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In My Own words

Moving Mania

Katherine R. Au

I recently moved again. I say again because this is about my 23rd move in the last 14 years , and this is the 21st move my dog Harry has made with me. I've moved three times in just the last year and a half. It was during this last move that I realized just how well practiced I am at moving - I think there would be something a bit wrong with me if I weren't well practiced by now.

With each move the ultimate goal is to pack everything that is mine from the place I'm leaving and get it to the place I'm moving to. Of course, the easiest process to get the stuff out is to pack it in a somewhat organized way, labeled in boxes or put in bags. I made a move once where that wasn't the process, and I have to say it didn't go so well. When I got to my new place I realized I had left behind much more than I had intended to. Part of the problem could have been that I decided I needed to move within 24 hours and even though I knew I was leaving much of my furniture during the process I left more than that. This last move was also fairly quickly decided upon - within two weeks I had decided to move, had packed, and made the move. But, this time I managed to get everything out and to my new place, mainly thanks to the gracious help of friends and family.

All but two of my moves were my own choice. Once I came home from work to a studio off a garage in Corralitos, CA, and saw a big red piece of paper on my door informing me that if I was caught living inside I would face a fine of $10,000. I didn't have $10,000 handy, a second residence to fall back on, or family living nearby; so, I thought right away that I was homeless. Luckily for me, I did own a car so I figured at least Harry and I would have some shelter. And, adding to my lucky streak that day, the first few calls that I made were answered. Within an hour I had a place to stay and learned the reason that I was coming home to a red tag on my door.

A friend gave Harry and me shelter at her home, and my landlords told me the story of an argument with a neighbor, who then complained to the authorities. This neighbor was the only one who knew the area was zoned only for commercial use. Sadly, the next place burned down one Saturday morning while Harry and I were out at the beach - what was to be a day off work became a working day in a new way. Apparently a candle was left burning upstairs in my landlord's son's bedroom and when we came home we came home to a home condemned.

The upstairs was still smoldering when we arrived and our room had about 2 inches of water on the floor. Water was still running down the walls and dripping from the ceiling when I put what clothes I could salvage into trash bags to take to a laundromat. Luckily, again, I was spared from being homeless and had a place to spend that night and the nights thereafter until I found new housing. I often think how different my life might be today if I hadn't been taken in by those who opened their homes to me when Harry and I needed a place to stay.

Moving so many times means I have lived in many different places and many different structures. I have lived in two trailers for a total of about a year: one trailer in Albuquerque, NM, and the other in was in El Cajon, CA. One was 34 feet and the other was 28, both were Airstreams, and each provided wonderful housing at wonderful places. I've also lived in little cottages, condominiums, a townhouse, and houses on farms. I've lived in various apartment buildings - one of which was across from the Ott House in Emmitsburg.

That apartment didn't have level floors and every weekend a loud large truck roared by when the bar closed. I've lived in a room above a barn where I fell asleep each night to horses chewing hay and a room next to a kennel housing a pack of a hounds. There I woke up most every morning to the huntsman shouting at the hounds starting to fight over their breakfast. I also have lived on an island in South Carolina where I could walk on the beach for hours most days without seeing another person.

The house I most recently moved from was originally built in the late 1700's where a couple of rooms were still original. The house didn't have an electrical setup to support a microwave and if it rained with any wind blowing the rain came through the guest bedroom windows. It also didn't have a shower, only a claw-foot bathtub and a pedestal sink - I never thought I would say the words, "I miss having a shower," but I have. And, when I moved in that house the only heat source were two wood stoves. I had a kind of romantic notion that hauling in wood for heat would be charming - the house truly was charming, but hauling in five loads of wood daily during the winter was not. The cottage I now live in requires no hauling wood for heat, has a shower, has insulated windows and walls, and can support a microwave - it's like living a whole new life. So, for the sake of not taking up all the space under the section marked "A" in my friend's and family's address books I have every intention of staying here a while, although I've said that before.

Read other articles by Katherine R. Au