What we take

by Jennifer on May 22, 2009

They pile into the car, arms full of backpacks and folders and reports cards. The word goodbye fresh on their lips.

As I navigate the school parking lot, I adjust my rearview mirror so that it fills with their two faces. Today would be a tough day, I knew that much. The last day of school, their last day at this school.

Elle* broke first. “I’m going to miss her,” she cries out. Tears.

“Do you mean G?” Her best friend at school.

“No, Miss P. I’m going to miss her!” She’s crying now, full-on.

And then Hunter* adds his voice. “Today was really hard for me, too.” His eyes shine bright and so blue when they fill with tears, only he’s trying to hold them in, while she lets hers fall at will.

“I know, guys. It’s a hard day and I’m so sorry.” I reach back with one hand and they both grab hold.

After a moment, Elle reaches up and touches her head. “See the tiara I got today in the class store?”  Her face brightens. She’ll take her loss in doses, it seems, spreading it out over time. She tells me how she got it for a bargain, using classroom bucks they earn for good behavior. Scrubs away her tears somewhere in the middle of the telling.

They fill in details about the day. How she got a few addresses and phone numbers so she can stay in touch. That his class had pizza for lunch.

How she hugged Miss P goodbye, and hugged her friend R** twice.

This friend, the older sister of the little girl who was found wandering the neighborhood alone a couple of months ago.

This friend, who told Elle just a couple of days ago that if she came over one more time to see if R can play, then Elle couldn’t be her friend any more. Which was what her parents told her she had to say to Elle.*** (Her parents choose her friends for her, Elle added.)

This friend, whose family is also moving away this summer, to a state far from here.

When I learned that, all I could think is that the watchful eyes that have been looking out for this girl and her sisters will lose sight of them, as surely as the moving truck will disappear from sight.

Is this what happens, then? Is this the last chapter of the story that I’ll know? Elle plans to write to R, as long as we have an address, but after that, then what?

Maybe life gets better for that family, in this new place. Maybe stresses begin to slide away, things that make it harder to parent well and with patience. Or maybe what is, what has come before, just is and will be.

That thought makes my soul ache. Because that’s not good enough.

In two houses not so far from each other, two families prepare to move, packing away all of these things that fill the spaces between the walls of a home. Things that are steeped in the actions and words between the walls they use to keep things and people out or in, or to protect the people within (sometimes the wrong people).

And they will pack up the things that mean something and a lot that doesn’t, but it’s what they have even if they can’t remember how they got it. And those things will go on to the next place, too, because not everyone can tell what to keep or throw away. What’s wrong or right. What’s good for a child or isn’t.

Wedged in between what’s practical and useful – sofas, beds, pots and pans and dishes –  they’ll stuff all that’s wrong and sad and broken.

And in one house or another, and probably both, each person (old and young) will wrap up the best things, too. All that’s fragile and good (fragile because it’s good) inside countless layers of bubble wrap and tissue and hope.

For all of us, and those girls the most, I pray safe journey.


*I decided, at last, to give names to The Girl and The Boy.

**Initial changed.

***I’ve been making allowances for parental discretion about convenient times to play or other commitments, but after ten or so invitations to play, it’s hard to think there isn’t some other reason why it hasn’t been allowed.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

tysdaddy May 22, 2009 at 4:05 am

I moved seventeen times before I graduated from high school, so I am intimately familiar with the what-to-save/what-to-toss decisions. My dad had a habit of just lugging it all, every time. All these years later, there are boxes that have never been unpacked . . .

rachael May 22, 2009 at 6:52 am

She will take it in doses, LOL, that was cute. You are an awesome writer, I loved the story about the little girl too, chilling to have thoughts about her the week before. Its exciting but also difficult to be moving on with a new life, esp. a part of you wants to wonder about the other family going the other way, how can you not? Something is not right though. I hope it doesn’t take a tragedy for the next community to notice and pay attention. xo

jenrantsraves May 22, 2009 at 6:52 am

I hope there is another family with watchful eyes where they are moving , and I hope that you all will be happy in your new surroundings.

De May 22, 2009 at 7:06 am

My husband and I moved a lot before we had kids (or a house, for that matter) and it was no big deal. Ten years and two kids in a house made the job a lot harder. I’m still getting over this last move, which was almost two years ago. I guess it’s time to do that! 🙂

I’ve been having a hellacious hormonal time this month. It’s really bringing me to my knees. And yet, I’ve been thinking that when I have to let it all go just to keep my head on, the LAST thing, the thing I never let go, is giving the kids what they need, and in fact, probably giving more of me than they get when I’m on my game. This realization is a gift; something I can hold on to and be glad about when I doubt everything else about myself: I’m a good mom.

I pray for those girls, too.

Kat May 22, 2009 at 7:15 am

Moving is so hard. As a kid I only did it once, guess I was lucky.

I would be afraid for R, too, and would not be able to help wondering what happens to her, wherever her family is going. Sending up a prayer for watchful eyes, wherever those kids land.

Christy May 22, 2009 at 7:27 am

I will think of that other family now, and pray for those kids. I will hope that their reality is much different (much better) than my frame of reference tells me it probably is.

I’m sorry for your kids…it’s sad to move. We just went through it a few months ago. I have no doubt though that your kids will settle in and be comfortable in their new place–you all will.

Green Girl in Wisconsin May 22, 2009 at 7:58 am

Happy trails–we moved many times when I was young and it taught me many things–resilience among them. And I had the bonus of knowing if a place sucked, we’d be out of there within a few years anyway which made the worst places more tolerable.
And, like you, I hope the change is good for that other family.

Jessica May 22, 2009 at 8:55 am

I have tears in my eyes. this is such a beautiful post. I fear for those children as well although I envy you all for your chance to move to a place you want to be

Nicole H May 22, 2009 at 9:08 am

One can only do so much, but so long as you have those watchful eyes where ever you go you’ll be contributing to the ‘good’ in the world.

Oh, you write so beautifully how kids process things. In the middle of despair: a tiara. They feel loss and it’s ok because they have good expectations. Good luck packing.

phd in yogurtry May 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

Written so well, you’ve just touched on the hard part of my job. What happens when they move on? I hope Elle and R keep in touch and that all the “fragile” packings make it in tact.

the mama bird diaries May 22, 2009 at 9:33 am

moving is so very difficult.

I still have a glittery book where I have all my friends names and numbers when I moved away in 7th grade.

JCK May 22, 2009 at 10:48 am

I’m thinking of you during this time. Moving is always stressful, and the goodbyes so hard… But, I look so forward to hearing about the next set of adventures in the new place.

Love the new names for boy and girl. 🙂

PAPA May 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm

We moved A LOT when we were young and at first I wasn’t crazy about it but then I saw it as a chance to re-invent myself, you know, the guy with A LOT of friends.

but it didn’t always work.

Luckily we moved again, so I was like “See ya, suckers!” 😉

Suzanne May 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

you write so well it truly sucks! (heehee, sorry I just had to say that!)

as I was reading this I was hoping that you and the kids will get to drive cross country to your new home, I think they would enjoy the changing scenery….and long car trips are one of my favorite memories from my childhood.

flutter May 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I want to kick those parents in the teeth.

texasholly @ June Cleaver Nirvana May 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I am an expert in moving…not a willing expert, but an experienced one. It is never fun in the packing stages, but seems to improve with time.

Can you go down and wring those parent’s necks a few minutes before you leave?

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 May 22, 2009 at 6:34 pm

There are times I really think some people should not be allowed to have kids…..heartbreaking 🙁

Jenn @ Juggling Life May 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

It is so hard to be the kind of person that thinks and cares sometimes. You have done what you could do–which is, I hope, some consolation.

It sounds like your kids will take this move right in stride.

apathy lounge May 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I’m hormonal right now. Wishing for changes that can’t come fast enough and holding off others I know I can’t deal with. If I had to move on top of everything else, I think I’d lose my mind. I think–for you–this move will be the start of something really special. Easy for me to say…I know…but I really think/hope that I’m right.

anymommy May 23, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Safe journey to you and to those little girls. You empathize with your children so well, I remember those last days at so many schools and they hurt.

Emily R May 23, 2009 at 8:29 pm

i was not allowed to play. ever.

fancy feet May 24, 2009 at 11:00 am

Safe journey…I hope so and yes!

San Diego Momma May 24, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I moved tons as a kid and like Green Girl, I learned resilience and flexibility.
This is a good good thing!

And for that other family, I do hope that what was will not continue to be.

david mcmahon May 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Our last day at boarding school was marked by many tears from all and sundry. We were 16, 17 years old and had lived like brothers, hundreds of miles away from our families.

Yes, I was one who wept. And yet I returned many times.

And yes, my school is factually described in my first novel, too.

Madge May 25, 2009 at 8:30 am

beautiful post. you are a wonderful mom. i love that your daughter is going to try and stay in touch with her.

joanne May 26, 2009 at 3:20 am

I wasn’t going to check out any new blogs for a while but I am so glad I did this one.

It brought tears to my eyes I identify with it so much.

Hilary May 26, 2009 at 3:30 am

I was certain I had already commented when I was by the other day.. alas.

I think you have a knack to make every change an adventure for your kids and yourself. Such a marked contrast between families. Hopefully they’ll find your kind of warmth and caring in their new haunts. Have a safe trip.

Merisi May 26, 2009 at 4:12 am

I feel with you about those little girls, how sad that some children have to grow up undersuch circumstances. For your move, good luck!

Congratulations on winning DavidÄs Post of the Day Award! 🙂

Jeni Hill Ertmer May 26, 2009 at 5:52 am

I made a couple of moves in my childhood, but they only involved moving clothing as they were “seasonal” moves when my grandparents and I left the comfort of this house, this home, to go stay with my aunt and uncle during the winter months. Years later, I made several of the more drastic moves -the kind that require moving furniture, dishes, linens and all the other accumulated things. I thought my last move would be the one from the house my ex and I had built next door to this house -my family homestead -but it turned out there were to be two more moves after that but they were more like the moves of childhood -mainly just clothing. Now, back in my grandparents home again -and hopefully this time for the rest of my life -I think back on all the junk I carted with me on those adult moves and realize my packrat personality really made those ventures much more difficult.
Excellent post though – great choice by David for POTD!

Janine May 26, 2009 at 6:44 am

Congratulations on your POTD! You are such a wonderful writer!!! And you capture perfectly the difficulty of saying “goodbye!” Moving is such a hard thing to do…for so many reasons! ~Janine XO

Daryl May 26, 2009 at 6:48 am

It has to be so hard for you to see what others dont … and how hard it is to know you cant do anything but hope things get better …

AND congrats on POTD!

anjugandhi May 26, 2009 at 6:51 am

moving is indeed very difficult. it is like uprooting yourself and your relations from the solid foundation and then try to adjust to new surroundings and environment. But on the other hand moving is very challenging as you get to meet new people, make nrew friends, see new places.

Pseudo May 26, 2009 at 8:36 am

This is a beautful and poignant post. First time viist and glad I followed the POTD link to you at David’s.

Paige Baggett May 26, 2009 at 9:36 am

No wonder this is POTD!

bfs ~ Mimi May 26, 2009 at 7:24 pm

We moved right before I went into 3rd grade – from Texas to North Carolina where kids called me a Yankee because I was from Texas. I didn’t know what Yankee was, but they said it in a mean way. We had moved away from family and all of our friends.

I think it made me stronger. Your kids will be, too. It’s tough while in it, but if they can see it as an ‘adventure,’ maybe even keep a journal about feelings right now, and new people they meet, it should go well.

Very best wishes to you and your family. Here from David’s, and congrats on POTD!!

lailani May 26, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Congrats on POTD! So glad to visit, really enjoyed the post and your writing.


Indigo May 29, 2009 at 11:02 am

Love keeps a family strong even when they’re moving house. For the other little girl…she’ll stay with you and a part of you will always wonder. You won’t forget though, you’ve put it in words here where it’s safe to remind you. (Hugs)Indigo

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