It’s moving day, again – just like it was in August, and the August before that and the May before that, so many different front doors that they start to blend together. Every time it’s a different address, a different key, a different way to switch on the shower head, my same ratty suitcases unzipping to populate different dressers and closets and shelves.
In the last six years, I’ve packed up and moved twelve different times, around four different cities, in two different countries. I stay for three months, four months, or nine months, whenever the lease ends, whenever the job ends, whenever my roommates move out.
Each time it hits me differently. I’m never quite ready to move. No matter how much you tell yourself it’s temporary, it’s hard not to settle into a place. You buy a nightstand or a used couch. Your things scatter – it’s not so easy to fit them back into a suitcase anymore. The place itself begins to breathe to your rhythm, follow your habits, carry your scent. And so – the memories of a time become inseparable from a space.
This is why I remember the boxy narrowness of the dorm room I shared with Monica as well as I remember the half dozen girls piled inside, begging to hear about my first kiss,
why I remember the wide plastic countertops in the apartment I shared with Rachael, just as I remember bumping my hip into them as we danced to Sia, the summer we went running every night and binge-watched Game of Thrones,
why I remember the fraying carpet in the duplex the six of us shared, the floor where we sat cross-legged for breakfast every Thursday, even the week I took the LSAT, the week Kelsey’s grad school application was due, the week Hannah got engaged, the week Laura got her job offer.
Just as much, the apartment I’m leaving now, with its beautiful brick and wood details, was a passive participant in Sissel’s and my conversations about boys and God, our Skip-bo games, our lighting of candles in search of Danish hygge.
I am moving from that apartment into someone else’s house while they’re away for a short time. I try to fold my things into their things unobtrusively, living on the surface of the house they’ve settled into over years. The house is full of little signs of permanence – heavy wooden furniture, paintings on every wall.
Everything I own still fits in boxes, except the twin bed I bought, my only real piece of furniture besides a de-assemblable plastic dresser. The bed fits into a friend’s pickup truck; the rest I load into a taxi.
When we get to the new house, all the bits and pieces of my life have fallen out of the makeshift bags where they were stacked, and litter the floor of the taxi. The taxi driver and I scoop it all up with our arms and pile it on the living room floor.
A fan. A spatula. Thirty soft-cover books. A pile of dresses. Yarn. A bottle of balsamic vinegar.
Just as life is made up of moments, home is made up of the bric-a-brac that starts to pile on the countertops. Somehow, a thousand meaningless fragments make something whole.
An address. A key. A showerhead. Suitcases. Shelves.
It’s okay if I’m leaving in a moment – for now, I’m home.
Katerina Parsons (’15) lives in Washington D.C., where she works in advocacy at Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington office and studies international development at American University’s School of International Service. She spends a lot of time thinking about US policy towards Central America and North Korea, writing, singing, and searching for the city’s best pupusas (suggestions welcome).