Today is the anniversary of the longest day of my life. Eight years ago, the movers showed up at 7:00 a.m. I had expected them at 8:00. They had a medium-sized truck. There was no way everything would fit.
I had the Suburban and the Subaru, but they were already packed to the gills. The gardeners had already moved the outdoor stuff including the fountain and the two patio sets. I showed the movers the garage, stacked high with Rubbermaid tubs. Their eyes grew big. I knew what they were thinking.
I’d already gotten rid of everything my soon-to-be ex had left behind: seven TV’s, various VHS players, radios, tools, a salt-water-aquarium, all the IKEA furniture. The whole house was packed save the teen’s bedroom. I’d told her I wasn’t packing her stuff. She was in denial about the whole thing.
The movers worked non-stop, swearing at each other in Spanish. They didn’t know I’d been a Spanish teacher. At least they weren’t talking about me.
I watched my antiques get wrapped in blankets and stacked into the trucks. The guys had a system, but it was obvious they needed another truck. Soon one pulled up with two more guys.
My friend Sherry had driven down from Sonoma to help me. All other help had bailed. The kids were off at college or at the high school. It was just me, Sherry, and a woman I was paying to clean the house, all 4700 square feet of it.
As the day went on, Sherry reminded me to drink water and to pee. She went over to the house with a load of kitchen stuff and filled my cabinets for me. I didn’t blame her. I wanted out of my house, too. Sherry had never been married, so I found out later that the center cabinet held all my wine glasses. Forget the fact that I still had a teenager to feed. Sherry prioritized things the way any woman from the wine country would see it.
I watched piece after piece of furniture get carried onto the truck and wondered why I had gone camping three weeks before with the boyfriend instead of having a garage sale, the same boyfriend who had bailed with his buddy’s truck.
As Antonette swept or vacuumed each room and declared it done, I kept grabbing things I cared about and stuffed them into my overflowing vehicles. Soon it became obvious that some of the stuff was going to have to be thrown away. We were running out of room. I started carrying things to the street for garbage: cheap mirrors, old end tables, boxes of my kids’ magazines, anything that wasn’t worth moving.
My daughter’s room remained unpacked, uncleaned, and unready. It was graduation day for her older friends, and instead of packing, she was off doing something more important. I couldn’t deal with that. My house was filled with strange men coming down the steps with yet another mattress or dresser or stack of boxes.
We finally left the big house at 5:00 p.m. and headed over to the house one third the size. I left Antonette back at the big house to finish cleaning, and Sherry went off to buy a pizza. She invited a friend of hers and her daughter. My first thought was, “No! I don’t want to meet anyone today.” But it was two more sets of hands to unload Sherry’s car of vintage dresses she had taken from a back bedroom closet.
How had we accumulated so much stuff in ten years? And why would no one help me except for women? The movers were literally throwing the Rubbermaid tubs to each other, and the new house was filled. I told them to stack the tubs on the driveway. As my new neighbors watched in horror, I had to leave forty tubs and the last few pieces of furniture on the driveway. The garage was full, the house was full, the driveway was full.
The movers made me sign a paper at 11:00 p.m, right before they left. My legs and feet were numb. I didn’t notice the broken foot pedal on the piano or the broken hall light fixture that happened when they carried an armoire down the narrow hallway to the master bedroom.
Eight years later, I have a much lighter load. It was a process going through everything, deciding what to keep and what to give away. But that day will live in infamy as horrifying in so many ways.
Antonette stayed the whole night and went back with me in the morning. We got the last of the stuff at 7:00 a.m. and had the buyers help us carry it down the driveway. We forgot to clean out the furnace room, so the buyers got a free car-top bike carrier for their troubles.
You find out who your friends are when you move. The woman who came over to meet me that night has turned into a friend. The guys that bailed are no longer in my life. The moving company had a hard situation and came through for a lot more money than the bid (the paper they made me sign).
I found the broken piano pedal two years later behind a shelf in the garage when my electrician friend wired my house for a hot tub.
This was a long read. Thanks for making it to the end.