There was little sleep the night before. Children and babies have an innate ability to know when there’s a tough day ahead and will do their utmost to ensure that you face it bleary-eyed with a sluggish mind. We rose early, but much later than planned. And we were off… running in circles trying to do twenty different things at once. Failing to complete any before one or other child provided an urgent distraction and our attention was diverted long enough that we couldn’t remember which thing we were originally trying to do. We were getting no closer to ready and all too soon the moving truck was rumbling up outside the house. The professionals were here.
The baby cared not a jot. Nap. Time. He snoozed as men ambled through the house assessing the work ahead of them. “This coming? That coming?”. Yes. No. Maybe. I can’t remember. What do you think? Decisions made harder by a lack of knowledge. Risk bringing extra furniture that we might have to then store or dispose of in a foreign country, or leave most of it behind in the assumption that our next home will be furnished? The fate of many items came down to a rushed guess, later to be regretted. By the time the baby was awake the toy boxes downstairs had already been packed, no opportunity to set aside a couple of favourites for the long days ahead. The sitting room was filled with bags marked ‘air freight’. Nowhere now to leave the children unattended without destruction ensuing.
Slowly the two men boxed our worldly belongings under the watchful eye of an inquisitive 4-year-old, who performed a constant background monologue on random topics (the hairdresser got a 20 minute lecture on snakes last week). With typical timing the baby had decided to master the art of crawling the week before moving day. Now he took advantage of reduced parental observation to make his great escape out the front door whenever he got the chance. Scooped up, giggling as he reached the threshold. A hilarious game he thought. Blink and he was in the corner thoughtfully examining wires as a precursor to giving them an exploratory chew. Turn around and he was suddenly in another room, precariously pulling himself up to grasp at whatever object he thought you would least like him to shake with his chubby hands.
Boxes piled high in the hallways. The embarrassment of asking the strangers in your house if they’ve seen your eldest before you finally discover him hiding behind one of the cardboard towers. It wasn’t long before we had to accept that the packing process was out of our hands. We weren’t going to faithfully observe what went or stayed to ensure no mistakes were made. Keeping the children occupied was a full-time struggle. Items were packed or left faster than we could manage to keep track of until it was too late. The van waited, loaded, for sign-off. Engine running. How do you decide if the packing is complete, scanning all these brown boxes of hidden contents? You just sign the papers so the men can leave and hope for the best as it trundles off.
Then back to painstakingly go through the house from top to bottom. Here a forgotten drawer of random items, there a hoard of toys found under the couch. The realisation that while some things were inexplicably left unpacked, others are missing. If they didn’t make it to the ‘safe area’ designated for our suitcases then they’re gone. “Where’s my shaving kit?”. “What happened to the buggy cover?”. Air, Sea, Bin. There are only those three possible answers. And then we discover that there are no implements left in the house to dismantle beds that must move to other rooms. Several screwdrivers normally stashed all over the house collected together and packed into one of those boxes that are off on their own merry journey abroad. There’s a delay while I borrow replacements. Two beds later and we’re running behind even more. Now the mad scramble to stuff objects into overflowing suitcases or black bags destined for the bin. A perfunctory clean of the house. It’s not done. It’ll have to do. Do we even care anymore? We’re all exhausted and hungry. It’s way past time to leave. Just go!
Some time after midnight the children slumber in the hotel room, sprawled on unfamiliar beds. Cases are stacked in the corner – to be more carefully repacked in the early morning. An extra ‘overflow’ bag holds a strange collection of things still to be sorted. Outside the constant airport traffic speeds by, coming and going from all over the world. Everything seems surreal. A heady tiredness pulls at your mind which can’t stop frantically trying to organise what’s happening even as it grows more sluggish. Until all you can do is succumb to a fitful sleep. Moving day is done, for better or worse. The anti-climactic end to all the weeks of preparation leaves us utterly drained. Onward. This phase of the process is over. The next begins. Ready or not, here we go.