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Moving Violations

How packing (and unpacking) reveals the true marital divide

Remember the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the crate containing the ark is wheeled into a giant warehouse and vanishes into a sea of other crates? Welcome to my new garage where, for all I know, a box containing underwear and dishes and labeled "old meat" will be hopelessly misplaced for the next thousand years.

Aside from losing crucial items such as the iron—which we just found, by the way, inside a picnic basket—moving provides a true teamwork experience for a husband and wife. Through a half-dozen moves over the years, Lauren and I have intensified this partnership by handling the entire process ourselves rather than paying professional movers. Also we are extreme cheapskates.

For our recent move, Lauren used an elaborate packing system, noting the contents of each box, numbering it, and attaching color-coded index cards. So, for instance, if we want to find the antique glass sandwich plates, we check the master list, go to box 54, code orange. Upon carefully opening the box and removing the estimated 300 yards of bubble wrap and newsprint, we of course find: a rubber ape mask, all of my neck ties, and a box of floppy disks from a computer we don't own anymore.

This mixup occurred because packing the sandwich plates was my job. Lauren's boxes were orderly, meticulously listed, and logically packed. Which is why she did most of the packing. I was less patient, packing things that fit well in the same box—screwdrivers and Jell-O molds, for instance.

Also, to make the move more interesting for those helping us, I tried to label a few boxes Lauren didn't see. "Wolverine Pelts" comes to mind. (Semi-related note: This also makes for great fun when helping friends move. Bring along a big Magic Marker and re-label their boxes with titles such as "Sex Toys" or "Prison Videos.")

Once everything is packed, there's the matter of transporting it. For the do-it-yourselfer with far too much junk, this involves renting a truck large enough to play football inside. Our truck was yellow in color, though you really couldn't see much yellow because of the warning signs plastered everywhere. "Wear your seatbelts." "Apply the brake to stop." "Take truck out of gear before disembarking." Apparently, most moving trucks are rented by cretins.

"Remember, you are driving a truck." This helpful sign appeared inside the cab—as if, if not for the reminder, we'd mistakenly think we were operating a pontoon boat.

My brother tells a story, though, that illustrates why maybe this sign is a good idea. His friend was helping move items out of their church, which is fronted by a low-clearance carport. The friend, driving a moving truck to a side door, gunned the engine and forgot about the carport. The only other thing you need to know is, and here I quote Emeril from the TV Food Network, "BAAAMMM!!"

Anyway, the most important piece of advice I can offer about packing a truck is: Don't let your next-door neighbor, Chris, stuff your jacket into a laundry basket and pack it 14 feet into a 24-foot truck. Particularly if that jacket contains your car keys and your wallet.

Nobody would let that happen, though, so let's move on.

There's something very spiritual about seeing everything you own being jammed onto a truck and hauled away. You realize that it's all just stuff, with no real, eternal value. (Well, except for my huge pop-can collection, which I have kept since I was 12 in hopes that one day someone will offer me, oh, 15 bucks for it.)

Moving has a way of putting life, and marriage, in perspective. After all, what's important is not where you live, or how much stuff you have. It's determining where somebody put the boxed marked "toilet paper."

Jim Killam teaches Journalism at Northern Illinois University. He, his wife, and three kids recently moved to Poplar Grove, Illinois. They still can't find the waffle iron.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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