By Ken Bradbury
The lady on the phone at Mediacom was firm. “Ken, you’ll receive the equipment to hook you up, but don’t open the box.” I told her that I would not. “It’s very important that you don’t open the box, Mr. Bradbury. Our Mediacom technician will open it. ” I tried to sound more sincere on the second stab, “I promise. I won’t open the box.” Two days later a Mediacom box arrived with this admonition in large red letters: “Please look inside for important customer information.”
And so it began … the process of putting 40 years worth of me into boxes in an attempt to move to Jacksonville. I mentioned to a couple of my married friends that it was akin to losing a limb or getting married. The wife didn’t appreciate my analogy. Perhaps I could have put it better, but “traumatic” can surely qualify for the process of sorting through hundreds of mementos, pictures, socks, 4-H ribbons, scripts, books that I don’t remember reading, and gobs of letters. Why did I keep the letters, knowing full well that reading them would cause my tossing away to slow to the pace of cold sludge?
Three full weeks of sorting, packing, and stowing, and of course I was a premature packer. Time after time I’d go spelunking through my cave of boxes to find the stapler or my toothpaste. There are no doubt correct ways to do this and I hadn’t chosen a single one of them.
The City of Jacksonville deemed me somewhat shifty since they had no record of me having lived there, so I sent them picture ID’s, the place where I order checks would not send them without a call from my bank, the waste removal service couldn’t find Arenzville on their map, and astoundingly my credit card company was the easiest to deal with. I called their Phoenix office late at night and was greeted with a friendly little gal who made the change of address quickly then wished me well in my new home. I asked her if she’d write me a recommendation for the city utilities department of Jacksonville, Ill.
Okay, I’ll admit that I was surrounded by angels … three ladies who lined up movers, carpet shampooers, painters, and all at an embarrassingly low cost. They even shopped for me. One friend would email me daily pictures of dressers, tables, and chairs, then advise me which to buy. Another of my angels told a cleaner than I was a really nice guy and I got a cut rate. The third angel was in charge of scheduling. All I had to do was pack, fret, and write checks. Perhaps this was more akin to marriage than I had imagined. A friend gave me her microwave oven, a former student stepped out of his real estate salesman shoes and gave me a free estimate on my previous home, and another former student arranged a loan. No doubt about it, I was blessed top to bottom of my underwear drawer.
I’d been told that the act of moving homes is a time to purge, so purge I did, not realizing how close home-purging would resemble its anatomical namesake. My dad’s theory is that you move things you don’t need to the basement until they rot, then you haul them to the ditch, and he advised me to skip the basement routine and go straight to the dump. Perhaps it’s the same in your town, but when you leave discards on the streets of Arenzville you awake the next morning to realize that your fellow townsfolk have done half the purging for you. Somewhere in the homes of Arenzville are over 50 pictures of clowns, a hundred or so original play scripts, a bronze cowboy, a ceramic Don Quixote, over 200 framed theater pictures, and a quite lovely original painting of Paris at night that I stole from Dr. Kurt Heller’s office while he was in the next room.
Then came the moving day and my angels kicked into an even higher heavenly gear. I’d hired Jacksonville’s classiest moving company to pick up my life and move it into town, but two days before the scheduled airlift, my yard was filled with friends with trucks and I had to call the transport company and say that I’d been blessed with immaculate transportation. One team loaded while another waited on my Jacksonville porch to tote, unpack and place. This was the day before Easter. I don’t know how you celebrated the resurrection, but all my future Easters may pale by the miracle of friendship I experienced on that day and the days to follow.