Moving house and country is outside the normal sphere of events and requires a certain constellation of people to effect a departure.
The final weeks are stuffed with gatherings of friends and family which in turn are stuffed with photos and presents and special meals and trying to make the most of every moment while dealing with matters from that other space one occupies – the tiny intersection between life in one country and life in another. I feel like I’m in a Diana Wynne-Jones novel where the worlds have overlapped for a brief period and I’m briefly occupying that transparent sliver before the worlds move apart again and I find that I have slid off with the new one.
And then there’s something else entirely.
On the last day of packing up the house, I walked down the stairs and saw only geometrically regular shapes. All those household objects silenced in plain boxes and white bubble wrap. There was no chatter of ornaments, no chunks of colour on the children’s book shelves, no light dancing in the sherry decanter. The couch’s siren call was muffled beneath shiny white. Perhaps it was this finality and silence, this almost-ghostliness that allowed me to see the removalists for what they are: undertakers.
They come respectfully at one of life’s endings. They work efficiently and neatly to clear away what has been. I think of other little deaths and departures – from orgasm and the grand mal and petit mal of epilepsy, to life junctures like going to school, leaving home or having children do so, losing a job, getting a divorce.
The people with us then are the undertakers of our lives. All of us, knowingly and unknowingly, are the witness and assistant in another’s endings.