My wife, Mattie, played a trick on me. “I’ve been offered the job,” she said, turning life upside down for me, our daughter, Jessie, and even the dog. Shortly before Halloween last year, Mattie went on an interview for a job six hours away. Though I’m my wife’s biggest fan, we’ve moved several times together in the past, so I’ve seen that trick before. Moving is no treat!
“I’m launching my first book; the timing is terrible,” I said. For Jessie, 11-years old and strongly attached to friends she had known since she was two, leaving seemed unthinkable. Jessie’s opinion about moving was an unqualified “No!” Many tears punctuated her words. But we supported Mattie’s decision and she signed the employment contract. The last few months, like Halloween, have been scary at times and fun at others, and lots of chocolate has mysteriously vanished from our kitchen. It takes a bagful of patience (and quite a few pounds of sweet comfort food) before, during, and after a move.
Jessie’s last day at her old school proved especially challenging. I held my breath that she would “hold it together” through the end-of-year program. Fortunately, she kept her composure and appeared poised on stage for all of her parts. However, when the program ended, Jessie and her friends had a hug and cryfest that started in the auditorium, moved to the classroom, and continued down the hallway as we tried to leave. Her teacher commented that we might have to take one of the girls with us because she kept clinging to Jessie and sobbing.
The dreaded packing came next. How did we accumulate so much stuff? If there is a positive in moving, it’s the opportunity to get rid of things that haven’t been used in years. “Goodbye tight pants. You won’t be taking up my limited closet space.” Conversely, for a “hoarder of memories,” letting go of sentimental stuff is painful.
From preschool through third grade, I dutifully saved all of Jessie’s art and school work. I’m an “organized saver” so I had most things in boxes, labeled with the year and place where she made the masterpieces, plus a big cabinet full of larger pieces that wouldn’t fit into the boxes, like the purple monster she made from a milk jug. My self-imposed goal was to select the “best of Jessie” from seven boxes and squeeze it into one box the same size. With lots of help from my less-sentimental wife and daughter, I reached my goal, even though the lid wouldn’t stay on.
Jessie and I used some ground rules as we sifted through the boxes over several days. Anything with her hand or foot print, photos of her, or that said “I Love You, Daddy,” was a keeper. Mattie assisted for some of the sorting sessions, and she and Jessie often repeated the dreaded words – “Toss it!” Though it wasn’t a fun process for a dad who likes to hold on to anything associated with his little girl (after all, my first book’s subtitle is A Dad Holds On), we had some special family moments as we recalled Jessie’s early years.
By the time you read this column, Jessie will be a middle schooler and I’ll probably have a new box labeled “6th Grade” hidden under the bed. Speaking of boxes, as I unpacked a wardrobe box I came up with a great idea for a Halloween costume. I could cut arm holes in the side of the box and stand in it. There would be plenty of room to stash Halloween candy.
Though the move is technically over, hours of work remain to unpack, organize, and hang pictures. We also need to begin the long process of getting to know our new city. That’s when, I hope, the treats will come, as we find new things to love about the place where we now reside and the people who live here. Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Halloween!
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional
career in banking, accounting, and auditing
before he became a father at age 44
He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer