The Curse of Moving

A certified mail notice arrived at my door on September 1. Now, usually there are only two reasons that I ever get certified mail: one is for a bill that the collector is finding a hard time collecting, and the other is from my lackadaisical, out-of-touch, out-of-town, first-time landlords. Their reasons for sending me things certified mail is to make sure I got the documents because “their friends, who were in the real estate business before, warned them about people like me.” Needless to say, I didn’t rush to the post office, but perhaps I should have. When I arrived, there was a notice that my month-to-month lease was not being renewed, and that I would need to move by September 29. By law, they said, they were only obligated to give me 28 days notice. Of course, if I had to move, I would have had to have given notice earlier. They wanted me to understand that, “Yolanda, this is not an eviction, we are just choosing not to renew your lease, and we aren’t obligated to say why.” Whew! After nearly five years of tenancy in this Northwest-Side, near Wauwatosa flat, just like that, 28 days. Needless to say, when I recovered from the wind being knocked out of me, I got mad. I got so mad, I did what anyone would have done in my situation, and I panicked. After that wore off, I began the arduous task of finding a place to live; in 28 days packing up half a decade and readying the home for the next tenant. I first thought I’d return home to the East Side, where I had spent my first Milwaukee years from 1973 to 1979. But that move would be one that would take more time, more planning and, God yes, more money. We’ve all done it. It’s like kissing, like riding a bike, like sex — MOVING! — you never forget how. And no matter how many times I’ve seen Martha Stewart pack her packing tips into a four-page magazine spread, I was befuddled. Even my stint as an employee of U-Haul didn’t prepare me to haul myself and my nine-year-old daughter anywhere quickly. But I was motivated, of course, by my landlord’s desires, and by my determination not to be charged for a single, extra minute in that cursed house. First there was the daunting task of finding boxes for all of the junk I was going to take. Begging struck me as a better choice than going to purchase costly boxes and dish-packing kits from a commercial truck rental and supply house. No, I thought, hitting up the produce man at the grocery store would work just fine. But I was unhappily surprised by several grocery stores, which shall (for legal reasons of course) remain nameless — just like my out-of-touch, out-of-town, “good Christian” landlords from Menomonee Falls. Much to my chagrin, grocery stores are as stingy with boxes as my boyfriends have been with money. Even my friendly flirting was fruitless. Often the answer to my query was, “Oh, I would have given you some boxes but we just crushed them all,” or, “You should have come earlier, we had a whole bunch of boxes this morning.” Then, oddly, they’d follow up with, “Hey, do you have a boyfriend?” A firm “Yes!” quickly made them turn their backs on me. The excuses varied, but the bottom line was the same: no boxes! I arrived home with a carload of commercially-bought boxes and some sorry, sad boxes pilfered from work, backyards, and a best friend or two. Visions of myself standing in my living room, knee deep in my own knick-knacks, books, dishes, pots and pans, clothes, memories and dreams still haunt me. I was faced with the fact that I had too much junk in my trunk. Deciding what to keep and what to throw away was agony. Having to revisit old photos of guys I should have dumped quicker and those whom I should still dump was annoying. And most of all, I had very little help. Oh sure, there were occasional afternoons with a girl friend, a mother-in-law or two and a disinterested partner, but for the most part, the grind belonged to me. And as for that nine-year old daughter? After witnessing her pack her desk things clumsily and haphazardly into one box, I knew she would be of no help. People mean well, I guess. They offered more help than they actually delivered, and sought great accolades and praise for their efforts, but this was a solo act. I packed and I packed, like Dr. Seuss’s Horton the Elephant sat and sat. And it seemed like the more I packed, the more I unearthed. Not to mention the fact that I was “a-packin'” with no where to go, yet. But by the grace of God or the Goddess or the good nuns of the School Sisters of St. Francis, a convenient 2-bedroom showed up for me, just three blocks away. This was a huge burden lifted from what would end up to be the move to end all moves — as a completely good armoire was ripped in two by two stooges — I mean, two neighbors — who had pity on me and helped me on my day of doom. Well, they really didn’t help me, they charged me, and then complained the entire time. Big, solid strong men, whimpering like sissies about the weight of a washer and dryer. Imagine that. Heck, they had a dolly. There were boxes of crystal and Mikasa dishes broken at the hands of a terribly sweet, but mischievous 14-year-old boy who was sentenced to help me on moving day as part of his “suspension from school” sentence. He spent more time taking breaks than taking boxes down the stairs, and even took a two-hour break with the keys to the truck in his pocket. I was a volcano. These are just highlights and glimpses of an utterly hellish month of September. And this is just the moving, not accounting for the money to rent a truck, with a trick dolly left on it that if used means an extra $10 charge. Nor does this moving saga account for the multiple trips to the hardware store to buy things to touch up, paint, and repair things I wasn’t sure I ever broke. And no, I couldn’t afford one man and a truck, let alone an amped up duo of men, charging half the rent to move half my stuff. In the end, I got moved, and within my evil landlords’ timeframe. There was much cursing and gnashing of teeth, but I got it done, to some surprise, last minute thanks to the help of a childhood friend and her unsuspecting fiance, and of my decreasingly disinterested partner. They added a bit of sweetness to what was mostly a sour ordeal. As God is my witness, I will never move again. But should I be forced out again, believe me when I say it will take me far less than 28 days, because I will only allow myself and my daughter to take what we can carry, as if we were in a fire. The new tenants will have a completely furnished home, curses and all.