After our wedding, my wife and I took a day to relax and then came home to continue the all-consuming process of dissolving our lives here in America. Only now, the day before we are set to leave, do I think we’re finally done.
In parallel with saying good-bye to friends and family, we have watched our home trickle away. Piece by piece, we’ve gone about un-assembling the efficient and happy environment that we had slowly put together across four years and combined in the last nine months. First went the bedroom furniture, over a month ago now. Soon followed by the patio furniture. Then went the bookshelves and their beloved occupants. Next the credenza filled with our files and stationery. Finally our dining room table and couch. Today someone came to take our mattress and we took our three paintings and remaining lamps to storage. I’m writing this entry from a hotel room, as our apartment is now totally bare.
It’s been a torturous process. Not the simple cross-town matter of packing, moving, and unpacking. A cross-oceanic move means that every item is a decision. I call it “3 S or G,” ---ship it, store it, sell it or give it away. What makes the cut to be squeezed into the 35kg or so that we can carry to Shanghai? What will keep in temperature uncontrolled storage until 2010? What will we need as soon as we return? What is worth trying to sell on CraigsList? We run through these questions a hundred times an hour as we evaluate our drawers and closets and cupboards. It makes the process exponentially harder and longer.
In the end, a consistent rule has emerged. Most of what we are taking to China is clothes. My wife and I are both tall and we’ve been told that will make clothes much harder to come by. We’re also taking some of the electronic necessities of life and a few favorite, portable, games. But by and large, we’re going to arrive in China bearing a whole lot of cotton.
Similarly, most of what we are storing is books. Our professional workbooks, the worksheet masters teachers always need, have all been scanned. Over the last five months we spent hours and hours slicing the binding of our workbooks and scanning them. Those are going to China with me on my hard drive. But those that couldn’t be scanned, our classroom library and personal books, probably consume two-thirds of all that we are keeping, right around fifty boxes.
We’re also keeping a lot of odds and ends. A surprising lot that filled an astonishing number of cubic feet and packing hours. Little necessary tools of life, from our plates to our bikes, to our hampers, the tools that we would just turn around and buy again. Immune to spoilage or obsolescence, it seemed silly to throw or give them away. So they sit in storage, ready to greet us when we return.
As I slid the roll-a-door down for the last time today, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little as I imagined myself pushing the door back up in two years, engulfed immediately and viscerally by the life we’ve left. But I also realized that I couldn’t actually imagine myself, that I didn’t really know who I would be when the door goes up again. I was struck by a simple question: Will all this stuff still be important to me?