But, he said, both our children's placentas are buried under that jacaranda tree. Pfft, I said. But, she said, this is my growing up house. Pah, I said. Staunch in the face of my husband and daughter's cheap sentimentality, I acted decisively, swiftly. It was time to move on. I had no time for mushiness. We bought, we sold. It was exciting and stressful and it was done. And then, as settlement date drew near, I lost my nerve. When I should have been filling banana boxes with books, I was scouring the shops for a pale sage green bedspread. Umm, he said, when I arrived home brandishing the perfect pair of dove grey pillowcases, you do know we have to be out of here next week? Of course, I said, turning a willfully blind eye to the cabinets crammed with my antique china collection, to the framed art on every wall. It won't take a jiffy. It's just a question of prioritising, darling. I really, really want to be able to put on fresh bed linen the first night in the new place.
It seemed an impossible task, disassembling a house lot's worth of family life, emptying what you've spent 14 painstaking years filling, and as I moved from room to room, I succumbed. To tawdry nostalgia, to the onslaught of memory. They came thick and fast: the day our puppy happily gnawed her way around the recently painted architraves, our children's ongoing, long-distance peeing competition against the lemon tree, a dozen 8-year-old girls sleeping marae-style across the living room floor. And finally, standing in my daughter's now ghostly room, the only evidence of her the light-coloured rectangles where once her horse posters and player of the day certificates had hung, I wept. This room had been nursery to both my babies, and the thought of those thousand dark nights, their greedy little mouths latching on to me, kneading at my breast with their teeny, tiny fists as I sung and shushed and prayed for sleep in the seat next to the window that looks straight into the neighbour's laundry, made my heart ache.
The movers walked through our husk of a home. By the mid-point their groans were audible. The fridge is staying, I said to reassure and because they hadn't yet seen the backyard, carpeted in fishing rods and bikes and tools and tents. The truck's not big enough, they said. We're going to have to get the biggest one. A team of us worked into the night, a human chain snaking down the driveway. At the other end I kept burly men bearing queen-sized beds waiting while I fruitlessly vacuumed and mopped floors they promptly trod mud all over. On a friend's advice I had planned to keep a handy kit of Allen keys, Stanley knives and baby wipes on me at all times but, in the panic and the flurry, everything got shoved everywhere and every time I opened my mouth it was to ask: Where the hell is that bloody…? The new house was clean and just painted but, compelled to erase all trace of anyone else, I gritted my teeth, pulled out the stove, and took to the crud with an industrial-strength de-greasing agent. At every point I was crippled by doubt. If I put the towels here, where will I put the board games? One perfectly practical row of sweet chilli, sriracha and soy, another of balsamic, red and white wine vinegars; but what's this? Arrghh, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce!
Perhaps it is only really possible to appreciate the breadth of an event once you have yourself lived through it. Weddings, childbirth and, now I see, moving: afterwards each has filled me with guilt that I didn't do more for loved ones going through it at the time; dropped off casseroles, babysat, dog-walked. Drowning in indecision, misgiving and chaos this past week, I have been consoled by your emails. After offering to provide the details of a fish oil and vitamin D supplement that had been recommended to me by a reader similarly inclined to melancholy, your yes, please's, poured forth. And in between cursing while I searched out the box which held the cutlery and cursing while I held for Spark, I replied to Colleen, to, Sarah, to David, and was oddly buoyed by the thought that you were all out there, all fighting your own battles, big and small, all doing your best just to carry on.