Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I've begun packing my part of the Charleston apartment--preparation for the first of three moves that will take place over the course of the next year. This one isn't quite as major as the two to follow (moving across town as opposed to the cross-country then cross-? that will happen in December and April) yet I still find myself attacking it as my family has any of our many moves: carefully stored boxes are whipped back in shape with a little packing tape and items are stacked neatly inside with the precision of one whose packing tutelage took place under the watchful eye of a retired submariner. Five boxes of books later, there are still enough on my shelves to fill at least two more--another Egolf trait that I've discovered is latent in my husband as well (Uncle Sam's gonna love paying for our moves!).

I'm quite certain by this time that my roomates think I'm nuts. I don't move for another three weeks, yet I feel like I should've started a month ago. I like to face the week of a move with boxes packed, most of the cleaning done and only a few odds and ends to throw in the car. The strange thing is, I like packing. I like moving. I'm one of those freak-of-nature military brats that made it out of her childhood actually enjoying the life of being uprooted every two-three years for a fresh start (a good thing too, since the next fifteen years or so are going to follow suit). I love the process of weeding out, throwing away and streamlining. It satisfies the stifled type-A side of me that is only allowed out to plan weddings in a week, survive nursing school and, well, organize a cardboard box full of books so that only two square centimeters of space remain inside. I also relish the fresh canvas a new house or apartment presents where I can arrange the old into a vivacious new.

Packing cannot occur without the inevitable wave of nostalgia that comes with handling each possession individually. Even the boxes, already marked up from two moves evoke memories of the nearly disentegrated Allied movers' boxes that somehow survived my childhood. Scrawled across them in red and black are contents, destinations, rooms and instructions-an unlikely family record of sorts.

I can trace the annals of my life through the worn bindings of color-arranged books. Egypt, Gods of Egypt, Archaeology in the Middle East: Jr. High and High School when Zahi Hawass was the man and I wanted nothing more than to dig up old things and meticulously catalog them. The Koran, The Bible and the Qu'ran, Turkish for Beginners: High School and college when I lived and breathed the Middle East and sought out any way possible to get there. Romanticism, Human Anatomy for the Artist: my first undergrad degree. Blue Like Jazz, The Barbarian Way: the first time I questioned my faith. Virus Hunter, DNA: when Nursing appeared on the horizon as a viable career option. A small motivational book for students: a gift from a terminal cancer patient's husband just before she died. In the Land of Invisible Women, A Book for Midwives: third semester of nursing school. I Love a Man in Uniform: my beautiful unconventional marriage.

Next to go in the boxes was a shelf full of twenty plus pieces of pottery, mostly mugs, with a few vases thrown in. Every one has a voice, a laugh, a memory. Two orange and green glazed mugs remain from a set of six that I commissioned Dan Marinelli to make my freshman year. The other four became gifts for a gentleman that took a package to some friends in Israel for me. Two tall, gangly mugs textured by clay covered fingers take me back to the ceramics room where they were formed: Tim Pike on one side of me, Dave Siglin's sister on the other and a lot of insults, teasing and slurry being flung in between. Kammer's oversized mug and delicate vase are inscribed with peculiar faces that resemble a collision of the Muppet's hecklers and Keith Richards--day after day they sit on my shelf staring at me with the same deadpanned humor that their creator probably had on his face when he scratched them into the clay.

Once the knick-knacks and books are packed away, the difficult job of wading through piles of uncategorizable stuff commences. A pile of scarves, swag from college that somehow survived the last move's purge, an assortment of textiles from various forein countries and several bags from Bolivia, Turkey and the Army-Navy store. The latter was the source of my all time favorite messenger bag--a brown canvas number I snagged for seven bucks back in 2004. Sewn on the front was the Turkiye patch I picked up later that year and fastened next to it was a tiny button that stated "Save the Dalit!". Awash with memories again, I made the excrutiating decision to let the bag go as its inside pockets were shredded and it hadn't been used for the better part of two years. I grabbed a set of suture scissors and went to work salvaging the patch from the front flap. As I ripped the last of the threads out and lifted the patch, I discovered the original marking on the bag that I had forgotten about completely: a red cross on a field of white: the very symbol that my nurse sisters tirelessly served under in the late 1800s and one that embodies everything I'm currently studying to do. The irony of the situation struck me hard: when I'd bought the bag, I remember searching to the bottom of the pile for one with no markings but settled for this one when I couldn't find another, knowing I could just sew the patch over the decal. I had no idea that five years later, the dreams of kilims and kofta would be overshadowed by stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers.
The bag survived the purge.

There are, of course, aspects to moving that will never be pleasant, especially when the event occurs in the middle of a Charleston summer, but these are rather inconsequential. This particular move is especially exciting since it marks only six more months of nursing school and living three time zones away from my husband. At this point, only God knows what will be scribbled across my boxes in ten years, but I plan on enjoying every second of finding out.