How come when your child moves, his stuff stays?

May 06, 2006|By ROB KASPER

Whenever your kid moves to a new place, your basement fills up with his belongings. It is one of the laws of the universe.

I was reminded of it recently when I helped our 25-year-old son move from an apartment in Chambersburg, Pa., then lay over in Baltimore, before heading to his new home in Anniston, Ala. He, too, is a newspaper reporter. Having worked a year for The Public Opinion in Chambersburg he has taken a job with The Anniston Star. From north of the Mason-Dixon Line, he is moving deep into Dixie.

There is, I believe, no such thing as an easy move. The disruption of relocating takes a toll that is both psychological and physical. Given the choice between having teeth pulled or moving, I would lose the choppers. But when opportunity knocks, folks move, especially young ones, especially at this time of year.

As moves go, this one was not a back-breaker. There were no heavy appliances, no sofa beds and no what-did-I-hit-now? expeditions with a rental truck. My son had furnished his first apartment with hand-me-downs. In keeping with that tradition, his furniture was hauled out to the backyard where it was later scooped up by the fellow who was replacing him at The Public Opinion. So it goes in the cycle of first jobs and second-hand furniture.

Fortunately, one of his Baltimore pals, Ben Weisheit, arrived on the scene in a pickup truck. It quickly became a vital cog in the operation, the trash truck. We might not have had much furniture to carry, but we had mountains of trash. To avoid fines from the municipal trash officers, and the wrath of the landlord, the pickup was loaded with debris and driven back to the Baltimore area. The next day, a few hours after dawn, the trash was legally dumped.

I ended up with the job of packing the kitchen, a nasty undertaking. A single guy's kitchen is usually not a pretty sight, and this one was no exception. Mounds of dirty dishes sat on the counters. Pots and pans choked the stove. A George Foreman Grill looked like it had not seen soap since the former heavyweight champion last entered the ring. The apartment did have a functioning dishwasher and plenty of hot water and scouring pads. As the sun set on a gorgeous Sunday, a day many people were riding bikes or basking in spring sunshine, I had cleaned a kitchen. The freshly sanitized kitchen items along with other goods from the apartment had been packed in boxes, and loaded in two cars that rolled back to Baltimore.

For several days, the basement of our Baltimore home became a freight station. Here the load from Chambersburg was shifted then squeezed into the car that was bound for 'Bama.

As my wife and I prepared to send our offspring away, we fell into predictable patterns of behavior. I became obsessed with getting his car, a 1997 Toyota Avalon that had been the old family sedan, in good shape for the journey. I bought it new tires. I took it to my trusted mechanics and had them give it a physical. They prescribed a brake job. I complied.

Meanwhile, my wife focused on matters of domestic welfare. She organized clothes, pared down the kitchen items, and fretted about the well-being of our son's cat.

The cat, who had spent the first year of her life as a free-roamer, albeit indoors, was now given a leash. The idea was that on the long drive to her home, the cat could be periodically taken out of her carrier, put on the leash and taken for walks in rest stops.

Flowing underneath these practical parental concerns was a river of emotion. Now that our son would be living 800 miles away, his visits home would be much less frequent. We would miss him, even if he still left his dirty sneakers on the kitchen floor.

That is not all he left. Mounds of boxes and books have taken up residence in the basement. These will either be shipped to him later, or be disposed of. Somehow I know I will be the disposer.

The possessions that my son wanted with him as he set up his new home were interesting. They included his computer, his collections of CDs, and some framed posters. So images of Winston Churchill, Anthony Hopkins in Titus and the movie Pulp Fiction rode in the back seat, along with the front tire of his bicycle.

One piece of furniture that he had wanted to take was an old glass-covered coffee table. He liked the looks of it. I recalled that the table and my son had a history. When he was a toddler he rolled off the couch and smacked his forehead on the table. Blood poured out. I ended up taking the screaming kid to the emergency room at the University of Maryland hospital, holding his arms down as a surgeon put several stitches in his forehead. It was an introduction to parental life, to the pain and joy that would follow.

But the other day as the table's glass top was being carried to the car, it hit a door frame and shattered. Now it was not going to Alabama. Now it was going to the alley. There it would sit until either some passers-by welcomed it into their home, or I hauled it away. My son and his younger brother grew up playing in that alley -- whiffle ball, touch football and hide and seek. One morning this week his mother and I watched our first born as he drove up that alley and took a turn toward a new horizon.

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