The Family You Choose

25 04 2016

helping you move house

I spent the weekend in Connecticut helping some friends move. Seems like a long way to go, about two and a half hours’ drive. But it was well worth it. I didn’t mind the road trip. Had a good audio book to listen to. And I was going to down to help out some folks who had been good to me. And something very bad had happened to them.

Matt and Tiffany’s daughter Olivia is two. She has the most beautiful smile. You can see the emerging personality, bright and bubbling with a puckish wit. At a recent check-up, she showed a sharply elevated lead count in her blood. If you are a parent, you know what terrifying news that is. You can imagine the parental guilt, even though they could not have known. And then the nightmare that followed, needing to get out of the rental, thinking they had a place to go, only to have it fall through. Chaos.

They faced having to find temporary quarters for half a house’s worth of stuff, plus a place to live. And moving all their belongings in two weeks. The network went into action. A friend posted on Facebook that there was going to be a moving party that weekend, and anybody who could help should come. My impulse was sure, I can do this. No big plans for the weekend. And this was shit that shouldn’t happen to good people.

I swapped shifts with my boss (another good person to whom bad things have recently happened) and hit the road Saturday. When I got there the place as hopping with folks packing and hauling. I recognized some of them from conventions we’d been to. The Geek Squad. Others I’d never met. I jumped right in, figuring out what to do, and spent the day hauling and boxing, playing Tetris. It’s funny how that has become a universally understood verb in the language: “I can fit more into the car if I just do some tetrising” or “Wait a minute, I’ve got to retetris these boxes” or “Do you think you can tetris these bowls in with those mugs?”

At the end of the day we dispersed, most folks going home. We’d accomplished a lot, gotten a box truck full of stuff to the storage unit and got it all packed in. But there was more to be done, and more folks coming again tomorrow. We went to Tiffany’s mother’s house to crash. That’s where they are staying, packed in with their essentials, house plants, and Olivia. Tiffany’s mom, Liz, was already accommodating them, and puzzled over where I could sleep. No problem, I’d brought my sleeping bag and air mattress. All I needed was a few square feet of floor. We figured it out.

In the midst of all this upset, we joked, laughed, gossiped, and play with Olivia. They clucked in sympathy over my domestic woes, and Liz told me a bit about her own marital dramas. She’d been separated for six years and still wasn’t divorced. At sixty-five she supports herself with a collection of odd jobs including landscaping. Her back yard is lovely. In the morning, I arose before everyone else and went out to admire the grounds in the golden slanting sunlight.

Then it was shower, get dressed, chug a cup of coffee while the others got going, and then off for another day of sorting and packing. More folks showed up. It was now cleaning out closets and figuring out what could be stored and what would have to be thrown out because there just wasn’t a place for it. I would have been sitting on the floor weeping at this point. But they both kept going, doggedly pushing through. A box o’joe and assortment of Dunkin’ Donuts sat on the stove. We followed orders and worked. A very confused and annoyed chinchilla watched from its cage in the corner. Someone was supposed to come pick it up that afternoon. Chinchillas are nocturnal and we were disrupting its beauty sleep. Whenever someone passed by the cage it looked up with half-closed eyes and a an expression of WTF.

Mid-afternoon, we had done the lion’s share. There was still stuff to do, but it could be dealt with in the days remaining by Matt and Tiffany. The great moving party was winding down. Matt thanked us for coming with heartfelt sincerity. The fellow next to me said, “We’re family. We stick together.” He was no blood relation to any of us. He was talking about the tight-knit crew I am privileged to be a part of.

Friends are the family you choose.

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3 responses

25 04 2016
Mary Jolles

What a positive experience for not only you, but Tiffany and Matt! It feels good to be surrounded by people who care when disaster strikes. Unfortunately shit does happen, and it happens to nice people as well as jerks. Friends take the sting away by being there. No finger-pointing, no “it’s not my responsibility,” no “That’s your problem.” Just “What can I do to help?”

28 04 2016
justinegraykin

When I was looking for an appropriate image to go with this, my searches kept turning up these mean-spirited memes with snarky messages, like, “I don’t always help my friends move, but when I do I complain so much that they never ask me again,” and “I’d love to help you move by staying completely out of your way,” and “I’d rather make new friends than help you move,” and “I can’t wait to miss your moving day.” Evidently it’s cool to be a jerk.

Don’t these people realize that someday they are going to need help? And what right will they have to ask for it?

29 04 2016
Mary Jolles

We’re living in a period of time when volunteerism is very low, and people believe their time is so important and valuable that they don’t want to share it with anyone.

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