This afternoon I was standing in my kitchen stoned, spreading cream cheese on a bagel. The house was filled Pink Floyd, I was craving a cup of coffee, and in my bedroom, my worldly possessions were slowly making their way into boxes. I was singing softly along with the music when suddenly I stopped and thought to myself, “I’ve done this exact combination of things before.”
It’s not deja vu. At some point in the last twelve years, I really have eaten a bagel, stoned, listening to Pink Floyd while I was packing to move. It might have been the day I packed to move out of my Dad’s house two days after I graduated high school, or perhaps it was in Eugene, Oregon, when I moved from my familiar ratty studio on 14th Street to a beautiful 3-bedroom across town, which I was evicted from less than a month later.
Maybe it was one of the many days it took me to disassemble my room in my favorite ex-house, The Pink House in Monterey. The house was huge; a compound, really. There was a diner booth for a table in the kitchen, and the roof could hold at least thirty people comfortably. Bands practiced in our living room. And it was a ten minute downhill walk to work, coffee, town.
Moving is a time of reminiscing, reliving, rediscovering and rejecting. As you sort your things, you inevitably find things (photographs, trinkets, post cards) that you’d entirely forgotten about. Even the things you did remember take on new meaning when you take the time to decide their fate and destination; in contemplating each thing you remember its history, where it’s been, what it has meant to you. For example, the spraypainted-silver mary jane crocs I put in the Dumptique bag today reminded me of the Halloween costume they were painted for, and the party I wore it to. A ratty brown pair of Reef flip-flops (that made the “keep” cut) brought me to Vieques, Puerto Rico, where I wore them nearly every day. Two worn paperbacks about blues music that I bought for my father took me both to the used bookstores where I’d bought them, and to my father’s living room at Christmas, when he opened the packages. And then I was in the hospital, saying goodbye.
The cup of “camp coffee” I made this afternoon reminded me of camping trips, and broken coffee makers, and all the crappy apartments in which I’ve found myself without enough coffee left to make a full pot.
Memory is so fascinating. Our minds constantly relive our histories, repeating moments that are special (or terrifying), and gradually eliminating the ones that were meaningless. I find that moving is sort of a fast-forward roller coaster ride through the moments. In one afternoon, you can go everywhere you’ve ever been.
And every time we move, we do this familiar dance again: the sorting, the packing, the labeling, the deciding, the remembering. Some things are pored over for several minutes and delicately packaged, while others are jettisoned outright without a moment’s thought. A few things sit in a sort of limbo for days, awaiting the results of an internal debate as to their worth. Sooner or later, you find yourself standing in an empty room. You get in a car, you drive for a bit, then you wind up in another empty room, and you start to do the steps backwards.
The setting and the players and the feeling may be different, but the motions will always be the same.