11 a.m. today marked the completion of my first week as a Floridian. After spending the first 30 years of my life in the Midwest, curating a wardrobe capable of adapting to the ever-changing weather, (we have four seasons, just not the ones you might be familiar with: warm, hot, stupid hot, chilly [though the “chilly” season may include temperatures that dip low enough to be called “freezing”. This period of time, however, is typically limited to a handful of days, before the temperatures ramp back up. Shorts are therefore permissible attire from November through February.]) my family and I sold our house, packed up our cars and our two old dogs and migrated south, to the state of eternal sunshine. My first thoughts after this first week?
- It rains an awful lot for a state whose license plates read “The Sunshine State”.
- The humidity is like that of the Midwest, only on steroids. “Air you can wear.” If only you could slough it off at the end of the day, and hang it up in that back corner of your closet, the spot reserved for things you’ll never wear again.
- You can never have too many shorts or tank tops. Or flip flops.
- I freaking hate humidity.
- Overhead fans in bedrooms and pools in backyards are NOT luxuries, and are therefore NOT optional. Socks, on the other hand, are.
- GOD, I FREAKING HATE HUMIDITY.
However, all these observations and grievances are essentially nullified by the following:
- Universal Studios
- Universal Islands of Adventure
- Disney World
- Sea World
- Busch Gardens
- Being centrally located, I am about 30 miles away from the ocean. And if it stays warm (it’s 89° today, tomorrow we might hit 90°) it’s not unreasonable to think one could swim on Halloween.
Having just returned from the vacation of a lifetime in Hawaii (thanks again Kathy luv) I’m hoping to adjust to living in a subtropical clime rather quickly. *crosses fingers*
After our house sold (in an unsettlingly fast 23 days) every waking moment was spent packing and/or deciding what to pack, and what to throw away. We (and when I say “we”, I am collectively referring to myself and my parents, who have been good enough to put up with me rooming with them again after college, since I haven’t landed a great job yet…) had a roll-away dumpster for nearly a year, since we knew we wanted to downsize. Now with a contract, things I never thought I’d part with were finding their way – fast – into the depths of the steel beast. Knick knacks and figurines I had assigned memories to, artworks of mine I had promised myself I would return to one day, to improve and perfect. Barcrawl t-shirts from college, some with logos I had designed, running the gamut of occasions to drink: Fighting Illini football (win or lose, didn’t matter), a tongue-in-cheek reminder of where I lived (a “dry” dorm…the shirt read “Drink up…there are sober kids in Snyder!”) the end of finals’ week in Art + Design. I thought of shipping them off to someone who would assemble them into a collegiate quilt, but in the end, I had to pick my favorites. The rest were culled.
The house took on a different character. Alien, messier than usual. The disorder was no longer the accumulation of everyday objects and unsorted mail. Furniture, clothing, pictures that in the twenty years since the last move hadn’t been lucky enough to make it up onto a wall, old board games, Christmas ornaments, all were kicked up like silt. Every room looked as though thieves had come in the night and turned everything upside down searching for valuables. The odd thing was, we were the thieves, and knowing that we’d be moving 1,000 miles into a space a fraction of where we had lived for two decades, the definition of “valuable” or “treasure” had become muddied, the more we dredged it all up.
Upon my return from Hawaii, where I celebrated my 30th birthday with a friend I don’t often see (more’s the pity), the weeks whizzed by. September 27th was the day. Move-in day for our apartment in Florida was the 29th, which would allow us two days to make the trip south to meet the movers. (This ended up changing to three days, as the movers had more than one drop-off to make, and as such didn’t arrive at our apartment until the following Monday, the 2nd of October.) Between sleeping and going to work, I packed meticulously. Boxes were inventoried thoroughly, with their lists saved in Evernote for quick reference when it came time to load them up on the moving semi. (Yes, a semi.)
Miscellany Box #1, Wardrobe #2, Book Box #7. Books were my treasures, and the ones I knew, as a writer, I couldn’t live without, were packed first. In all, I had fifteen designated book boxes, which in and of itself is a feat: I had somehow whittled my library of over 300 tomes down to something more “manageable”; most were given away or sold to a used bookstore in Missouri. The complete set of Artemis Fowl was transfigured into gas in my Fusion’s tank.
In truth, we didn’t have much time to get used to the routine of having a house on the market. A little over three weeks, and the third family to view it made an offer. We were extremely lucky, and I wonder if the fast turnaround made the move easier. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye, and without it being long and drawn out over a 6-month, 9-month, or God forbid, an 18-month period, the process was more like ripping off a bandaid. While we weren’t anxious to leave “home” and its memories, we were anxious for the process to be done with. Tearing apart the place you love is very disconcerting, violating even.
That last week was hell. None of us slept much, or well. The movers arrived Monday the 25th, and worked from 8:30 until after 6. It was awesome, in the original sense of the word…a huge semi parked in the driveway, doors off their hinges everywhere so as to make it easier to move things you never think you’ll have to move…beds, couches, bookshelves that look broken only because they’re so empty.
There was nothing left. When my parents left to sign title paperwork, I babysat an empty house. I thought I was prepared for the emptiness. But I wasn’t. I made it two steps into the kitchen, before I turned tail and went back outside into the sweltering heat, determined to take the dogs on one last walk in our back field.
The silence was so loud. And I don’t mean that as a writer attempting to be clever with a hackneyed oxymoron. With nothing to absorb the sound, footsteps in the dining room sounded like you were crossing a deserted ballroom. Every familiar squeak in the kitchen floor was amplified. It was a very odd, intimate assault.
I wanted out.
The last night, we slept on the floor; my parents on an air mattress, me on an inflatable couch. My parents had suggested I set up camp in the living room, but I refused. It was my last night in my room, my haven, even if all the treasures that made it recognizable as my space were gone. I made one last quiet walk of the upstairs rooms in the darkness, retracing steps I’d taken hundreds of times before. I stood in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, and quickly typed out a memory on my phone. I thought of doing the same in each of the upstairs rooms, but found myself too physically tired, too emotionally drained to focus.
Around 3 a.m., I still couldn’t sleep, so I unpacked my old sleeping bag, the same one I had used for summer camp fifteen(?) years ago. I laid on the floor in the space where my bed had been for twenty years, and tried to memorize the trees silhouetted outside my arch window. That night, I realized that while most kids beg their parents to build/buy them a treehouse, mine had built one big enough for all of us, and had given me its best view.
For that, I am forever grateful.