A Moving Mormon Performance
I could not sleep. It was as though it was midday and had the energy of a racehorse about to take flight. But it was really 2 AM, and I had been awake since 1AM. I had fallen asleep in utter exhaustion around 11PM, but woke at 1 …and there I remained, twitching.
The ghosts of the day were haunting me and tears filled my eyes. But I withheld any sound, silently weeping, trying to not wake my husband.
The day before had been traumatic. We had packed to move, and left our house in a state. It wasn’t untidy, but I had not the time to make all of the runs to the Salvation Army on that day, nor had I the time in the preceding days to list all that I had hoped on eBay. As a result, clusters of items I deemed valuable were in boxes, or loosely stacked piles, awaiting to be unceremoniously bagged and taken to the dump.
My husband had been speaking of this new job for nearly a year. The new job that would result in this epic move, but the “molasses in winter” speed of the job offer took me from interested and willing, to impatient, to apathetic. By the time the offer came, I had decided against it and had begun searching for other jobs for him to apply. I knew that looking for work for him was a fruitless exercise, but it had made me feel better. Like I had some control again. As he had negotiated, his excitement waned, but he still was anxious to go—and because the process had taken so long… he felt obligated. So with barely a blink’s notice, I supported my husband and we were moving overseas.
His work arranged for our transportation, which would come at the end of a 2 week break from school for our daughters, leaving me at odds as to how I was to sort and pack for myself and them, whilst entertaining and providing for them being at home all day. Some church members offered to help by watching them for an afternoon or two, and I took them up on it. Still. I was overwhelmed, and it seemed as though when they were out of the house, I ended up doing a variety of errands for the move, rather than any actual sorting or packing.
We became targets of fellow church goers. They knew we were leaving quick and fast, and although we offered lower the prices of the things we loved but could not take with us, with the idea of being additionally Christ-like to fellow church members, they bartered us down our already under-priced goods to a point where we ended up losing a significant amount of money. I had joked with a friend about the circling Mormon vultures, but that didn’t lessen my angst. I finally said no to one such offer, incensed that someone who I previously thought was a friend would feel so comfortable and immovable in telling me that two unused items she wanted for less than half the price of one was acceptable especially since she had priced them and been willing to buy them new from a shop. I eBayed these particular items out of spite—gaining a much fairer price than what had been offered, but still leaving me absent of the time it had taken before I gave up bartering with her.
And in these rushed and sleepless last few nights, I beat myself up for being “materialistic” and “worldly,” berating myself for not smiling as we gave things away for chump change to people who could not bother to say “thanks,” and instead laughed at their good fortune, thinking I would join in. And, being trained to as a good Mormon girl, I smiled. But I could still not laugh.
On the last day, church members did us “favours” by clearing out things I had clearly stated I wanted to take with us. I believe they sincerely meant to help, but in the discovery of things they wanted, they tuned me out, finding treasure upon treasure to loot. I was in a reckless mess of tears, so hid myself, fearing my now impatient husband would say out loud—again—menacingly — “it’s just material goods. We still have our family.” He made the choice to sell most everything, but in the rush, I had not sorted much what I would have preferred to take with us, and the window for shipping those items had closed. At night, my daughters cried to me about selling all their toys, and I lied to them as I assured them we would get replacements for everything.
On our last night, as we sat in our hotel, having left still unsorted remnants in our house to be cleared. The church members who were purchasing our cars at significantly lower than “blue book” value came to retrieve them. I had prepared myself for this moment by finally succumbing to a Rum and Coke at dinner, something I had only done once before in my life.
Even with the rum, the precious Rastafari hat that was a gift from a boy who proposed marriage to me a lifetime ago and still made me smile…. and that I had brought with me for 10 previous moves… had somehow succumbed to a stranger in this move. It was passed around, most people laughing and trying it on, like a gag gift. And I held onto to my secret Rum and Coke (disguised in children’s plastic cup) like a life jacket, sipping and trying to smile, feeling petty for wanting to speak up and take it back. Graciously, another person returned baby photos of me, but my gratitude had not been forthcoming, due to the shock that things this personal had somehow ended up outside of my control.
I feel asleep exhausted, probably with some help of the rum. But I woke at 1AM, and cried, silently. I considered, then plotted how to get therapy as soon as we moved, because I knew I was not okay. It was nearly 2:30AM when my husband spoke, asking me if I was awake. Within minutes, he arranged for a taxi to take me to the house- if only for a few minutes. I felt deeply relieved, grateful and loved him.
The taxi arrived at 3AM and I directed the driver to the house. We chatted a little about why I was going to a house and back to a hotel at such a strange time of night. He was an immigrant from Afghanistan, and spoke warmly of the longing for home. He told me of his home, immigration issues and of leaving in a hurry. He told me not to shame me, but in expressing an empathy that was wholly absent from the church members I believed would be kind. Then he waited with the meter running as I stepped inside my home for the last time.
I released a flood of soulful emotions and tears. It was something I had not allowed myself to do openly in the month before as I had not had a moment of privacy in what felt like a very, very long time.
I went from room to room, saying goodbye to each room, including the garage. I boxed up the beloved, remaining children’s books that I had intended to put in suitcases, but in the last moment of packing, were discovered to add excess weight that would have made the suitcases too costly and cumbersome to bring. I selected a precious few books, including one about a small pig who becomes nervous in front of an audience, but conquers her fear and learns to sing in stadiums full of people. I thought this book would be good for my girls to help them not have a fear of public speaking—or in the case of the pig, singing on stage.
On top of the moving box that had served as my bedside table, I found my Ordain Women jewellery that I had been wearing for strength, but had taken off to have a quick shower three days earlier. I collected a few other items—all small enough to squeeze into my carry-on. I said goodbye to my plants, and trees in the backyard, and the spirit of my dog, who, prior to succumbing to cancer a few months before, had been my companion and confidant, and whom I sensed was staying to protect the house.
I climbed back in the cab, and directed the taxi driver to my daughter’s pre-school, where I deposited the beloved books that would not be taken on the flight. I had donated more books the week before, and planned to send an email explaining this particularly generous clandestine donation. I could not bear to think that those books would otherwise be thrown away, as per the policy of the company that would clean the house in the days following.
As we returned to the motel, my Afghan driver spoke. “You miss your house.”
“Yes,” I replied in whisper.
“It was not your choice to leave.”
“It happened very fast,” was all I could think to say.
It felt like he did. This stranger understood me better than anyone in my company for that whole time. He offered to give me a lift to the airport for free, but I declined as we had arrangements. Back at the hotel, I fell into a restful sleep for a short time. It was still dark when my alarm went off, but I wanted to ensure I had a shower before we left for the airport. As I lathered my hair, I kept telling myself, “first world problems… this too shall pass….just material items…..” as a kind of mantra. But it was a mantra that did not heal, and only made me feel worse about myself.
As the sun came, I spoke with a smile in my voice to my daughters as we said goodbye to shops and birds and everything else we passed in the car on the way to the airport. And upon being seated comfortably on the plane, I refused the complimentary wine, because as a Mormon, I don’t drink.
After I arranged for the daughter sitting beside me to watch a cartoon movie, I sat silently, still sleepless. Pondering. Thinking. Deliberating. Mostly about the book I had chosen to keep — about the little pig who learned to not fear performing in public.
And I wondered if I had done a great disservice to my daughters in choosing to keep that book.