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Jack Smith

Moving Day: An Event by the Numbers

February 22, 1988|JACK SMITH

Our younger son and our French daughter-in-law moved the other day from a house they had lived in 12 years.

It was cataclysmic, like some great natural phenomenon. And it disproved the cliche that there is no community in Southern California.

I won't say the operation was carried out with military precision, but there was a great deal of planning in it, and a spectacular coordination of effort.

They moved from a house in Silver Lake to a house in the Linda Vista section of Pasadena, a distance of about nine miles over the Glendale and 134 freeways. The move was complicated by the fact that the owners of the house they were moving into had to move out, a neighbor who had bought their house had to move in, and the parents of the neighbor (who had sold their house) had to move into their child's house. All four escrows were closed on the same day.

I realized that this is an everyday fact of life. When anyone sells a house, they have to move into another house, whose tenants must move out, and someone must move into that house, and that buyer's house must in turn be moved into. Where it stops nobody knows.

The vehicles involved in my son's move were a rented moving van, the old van my wife and I took over from him in trade for our pickup, the pickup itself, a pickup brought down from Bakersfield by our son's cousin, and several personal cars.

The personnel included my son, his wife, their daughter, their cousins and their cousins' daughter, our older son and his wife, two of their children, a next-door neighbor whose wife set up a buffet with soft drinks in their house; several old friends, my wife, and a strong man who supervised the loading of the truck. I can't say that I helped, but I sat about on cartons or deck chairs and offered advice. No one paid me any attention.

What awed me most was the amount of junk a family of four can accumulate in 12 years. There must have been 100 cartons, each of which had to be carried out individually and loaded on one of the vehicles. Keep in mind that they had already reduced this impedimenta significantly by holding a yard sale.

I wondered what could possibly be stored in those cartons that would be necessary to their survival in a new location. I had an idea that most of it, if it had been lost, would never be missed.

It occurred to me that my wife and I could never move. In 38 years we have accumulated so much junk that moving it would be impossible. Junk, I have noticed, expands when it is moved from one place to another. Our garage, our closets, our bookcases, our cabinets and drawers and cubbyholes are so jammed with useless junk that the very idea of moving it exhausts me. Just getting it out of the house and loading it on a truck to be taken to the dump would be logistically prohibitive.

I realized that we are doomed to live in our house until we die and some young unsentimental couple takes over and ruthlessly cleans it out.

The operation took all day, and many questions were unresolved by the time we all sat down for a barbecue in the new patio. My son had left the caged parakeet and the two Dalmatians at the old house. The new tenants didn't want them, understandably.

My son said he was negotiating with them. "I said I'd leave half the firewood if they'd take the bird. Of course, if they take the bird, you know they'll snuff it."

"What about the dogs?" I asked, suddenly anxious.

"They're a problem," he said.

They were indeed a problem. They were Dalmatian siblings, both male. They were nervous and they barked. One was deaf, but by no means mute. They had to be fenced.

After the barbecue the various helpers drove home in their various cars. My wife and I drove home in hers. She had had a hard day carrying furniture and cartons and helping line the kitchen cupboards.

That evening our son came by in the van. He had the Dalmatians.

"It's just temporary," he said. "Until I can build a fence."

All things considered, I'd rather have had the bird.

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