Do you know you have it?

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I read once that the mere thought of moving fills most Americans with dread; the article said it was akin to getting mugged in the park.

I thought that was an over-the-top comparison, but the article was probably talking about moving to a different apartment in a big city where parks might be known as the scene of muggings. I don’t know that there have been any muggings in Jefferson’s central park, Russell, so our comparison might be of something else. But I have moved to here and from here, and the dread was palpable both directions because of the ordeal of it all.

The thought of moving does in fact incline folks to stay put; it has to do with the one thousand and one decisions one must make – do I save all the photos with no names on the back making it impossible for anyone to tell which baby it is? If I don’t take these tax forms, will I be sorry? Do I need the mortgage papers from our very first house as a piece of history for my children or the research of a sociologist 100 years from now? Why did I save this in the first place?

“How can I begin to go through all the stuff in the house?” asks one household member.

“Whose idea was it to move, anyway?” asks the other household member.

“It unhinges me,” says the first person.

“I think I’ll take a nap,” says the second person.

But they move anyway because of – a new job or a lost job, or they’re thinking they need to move on, move up, downsize, be near the kids, get away from the parents, ditch the weather. Some people, a rare few, might think moving is an adventure. I have thought this myself but only after the fact.

I have packed putting everything in boxes without sorting anything. I have packed going through every piece of paper, every photo, every spoon and cup. I’ve moved into houses where I never once looked into all the boxes that went to the basement. And then the next time I moved, they moved with me, boxes of mysterious cargo.

Who would move something not knowing what it was? This is nuts. But I am not alone. My daughter is moving. She discovered a box that came with her in 2001 and has moved, unopened, at least four times since then.

On the outside the box was labeled “photos.” Apparently this was vague enough that she didn’t care to, or didn’t have time to explore once in 17 years. But packing to move again, she decided that because she has more than enough weeks to figure things out, she could investigate. She picked up the box to place it on a table to view easily the “photos” inside . . . and the bottom fell out. Hundreds of photos were stuck together, water or heat or weight damaged, blurry, blank and smudged; and as mildewy as the disintegrated bottom of the box. She shoved it all into a heavy-duty trash bag and put it on the curb.

If the bottom hadn’t broken, she might have moved it once again without looking, and it could well have been full of countless blurry, blank and mildewed photos forever, a mystery that her children might come upon 40 years from now.

The moral of the story is this: sort through it all and take only what you want. If you don’t know what’s in the box, you don’t really have it, do you?

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