Six months ago, I moved cities. It was hard, hard to leave what I knew and loved and had become used to. Here is Part 1 of many…I wrote back in October.
How do you pack up memories
Happy and sad
How do you box up thoughts
Ferry them across tar and concrete
‘Cause them to take root
Become planted in another place
How do you
How do you remember the warmth
The angst, The excitement
And put that in a brown cardboard box
How do you
Birthdays, First dates, Graduation, Masterchef Australia finals
The orange couch
That throw pillow
How do you take them with you
But somehow leave them behind
How do you
Pictures taken down
How do you take those memories with you
Of holidays, Dinners, Breakfasts and Brunches
How do you
Pack up a home
And leave it a house
How do you?
Someone said ‘Don’t Waste the Pain’.
I’ve decided to make it count for something, so I wrote this.
I’ve moved several times in my life. Yes, I love the discovery and exploration of new places but at the very beginning when I’m suffering from all that needs to be done, I experience something pretty close to ‘hate’ and unhappiness on a rare scale.
I am miserable. Annoyed too, and I find plenty to stir up that anger; the fact that I’m never prepared for it. For the speed with which the packers put things into boxes, but always so orderly, so nicely done and well wrapped.
For try as hard as I can, I never do as much binning as I want to. Saying that though, I’ve learned that trashing things is easier to do as you unpack in that new place, but that’s for another post.
This is my third move in seven years.
During the second move in 2011, my mentor, Allan, told me that moving (according to his brother, the psychiatrist) is one of the five most stressful periods in one’s life; up there with death or dying – losing your spouse, child, or someone close, getting divorced, getting married, giving birth and getting fired.
There is a sense of being ‘uprooted’ after taking root in a place, weathering storms, and finally finding stability, only to be transplanted. Sigh.
Each time I move, I try to prepare myself mentally at least, but I fail spectacularly every single time. And so I turn to cake; my therapy.
It is always some kind of dump-it-all of fruit and flour and thoughts and memories. Chopped, stirred, turned out, and formed into something that brings comfort.
This time I make an apple-chia seed cake with almond meal and dried persimmons soaked in vanilla liqueur, vanilla powder, cinnamon, lemon zest, sugar, yogurt and the nuttiest most caramel beurre noisette – brown butter.
Something about combining flour, sugar, butter and eggs gives me control. Steadies me, makes me feel able to go through with it. The dining table’s packed up. One minute it was there and the next? All wrapped up. Chairs too. The kitchen and one bedroom are the only places untouched, for the moment. I hear tape pulled and ripped and stretched and my heart goes with it, on and on and on. I’m also tired. As in physically want-to-go-to-sleep-now-but-can’t tired. But the smells from the oven make it all worth it – sweet and spice and lemony goodness.
I bake. In comfortable shoes – most of the work is done on my feet so I make sure my shoes don’t pinch and bite.
I stow away things I don’t want in the car, otherwise they’ll be packed – the packers are fiendish like that.
I stow suitcases full of clothes and underwear – or someone; a few people might pack it for you (this did not happen to me – just sharing a guide). I pack up passports, clothes and things I think I’ll need, which I know I won’t. I pack a bag with my toothbrush, keys, money, water, pens, phones, jewelry, glasses and a hairbrush.
And in three days, they’re done. They’ve done an excellent job, minus the cupboard that skipped their eyes on the last day – very important to do a thorough walk around and check once the house is packed. If I hadn’t, half my jewelry (not gold) would have come with me on a plane.
So, the house is empty, the trucks are gone and I walk round before the cleaners come. Alone. In the filth and dirt and leftovers.
I look in the rooms, peering, curious to see what I’ll find. And everywhere I go, I find balls – balls of metal and wood and pearls, even if fake ones :-). That’s what I find as I walk through rooms bare, walls empty. That’s what litters the floors. I pick them up gingerly, surrounded by the dirt. I gather them, memories flooding; memories of where they came from. Necklaces at a class, a wooden Rubik-type cube bought on a cold evening in Vienna, metal balls from some birthday present. And a few coins, only a few.
It’s amazing how what’s left behind says a lot about what’s gone before. Two coins, only two. We haven’t traveled much in the last three years, at least not to coin-using countries.
In 2011, when we packed up our house in The Netherlands, I found coins everywhere – enough to have a solid coin bank. I was shocked. I gathered each and every one up. EACH AND EVERY ONE – they told their own story.
You don’t know where you’ve been till you leave it all behind.
The last three years in Port Harcourt, a city I’ve lived in now three times since childhood, have been a revelation. Some of the happiest times and the saddest. Till the next place, right?
I think every move defines something in your life, at least in mine. Mine always involve major changes even if the moves aren’t prompted by me but by work, mostly. And always about growth.
I’m thankful. With blurred vision right now – what’s the emoji for wry smile? Still, I’m thankful.
8 Tips For When You Move
- Get a tried and tested company to do it for you, if possible. Swift Movers were assigned to me by my company and I was so impressed with their services – professional and efficient. They turned up on time, did a safety assessment before they started work every day and generally got on without any guidance for me.
6 Akanbi Danmola Street, Ikoyi, Lagos
0802 313 5353; 0805 524 7031; 0809 520 0614
- Take stock of your personal effects with a simple inventory, which you can keep for life actually, adjusting if and when you move, useful for taking stock and for insurance purposes.
- Keep important things handy and out of the way. Like your keys – particularly if they need to be returned to the landlord/lady or they will be packed up. This happened to me.
- Don’t stress about things to get rid of. Unpacking in your new place is as good a time as any to do this. Trust me.
- Bin bags are handy for everything. From things to dispose of, to clothes you want to take with you.
- Have water handy. Drink it. Stay hydrated.
- Be emotional if you need to – cry. Laugh. Grieve. And say goodbye too.
- Ask for help from family and friends when you need it. Honestly, don’t even be shy about it. Not for a single second.
To be continued…when I am done unpacking.
- 200g plain flour, sifted (2 scant cups)
- 180g white sugar (not sure, 1+ cup)
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 to 3 tablespoons almond meal
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 3 to 4 tablespoons dried persimmons soaked in vanilla liqueur (c/raisins etc would work well)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 small apples, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Zest of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 an orange
- 250 ml plain or vanilla yogurt (1 cup)
- 120ml Beurre noisette. Brown butter (I usually use vegetable oil but none... because moving)
- 3 eggs
- Preheat your oven to 180 deg C ( 375 deg F)
- Grease and line a 9 inch cake pan or a larger pie dish
- Combine dry ingredients, gently tossing to coat apples
- Whisk together wet ingredients
- Add dry to wet ingredients
- Gently fold together with a spatula
- Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven
- Check after 25 minutes - if a skewer comes clean, your cake is ready. Otherwise bake for another 5 minutes
- Let cool on a rack once out of the oven.
- I've done every version - cupcake, regular cake, tray bake. We've sandwiched, broken into chunks for trifles, studded with fruit - endless list really
Parts of this post were first published on etc.ng