Getting ready for the move
Let me just write, right up front, I do love my husband. That said, here are the reasons that I will forever be enshrined in the Hall of Patient and Understanding Spouses. (Yet to be founded but perhaps an institution that I should get behind)
Together, in 20 years, Ben and I have moved 3 times. From North Carolina to Virginia. From a rental house in Virginia to the house we bought. From that house to Italy. Looking back, I realize now that I should have had a clue when we moved from North Carolina to Virginia. I had been buzzing around, packing for days, we were loading the rental truck, I am looking around thinking we are almost finished, the truck is just about full and Ben says ‘Oh, there’s the attic over the garage.’ Having not been there when the house was bought or when he moved in I had no idea there was an attic over the garage. And it was half full. So we got all the boxes down and I started loading the truck up again when Ben wanders out from the garage past the stacks of boxes to the truck carrying 2 white wire coat hangers… Let me just say that at this time 20 years ago, Ben was perfectly fit, able to leap tall buildings in a bound and carry most anything with-in reason. He was by no means straining himself with the 2 less than 1 ounce each coat hangers. And at that time I did not have the patience that I have now. HOURS afterwards, while Ben was driving the truck and I was following in the car I was still screaming about him walking past stacks of boxes, carrying 2 white wire coat hangers. But I got over it, more or less.
Somehow, now, I don’t remember anything about our move from the rental house to the house we bought except that it rained, a realtor wanted to show the rental house while we were physically moving out and the dogs went out into the wet yard of the new house and came back in, one covered in mud, and both proceeded to track muddy paws all over the white carpet. (We had not bought or picked out the white carpet and whoever did had obviously never lived with dogs or children) It was a great house. We loved living there and loved our neighbors.
The move from there to Italy was more traumatic. It went on for a long time. We both knew from mid-March that we would be moving and leaving on the Queen Mary II in early September. We both knew that we were selling things, storing things and moving things. Ben knew these activities were going to happen. He was advised of dates. He helped me set up the Craig’s List account that we used to sell things. I think he finally realized what was happening when one day in July he came home and found that I had sold part of his office furniture and the contents had just been removed to the floor. (To the casual observer who had never seen Ben’s office there would have been no way to distinguish that new pile, formerly in a stack of trays, from any other pile that was on the floor, or tables, or desks.)
Ben’s idea of organization is wherever-I-am-when-I-am-finished-with-something-and-I-put-it-down-is-where-it-should-be. That goes hand in hand with ‘my home/office is my castle/museum and no one else lives here or could possibly need to use some of the space here so everything should be right where I left it. And I do know where I left it’. Not that he has ever said these words. But his actions and total look of surprise/bafflement that something is not where he left it on the table six months ago even though we have eaten dinner off of that table for almost every night since then is actually heart tugging. (The idea that I might have had to gather up piles of what are known fondly as ‘Ben Droppings’ and relocated them in a pile to his office floor so that I could set down a plate of food never occurs to him.) To further illustrate, a year or so ago when our friends Jules and George were about to visit New York city, Ben turned to me one day and said “In Virginia, I had a laminated map of Manhattan that I would like to give to George and Jules. Do you know where it is?” He honestly expected me to know where it was three years after we had moved out of that house. I just had to turn and walk away. (Who would even pack and move a map of Manhattan to Italy? It is not as if we need to travel there very year?)
I blame his parents. Growing up, Ben and his sister moved a lot. I once spent a torturous two hours in the back of a rental car while Ben drove and his sister rode shotgun touring the neighborhoods of Norfolk, Virginia, identifying houses they had lived in as children. It was really only two neighborhoods, very close together so the family was not fleeing bill collectors or trying to hide. Maybe it was just his parents’ way of cleaning. I don’t know. But I know that sometimes Ben would go to school from one house, be collected that afternoon and ‘Voila!’ they had moved to another house. And I am sure that he lost many, many treasures in the process of Mere Licodo packing for him. So I have always given him every opportunity to pack his belongings.
For the move to Italy and the storage of things I started packing in March, selling things in June and in late July our friends Jim and BK came up to help with getting things in storage and to the shippers. Ben had to pack only his personal items, clothes, his office. Not pictures, books, china, kitchen wares, linens, or any of the household stuff. He started packing about a week before we were to take things to the shippers. He produced two boxes. Each with a very detailed Excel spreadsheet in both English and Italian detailing the contents and value of each item in the box. Taken out of context, standing alone by themselves those two boxes were a beautiful thing. Works of art. Any professional packer would have been proud. But sitting there, in his jammed to the ceiling office, they were a mere drop in the museum of Ben’s treasures. BK and I took charge. And finally got a few more things in boxes.
Here is one of his spreadsheets. Carefully preserved in plastic. And now…guess what! We are moving it again! Although I might seize it and slip it in our album of the move to Italy. (He is using the European way of expressing dates for ‘packed on’. This was packed in August not January 8)
So all of that should have clued me in. And to an extent it did. This time for our move, 20 miles away, together Ben and I have been sitting down and going through his things and packing. I seated him at a large table, we set up areas for recycle, trash, pack. I brought him things, (piles of Ben droppings) and he sorted through. At the end of our first session we had a lot of recycling, some trash, stacks filling the whole table and one box packed. Two pieces of computer equipment were packed (in their original boxes, of course we saved the boxes) but could not be packed in to larger boxes because they were missing cords. Ben could not understand why the cords were not on the floor of his former office. Even though he had not occupied that room since last October. And ignoring that his daughter stayed in there for 2 weeks. And ignoring that I took over the room for my sewing machine. These facts never played in to his thinking. Or the idea that just possibly either the daughter or I did not want to step over random cords, not connected to anything. We agreed that the two boxes could remain unpacked until the cords had been located.
But what of all that was spread on the table? Oh noooo! It couldn’t be packed. Not yet. I silently wondered how in the next three weeks Ben was going to have a need for a pop-up map of downtown Washington DC. I held my tongue. We agreed that it could all be gathered in to one stack at the end of the table to wait for our next packing session. A day later we were at it again. With the same end results. But this time I watched a little more carefully as he sorted through the Ben droppings.
And after twenty some odd years I finally understand. When he walked out of that garage with 2 white wire coat hangers his sole focus was to get those two hangers with the other hangers that had been packed. In his mind they just needed to be together for the ride to Virginia. Never mind that when we unpacked them they could be reunited with their buddies. Oh no. That is how he could walk right past stacks of boxes that needed to go in the truck. He did not even see them. And now here he is doing the same thing, making stacks of maps, stacks of letters, sorting and organizing as he packs (well, not really packs but makes stacks that when he is sure we have sorted through everything can then be packed). I guess it is one way to do it.
Well, so far we are both still smiling. I am smiling because I have finally figured out how one small part of his mind works. Maybe in 20 more years or so I’ll understand another part of it…