Moving Mommy

By Cynthia Joseph

After midnight, the last box was packed.  We’re exhausted and ready to call it a night.  I can’t believe it took us 6 hours to pack up the kitchen. It’s amazing how much you can accrue in 30 years.  That said it’s also terrifying that we still have the rest of the house to go.

We were the first black family on our street and only the second in the entire neighborhood. Our neighbors were a bit squeamish at first, but warmed up as time passed.  Maybe it was because they saw that we posed no threat.  Or it could have been because constant maintenance and home improvements was evidence that their property values wouldn’t suffer.  Then again, it could have been because we were the only house in the neighborhood with a pool, which the neighbors’ kids used often.

There were many memories growing up in that house.  Graduating from high school, learning to drive, and my first boyfriend, just to name a few.  And as an adult, when life dealt me a bad hand, home was a soft place to land.  But those memories pale in comparison to the sacrifice and hard work my parents put into what was considered, their ‘forever home’. The house, its contents and all the memories were meant to be their legacy to be past on.

Packing up our house was physically draining.  You’d think that the biggest challenge would be moving the accumulated contents from a two-story home into a two bedroom apartment.  However, the most challenging part of the process was watching mom during that time. She positively and completely checked out.  Sitting in my father’s chair staring at the TV, we periodically would seek her input about what to keep or where she wanted things stored.  She kept saying she didn’t care.  That’s really code for “leave me alone because I can’t and therefore won’t deal with this”.  

That’s when it suddenly occurred to me that I’d become my mother’s mother, i.e., caregiver.  It’s an arduous position, which left me precariously unbalanced; saying or doing the wrong thing, or right thing, will land me in hot water.  I know, because I said something completely innocuous, and for the first time in my life, I heard my mother curse. OK, it wasn’t an ‘R’ rated word, but I’d definitely rate it PG.  I, of course, knew where it came from, but that didn’t lessen the sting.

With emotions running rampant, relatives and neighbors stopped by with well wishes and to see what they could covet to their own ends.  It’s a lot to manage, with only one more day to complete the mission and a mother so sad about what she’s giving up, I wanted to cry.

The next day was a chaotic blur.  Family members provided vehicles. Some transported and carried items pass the concierge, through the lobby and up in the elevator to my mother’s new home.  She was stoic the entire move. Once we finished the move, I continued to keep a watchful eye on her for months. 

Lesson Learned:  When another move was necessary 10 years later; the only way to get through it was to handle it with the care she so deserved.

Cynthia Joseph

According to American Community Survey (ACS) the average American can expect to move 11.7 times during their lifetime. Author and communications consultant Cynthia Joseph can attest to that. Having moved herself and others, including seniors, small business offices and non-profits over the years, she understands the toll it can take physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. She is a proponent of early preparation and advocate of taking stock of how you, and others involved, feel throughout the moving process.