Jacob’s Turn: On Moving

From 2000 to 2007, I moved at least once a year.  Sometimes, like in college when you had to move your stuff home for a summer and then back into a dorm just 2 months later, I moved twice annually.  I grew to hate it.  I grew weary of all the borrowing.  A truck to haul everything, a garage or attic in which to store stuff, a room to share as I figured out what I was going to do with my life, the labor of friends and family.  It all seemed so much to ask for a space in time that was evanescent from the beginning proposition.  I knew that the moving in of stuff I’d collected in substitute for actual furniture and décor would be occupying whatever space it was moving into for maybe 9 months at the most.  Some people occupy a place for 9 months before they’ve finished unpacking and decorating.  For me, that was the most time I spent on a place, letting it become familiar to me in the way that only places we call homes can.  I grew tired of the oppressive routine of packing and unpacking learning and forgetting.  

Yet, here I sit having just moved out of the most permanent and lived in space I have occupied since high school.  For a decade I longed for  a permanence of space that I finally settled into 7 years ago and it is now that permanence that stings my heart so deeply.  You see, moving out of my CA room at augustana and into a townhouse bore no sadness.  Leaving the cat pee smell of my senior house for a Naperville apartment to accommodate grad school was a welcome reprieve.  But, after 7 years, the roots of your life dig deep into a place and are not so easy to scrape away.

The house whose keys I handed to a lawyer this morning was a part of me and I it.  It didn’t change me, but I changed under the protection of its roof and walls.  I grew as a husband.  I became a father.  I learned how to be a father.  I was cared for and loved by neighbors.  I stewarded grass, flowers, bushes and trees. I created living space out of utility.  I invested my sweat and love into this place.  In the 57 years that this home has existed, my 7 years were likely of little consequence.  New siding, new basement, new appliances and AC.  But in my 32 years, this time was sacred.  To the degree that I yearned for permanence, I now ached even greater in the space left like letting go of a long goodbye hug. 

I was protective like a parent of new occupants.  I didn’t want them to use my shower or sleep in my bedroom.  I feared they would judge the basement carpet as stained and dirty instead of worn with love from countless games of Rug Hockey.  I was mortified that they would not be people who could appreciate the love of our wonderful neighbors and the din of kids playing in the park every summer night.  I didn’t know how to let my house become theirs, so I prayed.

I prayed through most of the move.  Logistically, I had to think about what I was doing and direct the myriad family who gracefully showed up to helps us move.  But in the quiet moments before they arrived and after they left, when I was alone sweeping, vacuuming or hauling leftover random, boxless objects, I prayed.  Memories flashed over the empty rooms and I thanked God for the goodness of the events remembered and for the memories themselves.  I prayed that the walls would protect the new families to live their as well as they had mine.  I prayed that they would be good neighbors and contribute to my community.  Knowing that I loved this home not for anything special it did but for the extraordinary love I gave, received and experiences whilst under its roof I prayed that the holy spirit would pour out of the walls like a contagion and infect those who occupied the home and that people who lived there would feel love.  Mostly I prayed and fought back tears.  Or I didn’t fight them back. 

I went back today to vacuum the garage and move the truck out.  I had to grab some laundry out of the dryer and leave the garage remotes and keys on the counter.  I went in  filled with whatever emotion is left when you run sadness, anxiety, worry, appreciation, longing and love into a blender.  I was determined not to lose it and cry the whole way home.  So, I did the tasks and blurted out loud to an empty echoing house, “Holy Spirit, watch over this place and shower it with love.”  Then I locked the door and hurried out to the truck.  As I looked up at the house to say goodbye, there perched on the ridge vent sat a dove that looked at me, stood up, turned around and nestled in as if it intended to stay a while.  I smiled.  Felt relief and calm to the greatest extent I have felt it since we began the moving process and drove away.

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