Community Columns

Moving forward while sitting still

It’s happened! I have sold my house. Back in December, when my children were putting my kitchen in order, they predicted that the house would sell in June, but I didn’t believe them for a second. But I’m happy to leave behind immaculate housekeeping and vanishing with Mecca while brokers troop through. (Mecca’s pleased, too.) Even though I’ve spent two years getting the house ready so that I can move to Merced, Calif., where my daughter Susan lives, it’s very hard to believe that it’s actually time to take that next step. In fact, during these last years I’ve been unable to imagine this in-between period — and now that I’m here, I still can’t take it in. Maybe if I keep taking small next steps, my understanding will finally catch up to the facts.

First there was the period of disbelief — this is not really happening. Then there have been nights when my busy brain endlessly listed all the things I have to do. First …, then …, then … . Like Fibber McGee’s legendary closet, they fall on me with an endless clatter. Not helpful.

I am blessed with friends who want to help me pack, but I am still trying to decide what to pack and in what order. I’ve made several distance moves before, and the worst moments always come very near the actual moving date, if not on the day itself, when I discover a whole closet or bookcase still filled to the brim.

Now that I’ve begun to sit and think, I’m able to list several areas that might contain hidden treasure. My goal is to eliminate unpleasant surprises by reviewing all my storage areas at the start.

For example, if I put my winter clothes away, they are done. Heavy blankets, extra towels — pack them away. Give away whatever I don’t want to move. Think about what I might want to have as soon as I arrive in Merced and segregate those things so that I either take them with me or mail them ahead to Susan.

See how much I can do, just sitting still? But I have a cautionary walnut sapling growing in my yard, reminding me that some careful squirrel thought to hide his treasure there for the winter day when he’d need it — and then forgot.

There’s one category that’s harder to deal with — books. For one thing, they aren’t taking up space when they’re in a bookcase, but once I start packing them, my house will be an obstacle course. I’m going to try to cull them soon but not actually pack them until almost the last.

Then there’s the uncertainty of not knowing where I’ll live. Next week I’ll go to Merced to find a house.

This is just a peek at what’s in my head. Notice that it’s pedestrian, one detail after another. It’s important to think this way at a time like this, but it’s also deadly, the enemy of any imaginative thinking. This period won’t last. It’s just that I’m trying to anticipate surprises of the not-packed kind.

For now. I’m taking the day off to go to a friend’s house and learn how to bake challah. That should silence the list-making for a day. Knowing how to bake challah will certainly travel. And it doesn’t need to be packed.

Ms. Amussen, of Greenport, is a freelance writer and a copy editor at Times/Review Newspapers. E-mail: [email protected].