A Moving Experience

Moving is always difficult, but this experience I’m going to relate seemed exceptionally so.

My husband Mac and I were living in Missouri with our five children, ages 8 to 13. The family also included a frisky escape-artist terrier named Sandy, three cats (Macavity, Franny, and Topaz) , gerbils (or were they guinea pigs? Some sort of rodent.) We owned a five-bedroom house full of the crap stuff you own when you have five kids.

Imagine 10 rooms like this one.

I had finished a graduate degree, endured a job search, and accepted a job in a Boston suburb.  It was entry-level technical (i.e., paying  about twice what I’d made as a graduate teaching assistant, which was just barely over the poverty line.)

My new company would pay for a hotel for up to two weeks while we found housing. They were also paying for the move.  So, two weeks and three days before my start date, a moving company packed up all our crap stuff and filled a very large van.

We loaded up our two cars with suitcases, snacks, kids, dog, cats, and rodents, and drove 1300 miles to Boston.

We checked into two rooms in a Holiday Inn.  That was on a Monday, exactly two weeks before my start date.  Two weeks to find a place to live, and to move into it.

The Missouri house hadn’t sold – the real estate market was terrible.  So we needed a rental. My husband and I spent the first week of our two-week window looking for a rental that was

(A) big enough for a family of 7

(B) in a not-terrible school system

(C) took pets and

(D) affordable on my twice-grad-assistant  salary.

Day after day we drove around the western suburbs of Boston, growing increasingly concerned alarmed panicked because no such place existed.  Apartments were too small; no rentals took pets; neighborhoods around the better schools offered nothing to rent.cartoon - do homeless shelters take pets?

The cats hated the proximity of frisky dog.  Topaz found a torn corner of a box springs cover, crawled in and wouldn’t come out.  Macavity kept trying to jump out a window.  The rodents were stressed and biting each other.

Week one ended in failure.

We started calling realtors for some professional help. The first half-dozen snickered when we told them about A, B, C, and D.

Then, by some miracle, the heavens connected us with an angel named Caroline who went right to work.  She found several houses meeting our requirements. We looked at them and chose one in Winchester on a quiet street.  It was Victorian-era and huge, not one of those pretty places with gingerbread trim and turrets, but a shoebox-on-end with a muddy driveway, an enormous terrifying furnace, and a crumbling porch.  Eight bedrooms; good schools; nothing was said about pets; almost within our budget.

That was on Tuesday, six days before my start date.

On Wednesday we met the owners, handshakes all around, drew up an agreement.  My parents loaned us the lease deposit.

On Thursday the kids started school.  We were still living in the Holiday Inn but the Winchester school district let them in since we had a signed contract.

On Friday Mac helped the owners move their crap stuff to their other house in Rhode Island.

On Saturday we started moving in.  However,  the moving company had put all our crap stuff into storage and informed us that it would be ten days before it could be delivered.  So we had NO FURNITURE.  NO CLOTHES.  NO DISHES. NO CRAP STUFF.

But kindly neighbors, who I’m sure were secretly horrified by this assortment of hapless ne’er-do-wells, loaned us dishes, pots, a card table, and sleeping bags.

On Sunday we checked out of the Holiday Inn.  The box spring lining had been trashed; Macavity had jumped out the window (second story) at least twice; we had to borrow money from Mac’s parents to pay the bill.  I would be reimbursed eventually but it would take weeks.

Also on Sunday I went to the Burlington Mall, opened a credit card account at Jordan Marsh, and purchased five dresses and a pair of shoes so I would have something to wear to my new job that started the next day.

We lived in an empty house for ten days.  All our crap stuff was delivered one day while I was at work and most of the boxes went to the wrong rooms. It was many months before we were completely sorted out and unpacked.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe we lived through this moving experience without greater calamity. But it all worked out, thanks to the brilliant Caroline, nice neighbors, flexible kids, generous parents, and credit cards.

Winchester house

Seven months after the move, we bought the house and lived in it for ten years. (Recent photo, looking much better than it did when we owned it.)

Everyone has a moving horror story. What’s yours?


6 comments to A Moving Experience

  • LOL You’re definitely a survivor and have a great attitude. My biggest nightmare is the number of times I’ve moved in my lifetime. I can’t tell you how many because I lost count, but it was something like 19 moves in 30 years. Each move had a story, which I hope I can someday forget. 🙂 Love the picture of the house, by the way.
    Marja McGraw

  • Oh, dear, I’d be a madwoman with that many moves. Don’t know how YOU survived.

  • Karen;

    I love your descriptions. I, too have moved more times than I want to remember, but I think the worst of all time was when i got divorced and left the foreign country I’d lived in for the past 15 years, taking nothing but 2 suitcases and my cat.

    This was in the early 80’s, before airlines were civilized about pets. The stewardess was a total bitch and made me stuff my poor kitty back into the carrier every time she passed by. My kitty howled the whole time (except for when I took her out and held her – a point apparently lost on Miss Bitch stewardess).

    My flight had a long layover in London and I finally reached the point where i absolutely HAD to use the restroom. I have no idea why I didn’t want to bring the cat (in her carrier, of course) with me but i vaguely remember a little girl had been playing with my cat while she (the cat) was tethered to me by a leash. Maybe the girl’s parents promised to watch my cat for a minute. Whatever the reason, when I returned the cat was gone and the little girl was filthy from crawling on the floor trying to find her and the parents were totally pissed off.

    I thought I might die. There was no was I was getting on that airplane and leaving my cat to roam Heathrow.

    Luckily I found her (the leash had become entangled and she couldn’t get away) and we made the plane and got to the States.

    In the end, that cat lived another about another 15 years and dies at age 28.

  • Edith, oh dear, what a tale! Poor you. Glad to hear it ended well with many happy years.

  • I’ll never complain about moving again! We’re at the house full of boxes stage right now. This is the move that won’t quit, since I got called away for a month after we’d been in the new house 4 days. I kept telling Hubby not to unpack too much because I know I’d never find stuff if he did.

    It’s amazing what you can do when you’re young, but we’re getting too old for this! (Speaking for myself only.)

  • I’m at the simplifying stage, Kaye. I spent the first half of my life acquiring stuff, but now I’m fantasizing about living in a tiny cabin with one cupboard, one shelf, and six hangers. Oh, and my books, of course!

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