My family and I recently completed a cross-country move from the East Coast to the West, by car(s), with two teenagers, and two cats. Let me rephrase that: I drove nearly three thousand miles in a tiny Prius with, at any given time, one of my two excessively tall teenage sons and both of the family cats, one who took up a new hobby of peeing, and another who vomits so much I wonder at times if he’s bulimic.
In the week it took us to travel through this great, vast, sometimes never-ending nation, I learned a few things about moving, about families, and about my sanity that I’d like to share with you. Feel free to add to this list in the comments section—I know I’m not the first mom to move, and I won’t be the last.
1. I packed way more than I needed. I am an ultra-planner, and by composing a detailed list of every household item we might need on-hand while on the road, I made sure there was far too much shit in my suitcase, my husband’s suitcase, our sons’ suitcases, and in the two extra bins I convinced my husband we had to take with us, too. At the end of the night, when we checked into the next run-down motel, blurry eyed and constipated from hours of sitting, the last thing I wanted to do was go through all the excess just to find a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a Xanax.
2. There is no such thing as eating healthy on the road. We tried. We really did. But driving through the Midwest offers some unique challenges; one of them being access to healthy food at late hours. Convenience stores and fast food chains became like repeated one-night-stands; dirty, shameful and somehow satisfying. At some point, I accepted my fate, and my waistline, and just enjoyed the extra calories. Somehow, the moving fairy waved her sparkly wand over each of us, because no one gained a single pound after seven days of super-sizing our meal deals.
3. Privacy is a luxury, not a right. Yes, I want to be alone when I get out of the shower so I can towel down and cool off, but when four people are sharing a single motel room, it’s not fair to kick everyone out in the morning cold so I can walk around naked for five minutes. I want to be fair, and I want to keep my sanity, so I took cooler showers than normal and made everyone turn around for five minutes while I dried myself. I also realized that women in nomadic tribes have no idea what “me-time” is and somewhere buried in my DNA is a cave woman who never knew about showering to begin with.
4. Moving families have short memories. That time I had loud digestive issues? My husband’s minor accident backing into another vehicle? The afternoon when my right front tire blew? My son gagging every time our cat used the litter box in our back seat? We barely remember those moments. They sucked, they seemed to ruin the entire day when they happened, and now, they’re just funny-ish memories for me and I’m pretty sure they’re totally forgotten by the rest of my crew. The old adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” is really true. Don’t even sweat the big stuff. It happens. We don’t just get over it, we forget about it.
There were so many other light bulb moments I had on the road. I was scared I couldn’t do the drive with my car across country, but I did. I expected the worst, hoped for the best, and found everything landed somewhere in between those two extremes. I realized how adaptable kids are, and how my cats, who seemed to swear revenge on us while on the road, seemed to have adjusted nicely to our new life in California. Everything managed to work out, even when I was sure it wouldn’t. Life is like that, right? No matter what you have in front of you, at the end of the road you get to where you’re going and you find a way to be happy. At least that’s what we did.
To all the families who moved this summer, who are about to move, and who have moved in the past, here’s to you. And by the way, if you happen to go through a Border Patrol check point while you’re on the road, word to the wise: don’t joke about having sixteen immigrants hiding in your husband’s covered truck bed. Apparently humor isn’t always appreciated.