ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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My Cardboard Wardrobe

Our family life seems to be dominated by moving house at the moment. Even though the event itself doesn’t happen for another six weeks we’re already in full swing: sending stuff to charity shops, having furniture collections and piling items on eBay. And even though we are getting rid of this stuff on a daily basis, our house doesn’t really seem to be any emptier.

We moved into our current house about six years ago and, because we moved two houses worth of stuff into one, it has never been empty. In fact our car has never seen the inside of the garage because the garage has always been packed with furniture and unopened boxes.

So, over the last couple of months, we have made a really effort to identify and pass on things that can hopefully be used by other people. This often hasn’t been an easy thing to do because we seem to get so attached to our belongings, or hoard them just in case we might need them in the future. And yet the fact that we have boxes unopened from when we moved in speaks volumes about how much we actually need.

So we have said goodbye to many boxes of books, bags of clothes, cases of kitchenware and at least a van load of furniture; much of which we’ve had for years. I’ve even said goodbye to the wardrobe that was my parents when I was growing up, and has subsequently accompanied me on every one of my house moves (the new house has built in wardrobes). It has been replaced, in the short term, by a cardboard wardrobe supplied by our removal company. Sure it’s nothing special to look at but it does the job.

I notice this too with the boys. They become extremely attached to items very quickly, and usually quite unpredictably; Jake has currently forsaken all his soft toys in favour of a stuffed caterpillar (who he has now named ‘Mr Bendybus’) that has sat untouched in his room for at least two years; and Sam often takes DVD cases to bed with him, and places them in a crenelated fashion around the edge of his cot. As with most children, what they most desire at any one particular time is what the other one has and so Karen and I are always having to act as referee as another conflict breaks out over a Lightning McQueen Lego car, or a Thomas train. Like the rest of us children rely on things to make them feel comfortable, to attach memories to, and help them to find their own identities.

We all put values on items then, often something that has no bearing to what they actually cost in monetary terms and, like with shares, the sentimental value of them can go up as well as down; which is why I was able to finally get rid of so much of the stuff that I’d been hanging on to since my student days, including most of my academic books.

So for me part of moving house is also about moving on in other ways too, I can let go of many things, and grow attached to new things too. Although I don’t think I’ll be hanging on to my cardboard wardrobe.

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Road Trip

I’ve been away this week, hence the absence of blog posts (no internet connection – I know how did I cope?). I’ve been with the family up at my late Father’s house sorting furniture for our own house move next month (and more on this at a later date). This required that I hire a van to bring the stuff back.

I love driving vans, there’s something about being higher up than most other road users that I find quite compelling: you can see more of the world around you, and you get a better view of the traffic. This was not the case on the way there, however, as I drove through a huge thunderstorm coming over the Pennine Hills, but I was certainly glad to have the van as most car drivers had to stop, so fierce was the weather.

The journey back was a much more sedate affair and I really enjoyed driving along with Jake in the cab beside me. He was very excited to be there and on the way we had a few chats about a drawing of a pirate ship that I’d done for him earlier in the day (I needed to add a plank), and about what he was going to do when he got home (get his kite out), before he drifted off to sleep.

As my mind wandered a little I began to think about the reason I enjoy these road trips so much. When I was a boy my Dad had a job as a lorry driver, delivering oil and petrol around the North West of England and North Wales. Every now and again during the school holidays he would take me out in the lorry delivering to great places such as airports, factories, hospitals and hotels. These places also seemed huge and endlessly fascinating to an eight year old, especially as I got to see the parts of them that most people didn’t get to see: the boiler rooms, loading bays, and control towers. I thought that my Dad had the best job in the world.

But it was not the destinations that stayed in my mind the most, nor the great views over the hedgerows, not even the brilliant lorries that he used to drive (and I can close my eyes and still see the inside of many of the cabs). Rather it was the little adventures and encounters we had on the way, at transport cafes, with employees at the places he delivered to, and when we occasionally broke down – we once brought an entire town to a standstill. It was a glimpse into a completely different world, my Dad’s world, a grown up world, a world that seemed so alien and far away.

So I completely understood why Jake was so excited to come into the van with me today, and I hope that (before he went to sleep) he has taken some memories that will stay with him for many years to come. Let’s hope that there are many more trips that he and Sam will take with us that will leave their indelible mark on them, and help them to get to know more about the world around them.