I don’t really remember the move from Arlee to Missoula four years ago. I was in the hospital and it all happened over a few days of crisis. I needed home healthcare for the next ten days and the road to Arlee was torn to hell in a storm of summer construction. The nurses who delivered home healthcare couldn’t get to us, they said.
We were in the process of buying a house in Missoula. It was ready and the owner graciously told us to move in. So while I sat in the hospital recovering from a deadly infection that had sidelined me by surprise, Seth and some dear friends loaded trailers and boxes. When I got out of the hospital four days later all of our stuff was in the house in Missoula and our Arlee house was hastily empty.
I remember making the 45-minute drive to Arlee, a drive that normal takes about 25 minutes, on gravel roads with potholes and rearranged traffic. The large machinery digging deep tunnels under the road caused my head to ache, their low seismic rumble torturing a bit my swollen brain. When I walked in to our house, the only home we’d known together as a couple and a family, I started to cry. This was not how I’d expected to leave.
I thought we had time to pack, to process, to cull. I thought we had time to get right with a move to town, to walk one more time through the pasture, to sit one more time on the fence and look at the mountains. At the time, we didn’t know if we’d ever come back and I thought we’d get a chance to have some amount of ceremony around our leaving. We didn’t. With an IV in my arm I tried to pick up the things scattered on the floor, things that had been left in a rush to move in two days with no warning. It as then that I realized how weak I actually was. My dad helped me load a few boxes and told me to take it easy. He buckled the children in the car and we headed back to town, to a house unassembled. All I could do was cry.
This week, we’ll start packing boxes again and I’m hoping for a bit of a do over. I want to label and carry our things to storage, I want to pack my children’s clothes and tuck them away in our new home. I want to handpick a few (and I mean few) things to bring with us that will remind us of who we are as we try to live in such a small space. Mostly, I want to feel every moment of this move because by the time I felt it last time, months had passed since the moving boxes arrived on our doorstep and the wave of emotion nearly took me under. There are so few places in our lives left that allow us to mark a rite of passage. But, this time, I’m hoping for a bit of ceremony so that maybe it will make the leaving of our home, again, possible.