Nov 30, 2010
We get a move on, we’re on the move, we move in different circles, we move while standing still, and then we move house.
Since my son was in my womb, we’ve moved home five times. Of course, this nomadic modus vivendi was not intentional. While pregnant, I envisioned us in the same home until my little guy went off to college or at least until he graduated from high school and announced that he’d take a year to live in the Andes and run with the Alpacas, learn to make igloos from Inupiat Eskimos, or train to perfect his trick catch in an effort to win the boomerang world championship.
Alas, my control over where we hung our hats was limited when it came to mould, mice and marital interruptions. We live in London; mould happens. And mice happen here too. Marital interruptions? Another blog entirely.
The first time we moved, I was three months pregnant. I didn’t mind the moving aspect, but the not being able to lift and shift things around was admittedly frustrating. I wanted to unpack as quickly as possible and “homey” up the place, including the current womb dweller’s room, but it was virtually impossible to do this when the maximum weight I was allowed to lift was about an ounce. I figured the TV remote control couldn’t have weighed more than an ounce, so when I got home from work that is what I chose to lift in order to watch Heston Blumenthal’s “In Search of Perfection”.
I did miss my pals at the neighbourhood coffee and wine shops and at the Indian takeaway, but since the liquids commonly referred to as mochas and merlots and the solids known as lamb korma and chicken jalfrezi acted as primigravida repellent, it’s likely that I wouldn’t have seen much of my old pals anyway. The walk to the tube station was further, but it was an opportunity for my precious fetus to hear even more Led Zeppelin and Wayne Shorter, as I hummed along to my iPod.
The second time was a bit more cumbersome as I now had an 18-month-old in tow, and coincidentally, the relocation occasion fell on that glorious day in February 2009 when parts of Britain experienced their largest snowfall in nearly two decades with London seeing its fair share of the white stuff. I don’t claim to know any Murphy, and I don’t know how his law came to be, but on that fateful day in February, I became a Murphyite – a true believer in the fellow and the edict.
The third move was to another country and initially accompanied by the uncertainty of not knowing whether my son and I would stay, and if so, for how long. My friends, uncertainty can breed a host of things, but one thing is clear-cut: uncertainty breeds certainty. In the acts of consistently packing and unpacking suitcases and in looking sincerely into the mirror, I was assured of where our home was.
Thus, the fourth move was back to London into a provisional dwelling while we hunted for our permanent abode. My little prince was oh so helpful when he came along to view flats, saying, “It smells in here” and “Yikes, let’s get out of here quickly”” as soon as we stepped foot into a prospective flat. My own thoughts always matched his comments, so rather than respond to the estate agent when he or she asked what I thought of a flat, I would look at my son, he would look at me, and Team Ventriloquism came to life.
Knowing the psychological impact of a move – in studies, it always shows up as one of the top three stressors, it can be perceived to be a life-changing event, and there are often strings of farewells and lingering thoughts of “Will I ever see him or her again?” – I wonder if I’m not a bit of a masochist. I have contemplated whether the need or desire to move is in our DNA or whether it’s a nurture matter. My mom said I lived in four different homes by the time I was four years old, and she herself lived in several foster homes growing up. Did her exposure to moving predispose me to moving often and ditto for my little guy?
Nature or nurture, from the optimist’s standpoint, a move can be healthy. Stress can be beneficial, after all, increasing productivity and performance. And life-altering events can be very positive. As for farewells, I think they have the ability to generally make us more grateful .
Pals have asked how I managed to observe my entire life being compartmentalised into homogenous boxes a handful of times in such a short span. My answer: my son. When you have your own little precious creature to care for, boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, and calls to moving and utility companies all occur in the periphery. I was Head Honcho of the Habitat Hop (or at least Second Head Honcho after my husband), but managing the move itself was always secondary to making sure my little guy understood – as only a toddler can – why we were moving, the advantages of such an adventure, and how modifying addresses in no way meant that I would be moving from his side. We would still be doing plenty of playing, reading books and tickling, and I would still be smothering him with kisses every chance I got.
We are now in a home I would happily live in until the Grim Reaper asks me to dance, barring any dampness dilemmas, hostile takeovers by rodents, or other unpredictable hiccups. But perhaps I’m saying this prematurely since we’ve only been here two months. I don’t think so though. This time, something feels different – there was a different feeling when I was unpacking, a different feeling when I put the glasses in their new cupboard and the frames on their mantelpiece, and a different feeling when I flattened the emptied boxes. And, this time I had an able assistant to help me unpack. We had fun unpacking (did I really just write that?), particularly because my little prince hasn’t seen the contents of the boxes for some months. His puzzles, wooden blocks and Legos were like new gifts. Ever the entertainer, as he pulled a stuffed animal out of one box, he said, “Oh, remember this ma? I used to love this when I was a baby ten years ago.”
A couple weeks back, my son said of our residence, “This is the best home.” And I was moved. Beyond tears.