"We go to Staples today, Mommy?”
“Ooooh. We need more bubble wrap, Mommy?”
“Yes. And boxes.”
We are moving in two days and Minnow has come to expect daily runs to the office supply chain because I continue to underestimate the quantity of packing materials this move requires. The thing is, packing materials are unconscionably expensive, so I've been supplementing our dwindling supply by poking around our building’s recycling bin at night, searching for discarded Amazon and Soap boxes. As I pack, I label each box with a number, which coordinates with a master list I’ve created that itemizes the contents of each box. So far we have thirty boxes. It’s still not enough.
And bubble wrap- there’s never enough bubble wrap! My awareness that the movers will have to carry our belongings down four flights of stairs has caused me sleep-impairing nightmares of busted books, shattered platters, and splintered frames. I am particularly concerned about a decoupage glass tray of an essay on Central Park written by a schoolchild in the 1850s. It- and everything else-is getting a double layer of bubble wrap.
The night before the move, my husband and I tackle the final packing task: The kitchen. I foolishly believe that it will take two people approximately two hours to clear the cabinets. Three hours later, we are carefully swathing glassware in tissue because we’ve used up all the bubble wrap. My eyelids are drooping.
“I’m quitting at midnight,” I say, adhering to my old law school policy that you can always catch up in the morning.
“No way,” my husband replies. “We’re not quitting until the job’s done.”
Unfortunately- and predictably- the boxes soon run out. We haven’t even packed the pots and pans. My husband is exasperated.
“Why didn’t you buy more boxes?”
“Why didn’t you buy enough?”
“Because they’re four dollars a box!”
Happily, the Home Depot in Yonkers opens at 6 a.m. My husband will be there when they unlock the doors.
The movers descend at 9 a.m. sharp and immediately begin hoisting boxes I’ve boldly labeled “FRAGILE!” like Nerf balls under their arms. There’s five of them- giant, hulking figures- and they’re in every room, touching my stuff. A familiar ball of panic forms in my chest. I’d do this job myself if I weren’t pregnant. Feeling helpless, I pace the apartment with a broom, collecting debris destined to be redistributed each time one of the Goliaths plods by. “Why don’t you go get some coffee,” my husband suggests.
Going into town is good for me. Although it took me some time to adjust to life in Bronxville, the truth is I quite like it here. Bronxville is a picturesque village, one-square-mile in area, with a town center consisting of Tudor-style storefronts arranged in inviting rows. My favorite of these is Slave to the Grind, which has replaced Starbucks as my go-to coffee stop. I order my usual vanilla skim chai and linger for longer than what is necessary to finish it.
When I return, the movers have cleared all the boxes from the apartment and are working on the furniture. One of them attempts to move a solid wood bookcase unassisted and hits the top of the doorway on his way out. He collides with the stucco walls and plaster ceiling in the hall so many times, I’m convinced it’s intentional. My husband runs after him.
“What are you doing?” he shouts, sweeping up flakes of fallen plaster with his hands so that our management company won’t notice. “Furniture is a two-man job!”
The bookcase suffers a deep gash on its side, for which the moving company will meagerly reimburse us.
Conditions do not improve at the storage facility. The act of moving is inherently stressful, but moving into a storage unit, rather than a new residence, is more than I can really tolerate. My husband and I decide to split up. I will stand on the loading dock as our belongings are unloaded from the truck; he will supervise the relocation of furniture and boxes into the unit.
As the men start to unpack the truck, I notice that one of the boxes- Box #5- has collapsed under the weight of the items stacked on top of it. I frantically pull out the master list from my purse and reference the contents of Box #5. Naturally, it’s the box with the Central Park tray inside. Instead of acknowledging the busted box, the movers gingerly step around it as they unload other items from the truck.
“Excuse me,” I squeak. “Could I please see that box?”
The men ignore me, so I step closer to the truck and try again.
“Excuse me, may I please see that box?”
“Uh, the broken one,” I say, pointing to the one sagging like a pair of gangsta jeans.
“What you got in there?”
“Books, mostly. Some photo albums. A few fragile items on top.”
“Well that ain’t a box you use for books,” the mover replies defensively.
“Sorry,” I reply. “The boxes weren’t labeled at Staples.”
I text my husband from the loading dock and ask if we can trade places. He texts back, “Trust me, you don’t want to be up here. It's harrowing.” Intrigued, I take the elevator to our unit on the second floor.
A live episode of “Hoarders” is playing out in front of the unit assigned to us. When my husband went up to open it, he discovered that it was filled with someone else’s stuff. The squatters, who rent the unit across from us, had been illicitly using our unit to store their excess junk, rather than upgrade to a larger unit. Now they are standing in the space between our unit and theirs, sorting through boxes of old photos, records, and books. There is a sofa, a table, several chairs, and a large stone planter for which they still need to find room in their insufficient unit.
I’d be concerned for the squatters' situation if I weren’t distracted by our own. Watching the movers pile our possession into a 10x13 container is like witnessing a precarious game of Tetris. There is no logic to their method of stacking bags of bedding atop boxes of books atop mirrors atop toy tables. I am reminded of one of Minnow’s favorite Dr. Seuss books, “Fox on Socks:”
And here’s a new trick, Mr. Knox,
Socks on chicks and chicks on fox,
Fox on clocks on bricks and blocks,
Bricks and blocks on Knox on box.
As I take the elevator back to the loading dock, I hear Minnow’s little voice echo in my head:
“We need more bubble wrap, Mommy?”
God, I hope not.