We pick up the moving truck in five days.
Between now and then, I still have 14,712 items to sort, donate, and/or pack. Katie wants to know whether she’ll be permitted to wear bikinis in California, and if she needs to be nine or ten to join the surf team, and how late she will be permitted to stay out ‘shopping with her friends.’ It is becoming clear to me that we should leave her behind. California is where she will become a teenager. I can only handle one catastrophe at a time. Lizzie refuses to pack anything but stuffed animals. There is something lovely in that. Lizzie is clinging to her childhood at the same time that Katie is drop-kicking hers into the sea. And Henry? Henry just wanders around the house overturning half-packed boxes, jumping in piles of clothes, and laughing. To him, this is all a game.
While each kiddo’s perspective is understandable, what I love is their aggregate. This is, indeed, a big move. Like the hermit crab in that Eric Carle story, our family is outgrowing its current shell. Henry’s crib is not making the trip, nor are many of the kids’ childhood toys. Katie feels these changes most intensely. And though she is wrong about the shopping and bikinis, she is right that we need to embrace the new circumstances. They are coming. In the face of this, Lizzie knows we can’t let go of every comfort. Too much progress too soon is scary. She reminds us that we should always have something soft to fall back on. And Henry? He is right to make fun of my piles. I take things too seriously. I stress about matching the Tupperware, kvetch about packing the kitchen. There is something marvelous (dare I say fun?) about starting over. I keep thinking of that Emily Dickinson poem, “I dwell in Possibility.” Recluse that she was, Dickinson was likely writing about the power of poetry rather than the open road. But that notion of possibility speaks to me as I gaze west. There is yet no junk drawer in our California house. In that new town, I am not yet known as slovenly or garrulous or a wit. I will probably be the same. Still forgetting people’s names thirty seconds after we meet. Still sneaking chocolate chips when I wash the dinner plates. But it is possible, as Katie, Lizzie, Henry and Emily have together shown me, that the combination of the old and the new might also be a lot of fun.