The landing outside my bedroom door is completely empty. The rug, chair, pictures, bookshelf, and books have all been carted away. My closet shelves are bare and the upstairs toy room hosts only a sprinkling of dolls loaned to us by a thoughtful neighbor. When we made dinner last night, Brandon had to slice the cheese into tiny strips, making a ineffectual attempt at grated cheese. It's all gone. We have nothing left except what fits into four suitcases, one duffel, a rolling carry-on and seven backpacks.
If you've never had someone come and sweep up all of your belongings into cardboard boxes leaving only a house filled with furniture that isn't yours, you've never had the experience of feeling both bereft and completely free at the same time. Bereft when I reach for my micro-plane grater and realize that it's in one of the 156 boxes packed into 5 wooden lift vans lurking in an unknown warehouse somewhere around Baku waiting to travel via murky transportation channels to a warehouse in Belgium that had a fire last year before it goes back through those same routes and meets us again in Dushanbe. And I meant to send it in the other batch of boxes going on a series of airplanes and trucks that will eventually meet us in Virginia in six weeks.
But also completely free when there aren't any toys to pick up because they're keeping the grater company in the boxes. There aren't any books to organize in bookshelves that aren't there, and no carpets to get dirty and vacuumed by a vacuum that is gone too. No clutter gathers on our standard-issue Drexel Heritage shelves because it's been given away or packed up or thrown out. It's blissful, simple, stark emptiness.
Now that pack-out is finished I can revel in the calm emptiness of my house. Before pack-out, however I wasn't calm and the house certainly wasn't empty. I spent the entire day before pack-out carrying laundry baskets and boxes of things that had wandered from their appropriate place (play dishes don't belong with the real ones; tape goes in the utility drawers in the laundry room; internet cords into the electronics storage bin), packing those suitcases (I've heard too many horror stories about movers packing up things that were supposed to go in suitcases), and putting all UAB items into Joseph's room. I don't know how many times I climbed up the forty-four stairs from our first floor to our third that day.
By the time Brandon had come home from work and the children were in bed I had cleared the second floor (removed all UAB items to Joseph's room, and packed all suitcase items into suitcases that were then weighed before being sequestered in the bathroom after it had been cleared of anything that needed to be packed by movers), most of the third floor, and only had the first floor to clear. We started around 7:30 and finally crawled into bed five hours later. Then we woke up at 5 the next morning to get the last few things (computers packed up, cleaning supplies sequestered in the bathroom, dishes washed) done before the movers showed up at nine.
I've moved with movers and without movers and both ways have advantages and disadvantages. Moving without having to pack a single cardboard box yourself is really nice. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see all of our things carefully boxed up and carted away over the course of two days without having to lift a finger. In fact, I finished reading a book while all of the packing was going on.
But the preparation was not so easy. When you're packing all of those boxes yourself, you know what has to go and what can stay. You usually aren't kissing them goodbye for the next year and anticipating what nine hundred pounds you can get by with in the intervening time and what you need for the next six weeks of suitcase living. If you slip up and accidentally pack away the micro-plane grater that essential to anything that involves parmesan cheese or lemon zest, it's not an error you'll regret for the next twelve months. You can probably even rummage through your boxes and find it if you really need it. But by the time I realized that the grater was gone, it was gone.
I woke up in a cold sweat Saturday morning because I dreamt that Brandon had forgotten to get the double Baby Jogger out of the utility closet in the garage and the movers hadn't packed it. I thought of all of the ways we could take it with us - check it as part of our baggage (but then would it fit into the car that already was going to fit four suitcases and a duffle for a month of wandering through the midwest?), put it in the Pilot and hope it doesn't get lifted between here and Dushanbe, leave it and buy a new one - and almost wept with relief when Brandon woke up and he assured me that yes the jog stroller had been packed up.
Even now I have of flashes post-pack-out traumatic stress disorder and worry that everything won't be within the weight limit (it was) or I forgot to put both strollers in the UAB (I did). But then I look around at the emptiness and remember that yes, it's all gone. And now, all we have to do is wait. Then we'll be gone too.