Jun 05 2009
There’s this wonderful line in the movie version of “Annie” when a flustered and frustrated Miss Hannigan (played by Carol Burnett) grumbles at the little ruffians, “Why any kid would want to be an orphan is beyond me.”
I was thinking about that line this past weekend — tinkering and changing it a bit as I loaded box upon box, chair upon chair, tchotchke upon tchotchke into two trucks that were as long as a city block.
“Why anyone would want to move is beyond me?” I mumbled to myself in the best Miss Hannigan voice I could muster.
I now understand why people choose to stay in one place their entire lives. I used to think it kind of strange and lacked a sense of adventure — a taste for change. But then again, I’ve been in my house for more than a decade and wouldn’t leave if gangrene-ridden crickets tried to flush me out.
Now I know why: I hate moving.
It’s horrible, especially if you’re moving someone who has collected more than 60 years worth of stuff in those four walls. The poor roof could barely contain it all. The collector — and movee — was my mother, who is now a full-fledged resident of St. Augustine. My brother and I went to Tampa to pack all her stuff into two massive trucks and transport it up here. We prayed the interstate could bear the weight and wouldn’t collapse in a massive sinkhole beneath us.
We learned quite a bit about my mother as we loaded, like how she has a chair fetish. It’s the only way to explain it. She had, I kid you not, more than 35 chairs to bring up. And that didn’t count patio furniture, a stack of iron cafe chairs, two concrete benches, and an unidentified mass of wood that was either a chair or some hurricane debris that had washed up on the beach.
We learned that nowhere in St. Augustine do they stock her particular brand of Cuban coffee, which is why in all that mass of stuff there were also 10 vacuum-packed bags of coffee. We found out that there must be no plants in St. Augustine, else we wouldn’t have had to load pot upon pot of wildflowers, roses and assorted weeds that she’s found on backcountry roads over the years. We learned that she has just as many sets of china and silverware stored in her old garage as she does in the kitchen cabinets and drawers of the dining room. Finally, we learned that everything she owns — even her socks — are rip-the-muscles-out-of-your-body heavy.
My mother was going to hire a moving company, but we told her we could match their price and break fewer things. (We at least beat the price.) And it sounded like a ball — a last hoorah. A chance to say goodbye to our childhood home — the place where we had spent so many happy years climbing trees and launching bottle rocks.
It was nostalgic, even through the pile-driving heat of a Tampa summer and the load upon load we piled into the trucks. Beat, sore and boiled like a crawdad, I forced myself to go out for one final run on the Bayshore and through the streets of Hyde Park to soak it all up one final time. So much came rushing back.
After two days of stuffing, stacking, shoving, and generally snow-plowing it all in, we said goodbye to the little house on Morrison Avenue one final time.
And then we left it behind.
I thought it strange how the house echoed that last night after we had removed everything that made it a home. It sounded so hollow — so empty. Just a shell really. That made it easier to leave, just knowing I wasn’t leaving any of those memories behind … not to mention 7,200 tons of stuff jammed into two sagging trucks. Sing it one more time, Miss Hannigan.