There are moments that leave an indelible mark on your soul. I had several sandwiched within our move.
The last Sunday of March I joined my friends to fast for our dear friend Carla who had been putting up a big fight against her cancer for the past couple of years. She was a fighter and an optimist, but had been knocked over and needed some extra prayers. I knew I couldn’t pray that she would make it, I had known for a few months that she would not. I prayed that she would be comfortable and that her family would have comfort. As I fasted on Sunday I knew she would leave this earth when we were leaving the state. I wanted to scold myself for being a pessimist, but I couldn’t erase what I knew.
I busied myself with the move. For as much as I tried to get started well in advance, I was still a complete disaster when crunchtime hit. Since Paul was fighting off the local smackdown virus I sent him on errands (take this here, take that there) and was stuck packing all by myself for the most part. I did not work quickly. I did not work efficiently. I was a mess.
Tuesday was Red’s last day of school. He received the Be SMART award at school so I got to go in and get pictures. His sweet teacher told me that they were going to have a party for him later in the day — she had made cupcakes. (She didn’t outsource them to some kind parent, she made them herself!) Tuesday afternoon I taught my final lessons, said final goodbyes, and tried to continue putting things in boxes. I felt close enough, and ready enough.
Wednesday the 28th was Blue’s 5th birthday. When my dear friend had offered earlier in the month to get us into Disneyland one more time how could I say no? So instead of Blue’s birthday being absorbed into the move (even though we had a party for him on the previous Saturday — that’ll be it’s own post someday) we celebrated in true LA style. We had a perfectly perfect day.
I lost a decade of my life expectancy on Thursday. It’s a good thing I don’t have the power to erase days from history, for while it was a very difficult day, the day was filled with some really sweet friends who swooped in to my rescue and I’d like to always remember their kindness. I awoke before anyone else (to the alarm lest you think I was somehow excited or motivated for the day) and quickly used my ipod to check the internet. It was then that I discovered that my dear, sweet friend Carla had finally lost her fight with cancer. Knowing it was coming didn’t help the pain and I allowed myself some quiet, tearful moments before setting off to tackle the crazy day. I thought that was enough to allow me to plow through moving day.
I had enough packed up that I was able to stay ahead of the movers with the boxes, but I was not fully packed and my place was a disaster. I was so overwhelmed that I really didn’t know where to start or how to organize my time. Two amazing friends came to my rescue and whipped me and my place into shape. Once the movers were gone we cleaned. The day dragged on and we weren’t dawdling (except when people came by to say goodbye — didn’t they know I didn’t have the time to visit?) but there was just so much to do. I was really worked up about getting the apartment which wasn’t all that great when we moved in, returned to like-new condition so I could get my deposit back. Even my next-door neighbour, Ashley, who stopped by to say hi, returned with her grubbies on and started scrubbing the walls. Somewhere around 9pm, as I was cleaning behind the fridge with still so much to do I said to Angela, “will this day ever end? I just want to have a shower and mourn Carla already!” I had finally had enough, it was too much. Although she had a long drive back to Palmdale and had been with me all day, she refused to leave me until I left the apartment. Out of concern for her, and having finally hit my “I don’t care anymore” breaking point, we parted ways at about 10pm. We said our tearful goodbyes and she headed up to the high desert and I went up the hill to Jen’s, who was graciously hosting our family on a school night. And although Jennifer was also fighting that smackdown virus she stayed up much later than she should have to offer me a piece of pie and talk to me while I decompressed.
On Friday morning I got to do the final walkthrough inspection with our landlady by myself. Jen offered to let the boys play instead of getting in the way, and Paul had a dentist appointment in Dana Point. Eva didn’t seem to want to be there, or want to discuss anything, and of course didn’t remember the state of things when we had moved in. (Like the rusty stove.) She definitely had her walls up when we started but I did my best to be open, honest, nonconfrontational, and easy-going. I pointed out where the plaster had been rubbed away by a chair, making it clear that I was taking responsibility for what was actually ours, and calmly answering questions like why we had two microwaves because she didn’t remember giving us the one from her garage instead of paying a repairman to look at the installed one. I think we ended on a good note, and I hope our years of always trying to be kind combined with our donation of a clean fridge will earn us some goodwill when she writes us our refund cheque. (The fridge was the most aggregious thing on Thursday; I understood why we had to move and was excited for the opportunities; I understood the plan of salvation and knew that I would be able to see Carla again, and that she would be reunited with her husband and their two young children; I did not understand why she had been so cagey and difficult and so slow to respond that when she finally decided she would not buy our fridge (but we could leave it if we wanted) I didn’t have time to find a new buyer for it. Making my fridge a donation to them was the most aggregious thing of all.) But I stayed calm, wished her good luck, picked up my children, and headed for the desert.
We caught up with Paul on the I-15 somewhere and caravaned the rest of the way to Flagstaff. By the time we met the Zalits for dinner it was late and I felt like a zombie. I hurt physically and emotionally, although I had told myself all along that I’d be fine as soon as we were out of California. We were out of California and I was still in and out of tears, holding the torrent for the safety of everyone on the road. After dinner we checked into Little America and I had a warm shower with great water pressure. I went to sleep feeling decidedly better about the world, but still very empty.
Saturday was better. We took a detour to the Grand Canyon (not letting a little thing like Red feeling nauseus stop us.) It added three hours of driving to our day, and we couldn’t spend long, but it was worth it! Now that we’ve had a taste, we’re excited to plan a real trip and return. Back in Flagstaff we picked up the other car and headed east to Albuquerque.
What was supposed to take 4 1/2 hours took nearly twice that because a truck containing explosives had caught fire in a construction zone. The distance between Hollbrock, Arizona and the Petrified Forest is about 26 miles and it took us three hours. Stopping only to use the facilities in the Petrified Forest, we were able to watch the sun go down (it took all of five minutes) before joining the rest of the weary travellers who had just endured that horrific traffic and continued east. It was somewhere around 11pm when we pulled into our friend’s place in ABQ.
I spent the sabbath with my children in Albuquerque while Paul trudged on because the movers would be in Dallas on Monday morning. I enjoyed the day listening to the inspired words of peace delivered by our prophet and apostles and other general authorities. The children played in Dana’s high adventure backyard. Slowly I could feel myself regaining some sort of the normal I thought I remembered. Even my eyes were dry for most of the day.
Monday morning I awoke to Red’s tummy acting up and a phone call from Paul telling me that someone smashed the back window of his car overnight and stole our 72 hour kit. So Paul multitasked the movers and the glass company while I cared for Red who apparently has an anxious tummy when faced with a long drive! Taking our time in the morning we finally left ABQ and embarked on the furthest drive (mileage-wise) of our trip.
We made a quick stop at Cadillac Ranch (which is directly off the freeway so as to not take you out of your way for even a tenth of a mile) and had lunch in Amarillo. Finally in Texas we got on the country highways and drove through hours of farmland before finally making it to Wichita Falls, where Paul met up with us for the night.
Tuesday morning we drove through a storm so bad that more than once we had to pull over on the highway (with the other cars also pulled over) to wait out a particularly rough band of rain because we had zero visibility. We finally made it to our apartment, marveled at the newness, and went to eat. Sariah was right: there is a Dairy Queen in every town in Texas. I had promised the boys DQ so we went out to the nearest one, and as we were finishing up our very late lunch I noticed that one of the employees was locking the side door. I commented to Paul how strange that they would lock up at 2pm. Very soon after the manager approached us with an urgent tone and told us we needed to join her in the back because the tornado sirens were blaring. (I hadn’t heard.) Along with all the DQ employees at the time, we joined her in the fridge where we spent the good part of the next two hours. Thanks to modern technology Paul posted photos on fb and we watched footage of 18-wheelers in the air, all from the relative comfort of the fridge. We were blessed that while the rain was almost as strong as some of the rain we’d driven through earlier that day and the sky got very black a couple of times, there were no tornados that touched down in our part of the DFW Metroplex at all. When the radar showed the storm had passed we bade farewell to our new friends and headed off to buy mattresses for our beds as though nothing had happened.
And now we are Texans.