August 10, 2003
Today is my last day in Chicago. I am packing, a skill I have refined through long practice over the course of several years of transience. I can pack things tightly, purge my closet of "fat clothes," and clean out under the bed with the best of them. Still, there is one aspect I have not mastered: deshabillement. English doesn't really have a word for it, so I have borrowed the French for "moving," which literally translates as "un-living." The French mean "living" in the sense of "where do you live?" but all the same, the more dour connotations seem apt as well. Taking apart your home, dismantling the environment that supports you, and taking off into the great wide open is more than a simple reorganization of space. It requires the ability to accept the transience of one's existence, the arbitrary nature of one's connections, and that the very nature of the universe, including the things you regard as central, is inherently liminal. To move is, on at least one level, to face your own mortality.
11:12am Have searched in vain for boxes. Despite the mound in the living room,
it is clear there are not enough to contain even the books.
11:13am Move all completely packed items to living room and take out trash.
11:21am Sort through remaining papers.
11:45am It is becoming rapidly clearer and clearer that I need another file box. Keeping that much paper, however, is unacceptable. I may have to clean out the older files. Either that or use the magazine basket to store things to be filed. Yes, that's it! the magazine basket.
12:05pm It is uncertain how much the magazine basket can truly hold. A box may have to be commissioned.
*For those of you who are wondering, the goal is to have everything but books and the kitchen packed by the time Gene gets here at 10:00. While this seems entirely possible, especially since weeks ago I cleaned out the bathroom, under the bed, and all my files, I can't really make out whether or not I'm gaining any headway. So far I have been leaving the furniture assembled.
The greatest difficulty about packing and moving may be that you have to make all the decisions you've been putting off until now. Should I ship back the videos for my China course, even though I haven't watched them yet? They?re boring, but I paid good money and haven't taken the final yet.
Worst of all, what things should I take with me for the next two weeks? Who knows what I'll need? Somehow choosing the things that will be a part of my transition to the next life feels like a commitment to the end of this one, or worse, acknowledging that none of it really matters. The arbitrariness of the things I pack highlights the complete lack of necessity in the design of my life. If I truly don't need anything more than socks, undies, and a toothbrush for the next week, what good is such a week? What am I accomplishing?
*I have just decided to pack all the bedding and blankets in the suitcases instead of trying to fit them into a box.
1:43pm Took nap. Had snack. Talked to Gene--all is on schedule. Packed remaining bedroom miscellanies. Am considering taking down posters, but then it will be truly final. Instead, I will start laundry.
2:04pm Shoes now fill the empty laundry basket. I am hanging up the few remaining items. The box shortage is becoming pressing. Once I have finished hanging/washing/ transferring laundry I will see if Kinko's has any boxes. If not, I will have to venture into the sun to go buy some from public storage. When I check Kinko's I must remember to look in Walgreen's for cd sleeves.
2:52pm All clothes now in wash. The inevitable last dirty sock surfaced moments after my return. All the posters are down and stored in a tube. From where I sit, I can see a box of things in the closet that I have not used for two years, yet they have been spared at every purge. Will they survive Gene? I suppose the next thing is to pack the stereo.
3:04pm Stereo on its way. Just counted book boxes. There are twelve from when I moved last time. Since then I have acquired pretty much my entire children's literature and teaching collections. I estimate needing at least six more. The barbells are also puzzling. What does one put 36 pounds of solid metal into?
It has just occurred to me: the portable mp3 player does not plug into the car cigarette lighter. Instead of trying to purchase a charger, I will just take the 12 rechargeable AA batteries.
3:39pm Most clothes now in dryer. 10 minutes and rest should go in. I will definitely need two more medium boxes, so I think I will just go to public storage.
4:51pm Public Storage is only open from 10-2 on Sunday. Obtained two lovely boxes from Walgreen's, and they will likely have more later.
Aha! I have not been thinking clearly. There are almost always boxes in Hyde
Park, either at the Co-Op, Barnes and Noble, or Border's. I didn't want to go
all the way there just for boxes, but it's practically on the way to pick up
Gene and maybe I can give Zarah the futon pad too! I am a genius, an evil genius.
Almost all clothes now dry.
4:54pm Excellent. Zarah says she will be home at 8:30 pm to accept the futon pad. Boxes will be acquired. I am feeling sweaty and gross.
5:07pm U-Haul Reservation confirmed.
1200 W Fullerton Racine
5:08pm I'm tired again. What's next? The bathroom I think. We can use some of the small odd-sized boxes for things like the shower curtain, and then I'll have to deal with packing toiletries—a good way to start packing for the next week and pretend I don't actually have to look into the abyss.
7:31pm Good long nap.
1:07pm One mattress disposed of. Gene acquired. Closet and bathroom finished. Boxes aplenty. Solid dinner. Mostly just books and kitchen stuff left. Gene is making strong progress on books. I will go start the kitchen.
After Gene came, it became apparent how much more there was to do, mostly because I had been accumulating piles of things to throw out or give away and they remained, but also because I had anticipated our returning at 10:00, not 11:30. Gene did his best with the books, and we estimate there being about 17 boxes of them at the end. When we finally went to sleep it was 3:00 am and all the furniture was still assembled.
.… the continuing saga of our Incredible Journey and more harrowing adventures to come in “Moving: Part 2.”