When it comes to moving, I would say I am an expert. In my life, I have moved seventeen times. Sure, it may not sound like a lot, but I am not even an adult. I have moved nearly every single year since my ninth birthday (and multiple times in some of those years). My moving was not due to military parents; instead, it was because of financial hardships.
My parents divorced whenever I was three years old, so I was used to traveling between their houses and using my backpack as a clothes bag on weekends. I primarily “lived” with my mother. I say “lived” because she was busy trying to juggle three jobs while being a single parent to two kids. That was how life was; she worked nearly all hours of the day while my brother and I took everything she had. We were not good children and I don’t know how she survived it, but I am thankful for everything she has done for us.
After my parent’s divorce, my mother took us to live in Wichita, Kansas. She hoped to find a stable career and get away from her family for a while so she could recover from everything. I cannot say I remember anything during this time because of my young age, but I remember negative feelings and how stressed she and my brother were. Fortunately, this only lasted a year before she caved and we moved to a small apartment duplex in Parsons, Kansas.
In Parsons is where nearly all of my moves have been. We lived in the apartments until I was around eight years old, which will make its mark for the longest I have ever lived in one building. The apartment was decent sized; it consisted of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room, and a small, fenced-in backyard. We started to accumulate stuff over the years and my mother’s boyfriend at the time was no help since he seemed to hoard everything. Our plethora of stuff was evident whenever we were forced to move and we did not have enough boxes to fix it all. However, a few of our boxes went “missing” under our neighbor’s supervision, so that was less stuff we had to worry about unpacking.
The next few houses went by quickly. They were all pretty much the same, the only difference was the address and the color. All of them were just scattered about the town. We would stay long enough to bond with our neighbors, learn about the house, and unpack. In our sixth house, we learned not to unpack everything. We kept things we didn’t use in boxes and would leave boxes lying around for the stuff we rarely used. Moving had become the norm. When we would announce to someone that we moved, they would just ask, “Where to now?” Hopelessly, I stopped unpacking my stuff, kept my clothes in boxes, and slept on unmade beds and couches. I believe one of the shortest periods of time we spent in a house was about two weeks. We had nothing but beds moved in because we were painting the hideous, stained walls. After spending more money than we could manage to spare trying to fix the house, paint the walls, and repair the holes, the landlord complimented our work then kicked us out as if we were mere workers for him. We had to stay at a family friend’s house until we could find another property. A family shouldn’t have to live like this, but we all have to make sacrifices.
The house I moved to two years ago had a giant impact on my life. Instead of moving to yet another house in Parsons, my mother and her fiance made a split second decision to relocate to a little town called Beloit, Kansas. Not only was I being uprooted from my friends and family, but I also had to change schools halfway through my sophomore year. The shift was not easy. I was alone. I had no friends I could stay with or run to. We had no furniture I could lay on. I slept on a twin-sized mattress on the floor. The only vehicle we had would only start half of the time. We could not even bring all of our stuff because it was a four-hour drive between the two towns, our truck could not fit everything, and moving trucks were too expensive. We were trapped without our stuff in a town we did not know.
A few weeks later, we had a new vehicle and knew the town, but I was still alone. My mother was too busy working again to spend much time with me and my brother had moved out to start his own life. I was the new, weird kid who didn’t talk and I’m sure I smelled like cardboard. Sophomore year ended and junior year began without us moving again and I naively thought that maybe we had found the perfect home. Everything was unpacked and we were happy, or so it seemed. For no reason, we moved again. This time to Glasco, Kansas. This house was large and beautiful. We did not have to clean or fix it at all. The soft carpet was stainless and did not smell like 30-year old stale cigarettes. It was paradise, but it was temporary. After a few short months of freedom, we were forced to move yet again. This last house is the one I am currently living in. It’s small, cold, smelly, unpleasant to look at, distanced from everything, and all around horrendous. People dream of living in cozy, old farmhouses until they actually live in one. I would have to say that I am actually looking forward to house number eighteen, and, hopefully, I will be able to finally rid myself of the boxes that have trapped my items and emotions for years.
With each house came a new story, job, and goal. In most of the houses, the goal was to pay the bills on time and make it past the cold seasons with a heated house; other times it was that we could actually unpack and live rather than scavenge and search for our stuff. There were no great job opportunities in Parsons, so Mom had a tendency to move jobs as often as we did houses. The random jobs were not enough to keep us mentally or physically healthy, but we had to live somehow. Each story was an adventure to me; the houses had an acre or two of woods surrounding it or new neighbors around my age that I could befriend and go on wild journeys across town with, but the stories always ended in cardboard boxes at a new house.