Deborah Rankin

The objects that remind you who you are

I moved four times in the last five years. It’s painful since I like order and stability. Also, I collect things like antebellum bricks, patent medicine bottles, glassware, pottery, and multiple sets of china. Said the latest crew: “Your boxes are heavy.”

I used to think I knew how to move, but things keep happening and I’ve decided moving crises are like flu viruses. There’s a different one every time. Last year’s protection doesn’t work.

  • We thought it was brilliant to take our wedding gifts home as extra baggage on the airplane, until the light bulb at baggage claim that sixteen waist-high cartons do not fit in a Ford Mustang. Yes, we both graduated with honors from a noted engineering university.
  • I persuaded movers to load twenty-four pots of pepper plants on the truck for the short trip from Corpus Christ to Houston. Short, but everything is bigger in Texas, including the ant colony that lived in the pots and swarmed the truck during their excursion. I sat on my new sofa in my new house, saw ants crawl over my legs and ran screaming from the room.
  • Never buy a house inhabited by a renter lest you get a call from your real estate agent just as you empty your prior home onto the truck. “Slight delay, owner is going to court to file eviction.” That kept our goods on a truck for three weeks while two adults, two children, a dog, cat, and grandma’s rose bush shared a hotel room. The kids loved it. There was a swimming pool and a breakfast buffet with unlimited bacon.

The recent moving crisis is Not. Yet. Funny.

People have moved for millennia. What’s the big deal? Why do I hate moving? Pioneers and refugees move. The pilgrim Abraham ventured in faith to an unknown land.

Here’s the thing. The patriarch did not go alone. He took his whole life with him.

“Abram was seventy-five years old when he sat out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran…”

Wendell Berry suggests in A Continuous Harmony that mobility causes the breakdown of relationships:

“I think there is a limit to the portability of human relationships. Tribal nomads, when they moved, moved as a tribe; their personal and cultural identity—their household and community—accompanied them as they went. But our modern urban nomads are always moving away from the particulars by which they know themselves, and moving into a distraction (a house, a neighborhood, a job)…We become isolated in ourselves, and our behavior becomes the erratic behavior of people who have no bond and no limits.”

I read Berry’s words during a meditative retreat before my latest move and made a last-minute decision to return to my tribal place. I am not yet sure how it will go. It didn’t prevent a moving truck from disappearing—is it broken down, or did they run off with my stuff? Nor keep me from choosing a residence without cable or internet connections. Really? In town, in 2016?

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I’ve learned when moving it helps to keep a bubble of my familiar world around me by taking favorite items in my car. Here’s what made the list this time:

  1. Bicycle
  2. Kayak
  3. Chainsaw
  4. Item of self-defense
  5. Important papers
  6. Good jewelry
  7. Golf clubs
  8. Grandmother’s quilt
  9. Favorite books
  10. Tool chest
  11. Funky lamp
  12. Seven pairs of shoes

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How about you? What would you keep with you? Try talking with friends and family about your choices. Berry says our household and our community are the particulars by which we know ourselves, and that is true for my choices. My bicycle and kayak link me to good friends and love of outdoor activity. My chainsaw reminds me I am connected to the land. The shoes say I like shoes. And really, seven pairs? I’ve taken more on a four-day business trip.

© 2016 Booktalk Lady LLC

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