by Patricia Neleski, Guest Contributor
Unicorns carried our household goods away in golden chariots.
Yep, I said it.
Because when I tell you the real story, you are just as likely to disbelieve it.
We did it ourselves and we’d do it again! Or rather, we used the Navy’s DITY move system for our final retirement move, instead of hiring a mover.
Even though DITY stands for Do It Yourself, we didn’t really do it ourselves.
We hired trusted friends to help us pack, babysit while we packed and then, we hired a military volunteer group to load our goods onto the trucks. At the other end we paid teens to help move everything into our final destination.
My husband took care of the financials for the move. He got receipts for all the labor and kept receipts for all our packing supplies, the truck rentals, everything! He is very thorough.
To say I enjoyed every part of our DITY move would be a lie.
To say I will never forget it, never regret it, is the absolute truth.
Ours was a big house, 5 bedrooms — we have 4 kids — so it took a while. We started early on our own. For months, I saved large and small boxes and started going through our things, separating things into piles for a yard sale, stacks for the thrift store and setting aside special gifts to bequeath to friends and family. After we had settled on what would go and what would stay, we gave each of the kids boxes of different sizes and sharpies to begin packing their things.
The younger kids were reluctant at first, because every time something went into a box, they worried they might need it again before we got to our new home. So the boxes remained unsealed until the last day.
Then, Ed and I assembled our assist team.
My beloved neighbors and friends, Jennifer, Amy and Bianca, were there for parts of every day for 2 weeks. They took turns packing boxes, sweeping corners and babysitting. The small boxes proved very useful, as we packed small fragile items in small boxes and tucked them inside larger boxes for extra padding and to make the boxes easier to identify when we got to our new home.
On each box, I scrawled a complete list of what was inside the box. Recently, I found a holiday box tucked in the garage with this list: treasured homemade crèche, headless Joseph, Joseph’s head, hand crocheted angel, tinsel. This year, I promise, I will glue his head back on, but until then, I know where it is thanks to our thorough inventories!
In the midst of all the packing, my friends were in every inch of my house. They found the candy wrappers behind the rice in the pantry. Sorry about that!
And one day, I had to chase Jennifer out of my bathroom where she was scrubbing my toilet — I love you girl and that’s why you can’t scrub my toilets!
Closer to moving day, Ed contacted the Norfolk Naval Operations Base Chief Petty Officers Association and offered to hire the Chief Selectees, the group of new E7 CPOs preparing for their initiation, to help us pack the trucks. There were 3 trucks.
On moving day, the Chief Selectees showed up half an hour early, which I know is military for on-time. They were ready to start work, but suddenly I wasn’t.
As I stood in my house full of boxes, I grieved for the end of our old life and the beginning of the new one. “Stop, I’m not ready,” I wanted to scream.
Sure, we would all keep in touch, and text and call, but it would never again be the same. I knew that from a lifetime of military moves.
The empty freezer brought it all home to me: the day before I had given away the last of the food because it wouldn’t travel well. Empty freezer, empty house.
Things moved quickly after that — military people can pack a truck in a hurry!
At lunchtime, I looked up and the whole gang was back, with kids and dogs and covered dishes, and someone had fired up the barbecue grill. They had taken all my leftover food and cooked it! There was enough for everyone and we ate as we worked.
It wasn’t perfect, but that made it perfect. A dog threw up, a kid blew out a diaper, a neighbor complained we were blocking the driveway. (We weren’t!) The usual.
And when we got to our new home, I had one last surprise. Amy and Jennifer had tucked my tomato plants and rose bushes into the very last foot of space behind the rolling door.
The movers wouldn’t have done that.
Patricia Neleski owns http://www.navyrackpacks.com an American company that provides privacy, storage, blackout curtains for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard seagoing personnel. Patricia also worked for several years as a journalist, as both a staff writer and freelance writer for the Virginian-Pilot. Her stories have appeared in HamptonRoads.com, Navy Times, Florida Times-Union, among others.