn, bubble wrap, labels, clothing, papers, books, etc. in various categories: belongings to transport, or give away, or throw away, or donate to Goodwill. Moving, especially with a toddler underfoot, is overwhelming, and yet as this process conjures the ghost of relocations past, I can’t help considering all the ways in which this one is easier.

Several years ago, I was living on Avenue D in Manhattan and my landlords were about to raise my rent by 70%. The area that had once been untouchable (I lived on a project block; the area was controlled by crack dealers) was seeing better days — Alphabet City was on the up and up, and even Avenue D, by virtue of the trickle-down effect, was in on some of the action.

There was a very long list of things wrong with my apartment that the landlords had never addressed. By the time they announced this imminent and dramatic raise in my monthly rate, I was lucky enough to have happened into a lucrative job and I was willing to pay the extra rent — but not to them. The idea of living elsewhere was very appealing and finally within my means. But whenever I considered the prospect of actually packing up and moving, I would all but lose my will to live. It seemed easier to turn gray and die there than it would be to find the energy to face moving.

When I look back at it now, it was three small rooms. What could have been so overwhelming, so paralyzing? But it was. So many fragile things. So many things bolted to walls. So much emotional accumulation. The most important impasse had to do with a box of clothing that had belonged to the former love of my life, a fire captain who died in the Twin Towers on September 11th. I did not know what to do with that box. Literally, symbolically, emotionally, physically, psychically, I felt I could not take it with me. He had already occupied, perhaps, too much room in my life. But what could I do with it? I could not throw it away. I could not donate it. There were items of clothing in there — like a decades-old, beat-up leather jacket — that no one else would even want. I could not — as I had with so much else — simply put it outside on the curb, to be scavenged by the denizens of the street. Crying with desperation, I called a friend, a fire chief who had also loved this man, and asked him what to do. His answer was a stroke of genius, and it saved my sanity.

“We’ll burn it,” he said. “We’ll burn it together. Or you can give it to me, and I’ll burn it. In a ceremony.”

“I loved him too,” he went on, “and I don’t want to see his stuff thrown out with the trash.”

It was the perfect solution. This man’s life had been about fire. There was a purity about giving his earthly possessions to the fire, letting it consume these trappings of him. It was clean, and it was beautiful. The chief drove over to pick me up and I put the box in the back of his truck. We drove to the street named after this man, and spent a few moments communing with his spirit. Then my friend took the box away.

Not long afterward, another friend pledged to help me move. He had moved many people professionally and he knew how to do it. He came over with clean, sturdy cartons and plenty of packing materials. He carefully unbolted the spice rack, the curio cabinets, the shelves from the walls. He wrapped every fragile item. He put it all into boxes.

He hired the movers. With them, he carried every item in my possession down several flights of stairs to the van. He rode with me to my new apartment on the upper west side, and brought all of my belongings inside. By this time, I was ready for him to bring himself inside as well. Two months later, I consented to become his wife.

Now we’re in the process of packing and moving all that has, for the past year and a half, filled our 3-level, 4-bedroom rented house. It’s so much more to do, but I hope and believe it will never be that hard again.

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2 Comments »

  1. That was indeed a perfect way to lovingly and respectfully release that tangible artifact of the past. I don’t think it ever will be that hard again, because you keep moving to larger spaces, metaphorically speaking. It is very difficult to move out of a small space, because you can’t turn around to see the logical exits.

    Comment by davidrochester — January 14, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  2. David, being neat and orderly himself, has failed to point out that there are those of us whose houses always look like we’re moving, or have just moved, and that we, at the root of it, cherish the hope that we will move again, just so we can say that that’s why our houses look like they do. *sigh*

    What are you doing to make sure Mac’s not traumatized?

    Comment by thelittlefluffycat — January 14, 2008 @ 10:34 pm


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