Michelle Martin

Moving days

Sunday, June 5, 2011

There was a period in my life when I moved six times in 15 months.

I was in college, and I could travel light. By the end, I could fit everything in one carload. And still have room for a passenger.

Not so much anymore. My husband and I have lived in the same place, upstairs from my in-laws, since we got married going on 19 years ago.

So when we planned to move Caroline to a new bedroom, downstairs with her grandfather, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to me at first. After all, I have lots of experience moving, right?

But Caroline doesn’t. She hasn’t changed bedrooms since before Frank was born. About four years ago, we did carve the kids’ room into two small rooms so each of them could have a modicum of privacy.

But she didn’t really move. Her bed stayed in the same place. So did her dresser.

So when we went through her things to get ready to move them, it was something like an archeological dig, especially under her bed.

Under the makeup and the song lyrics there was a pair of Barbie shoes. Yes, both of them. No Barbies, which she hasn’t played with since I don’t know when.

There was a Tinkerbell comforter, so old and faded it was hardly recognizable. It will be replaced with a red-and-white patterned one.

There were old CD-ROM games, long abandoned for YouTube and online games. A backpack full of Magic Treehouse books from the years before Caroline was into apocalyptic young-adult literature. Hunger Games, anyone?

She kept some of her favorite stuffed animals and set aside others for Teresa. She also put aside the white jewelry box with the ballerina and music for her baby sister, a twirling baton and Cinderella pillow.

For years, we could track her changing interests in what she displayed in her room. But most of the older stuff was still there, just a few layers down. When she was very small, she had such a hard time parting with her things that she’d get upset when I threw away sneakers that were too small and worn out to boot.

Once she gets organized, the moving will continue: Frank will take Caroline’s old room, and Teresa will take Frank’s.

I’m sure we’ll find reminders of Frank’s early interests — CTA maps, train schedules and such — in addition to his collection of tickets from various sporting events, hockey posters and baseball cards, but there won’t be as much because has hasn’t been around as long, and he’s never been one to hold on to everything. We don’t know yet what Teresa will turn out to be like, and unlike Caroline, she didn’t have a room waiting for her when she was born.

But by the time she turns 13, she’ll have her own history — one that includes her big brother and sister growing up and going to college, maybe moving away by then. Who knows what she’ll have squirrelled away?