Were it up to me I might choose a different arena in which to claim bragging rights, but such as it is it must be owned that I possess an absurd amount of experience in moving. Here. There. To. Fro. Ici. La. Etc. In the past 8 months alone I have moved 3 times and with only double digit days into this latest relocation to Barbados, have now moved a 4th time, though thankfully only 10 minutes further up the road. My cats actually lived in some of these transitory homes longer than I did but with this last move 3 weeks ago it finally feels as though my life in Barbados can begin and hopefully the unsettled suitcase style living can be put to rest for a while, or at least for the next 20 months.
In our 25-plus years together, Bill & I have moved a like number of times, which is especially striking considering there were a few multi-year residencies involved. The longest time in any one place – 5 years. The shortest? 20 days. Boxes that remained unopened for months and years at a time were carted about on these moves, sometimes rooms were filled with just these boxes, our heavy pet albatross. Moving can make you resent your belongings, even if you don’t exactly remember what they are anymore. We have given away bookcases, bicycles and more Weber grills than one could shake a pair of tongs at in an Indian summer.
We’ve lived in nice quiet places with lovely amenities like fireplaces and pools as well as little beach cottages that promised a wood stove prior to move-in but several months later, chilled to the bone and watching the condensation on the ceiling slowly form into droplets that then plunged to the damp floor where our leather shoes were busy growing a new coat of mold on a daily basis (until we began storing them in the airtight car!) grudgingly decided another move was in order. The next residence was a loft unit right on the square in a town nicknamed The Hidden City. (Trivia for Pixar fans, this town was the model for the one used in Monsters Inc., Pt. Richmond, CA). Soon after moving in it became apparent that the construction blueprints for these units had not included soundproofing to any degree, and that the people of the eight resident loft units would come to know each other quite well.
On the ground floor was a video store owned by a sweet Portuguese couple that spoke little English. The wife’s name was Maria and she smiled widely despite the wild meandering line and angle of her teeth that jutted this way and that. We were on the 2nd, or top floor that boasted beautiful huge windows all across the front and that allowed for excellent light but also exceptional noise. A neighbors dropped fork or a whispers whisp, the Who’s that Horton had struggled to hear, all came through in stereo here. A few days after move in we had a summer solstice party on the rooftop in order to meet the other neighbors and share a laugh about the quirks of the building. Unfortunately, the couple that lived directly below us was not in attendance. In fact, we never formally met them in the year we lived in that building, though at the time we could have relayed to them (verbatim) their voicemail messages, which when played back sounded as crisp and clear as if I had pushed the play button myself. Never got to tell them how I had to wrap a towel around my head to block out the violent strains of their watching “Goodfellas”, a movie I had already struggled through once and that made me twitch for days after. But most importantly, we never were able to ask them about the complexity of sounds that rose up from their unit. Was that a pulley cable? Did they fashion a small bowling alley in there? Have they got a bondage dungeon going on? What in tarnation were they up to anyway? Chalk another one up to the joys of new places, people and life on the move.
My experience through all the moving and transitions is that the framework of what you have known stays with you until supplanted ever-so-slowly with new ideas. These ideas are like additional spirograph rings with which to draw, branch out and add new details by embellishing what was already in place within you to begin with.
My friend T once told me about a former boss of hers, a Mormon, who some years ago lived in Italy for a time as part of his missionary work. While over there he wasn’t allowed to ride scooters (!) or drink wine (!!), drive, ride ponies or for that matter, even swim(!!!)… And though he made no converts in the time he was there, he was never ill-treated and had often been invited to eat with the families in their homes all of which left him with a deep love for Italy and the Italians he encountered. Though his own beliefs remained steady, he was able to see and appreciate the differences in the land and people he visited and the experience was not wasted on him.Italy can often seem like a religion in itself, and comes alive in the land, the light, art, architecture, food and the heightened sensuality one feels while there.
Several years ago I met some long lost relatives in Italy. Something about their simple lives, devoid of pretense and their charming faces lit with enthusiasm for life got to me. I cried when they showed me the garden where they gathered ingredients for our dinner, again when I met a great aunt who looked much like my dear grandmother, when Uncle Charlie with the huge soft brown eyes reached to take my hand, and when I saw the braided garlic cloves hanging to dry in the shed. I cried so much over the course of my time there that a few weeks after I returned home I received a parchment scroll from Italy they had all signed, entitled, “Lacrimossa”, or lachrymose in English, the one who cries.
I remember once while driving home I was stopped by the blinking red lights at the railroad track. I waited for the train to cross in front of me and was so intent on seeing it go past me that once the lights were shut off and no train had yet passed I remained there, still waiting for the anticipated rumble to pass by. It occurred to me that there are other obstacles in life that one might have experienced before and so expect to experience again in similar circumstances, holding on to the image of being stuck at the tracks even when no train is coming. A map turned upside down can give new perspective or reveal an unseen before route. The mysterious and magical exists, but you miss it completely if you stay only within the confines of the template with which you are familiar and what you expect to see there. Then your vision matches your routine expectations, even when much more lies beyond.