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Archive for Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boomer Girl Diary: Back-to-school traffic triggers memories of moving daze

August 8, 2010

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I was feeling so smug.

Cruising to the grocery store in my air-conditioned car, I passed countless rental trucks and perspiring parents moving their kids into new digs in the 100-degree heat.

“Better you than me, suckers!” I said, waving gleefully through the window.

I smiled and shook my head in feigned sympathy as a mom, her hair drenched in sweat, directed traffic around a double-parked Penske. Meanwhile, her hapless husband and son tried to squeeze a too-wide sectional through a too-narrow front door.

Down the street, a Budget van sat in the grass, its contents strewn all over the yard. Red-faced, sopping people — mom, dad and assorted siblings — stood in the blazing sun, mopping their brows. A young man was having an animated conversation on his cell phone. It appeared someone had already lost his house key.

“Been there, done that. Now, I’m cool and lookin’ phat!” I rapped to myself like Li’l Wayne (as if I even know who Li’l Wayne is, or if one still spells “fat” with a “ph.”)

Shameful? Callous? Maybe. But, it’s not as if I haven’t paid my dues in the moving department.

I once drove a packed-to-the-roof Honda Accord to Boulder, Colo., all by myself. Technically, of course, I wasn’t alone. My college-bound son was in the shotgun seat. But, in true form, he slept the entire way, waking up just in time to view the flatirons. (Epic going-away party the night before.)

“Whoa,” he said, groggily. “That trip was, like, nothing.”

Then, there was the daughter’s move to Boston, a city with more than 100 colleges and universities in the metro area ... ALL OPENING ON THE SAME WEEKEND! We flew this time, having sent boxes and crates ahead via UPS. Still, you haven’t lived until you’ve schlepped an 18-year-old girl’s “essentials” — all 17 boxes of them — down three city blocks and up four flights of stairs in a stuffy stairwell with 200 other grunting parents.

“That wasn’t so bad,” she said later, attempting to stuff a drugstore’s worth of beauty products into a tiny vanity drawer.

There have been many more moves, before and since.

In the late ’70s-early ’80s, before anyone could afford U-Hauls, my husband and I had the great misfortune of owning a truck.

(I’ve always believed that, just like cigarettes, trucks should come with labels that read: “WARNING: Owning this vehicle requires you to loan it to every Tom, Dick and Harry who asks to borrow it.”)

“Hey, man. Can I use the pick-up on Saturday? I just scored a pit group.”

“Yo! Is the truck available next weekend? Finally moving out of Mom’s basement. There’s a case of beer in it for you ...”

Naturally, my husband couldn’t simply say, “Sure, come get the keys.” He always volunteered to fetch and carry.

“It’s what people do for each other,” he’d say, as he loaded the cooler with ice (I wondered how magnanimous he’d be if the pay-off was a case of Coke). So, of course, I had to fetch and carry, too.

I remember one friend, in particular, who enlisted our help in moving to a seventh-floor apartment on the Plaza in Kansas City. We showed up, loaded the truck to overflowing (think “Beverly Hillbillies”), only to discover upon arrival that the elevator in his new building was out of order. (Did I mention it was raining that day?)

“I know this is really a drag,” our soon-to-be ex-pal said, as we lugged his bean bag chairs and waterbed up the cramped, creaky stairway.

“But think about the outrageous kegger I’m gonna have when the Christmas lights come on, man. It’ll be excellent!”

I thought about all the miserable moves in my life as I drove home from the store, past all the rental houses in transition. The thermostat on the bank read 101.

“Thank God, I don’t have to do THAT, anymore,” I said to myself.

Oh, I was smug, all right.

Self-satisfied, I walked into the house, groceries in hand. My husband met me at the door and said, “You’ve got to help me clean out the attic. They’re coming tomorrow to switch out the air conditioner. Oh, and good news, my mom’s finally decided to move to Lawrence.”

— Cathy Hamilton is a 54-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at 832-6319.

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