“Yeah, G’day, it’s Barry here, the removalist. Look, we won’t be up your way next week after all – we’ll be there Friday afternoon, Saturday morning instead. That’s this week, love. See ya then!”
And that’s how my move – initially planned to stretch over three weeks – condensed into four days of madness.
I’m an old hand at moving. Early in my teens I stopped counting moves somewhere around the thirtieth address change. Yet even with the years of packing into boxes and moving trucks, I’m still surprised at how quickly my life can be bundled up and transplanted. I know how to pack my few, cherished ornaments amongst my books so they don’t get crushed, how to stack my dishes so they can survive a tumble, which items to save to the very last or pack together for immediate use when I arrive to wherever I will begin to call home. It’s reassuring to know that while my life can be parcelled into twenty-three boxes, my memories (and baggage) take up only the room in my head.
But where I move to isn’t home until certain items are unpacked, rearranged, identified. My sons’ bedrooms are organised first, and this time – in a joyous celebration – they were able to put the television and associated electronica together themselves. I leave my bookcase bare until the lounge room and kitchen are unpacked, then as a treat to myself lovingly pull out each of my papery friends from the cartons and arrange them just so – then I consider myself “home”.
Without fail, every time I begin a move or find myself thigh-deep in cardboard while unpacking, my thoughts turn to my great (times four) grandmother, who was sent sailing to Australia at the age of 16, an Irish Potato Famine orphan. She was given one box to hold her belongings, a box no longer, wider, deeper than the distance from my elbow to wrist. One box to carry from her home to the other side of the planet, one box to carry her few clothes, one box that carried her name and the air of Ireland trapped under its lid.
I don’t know what else she had in the wooden box. I’m hoping some good memories tucked in amongst the apron and dress, maybe a book, a stone or a leaf. I hope she had soft cloth to wipe her eyes, and I hope there was hope nestled in deep, ready for whatever the horizon revealed. I hope the box and the objects and dreams tucked inside it made where she lived, home.
When you move, what makes the new place home? If you could only pack a box as long, deep and wide as your elbow to wrist, what would you pack?