David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Brandon Sun, October 7, 2004 - David McConkey

I spent my summer moving. I also learned some lessons.

After 25 years in one house, my wife and I moved. We had raised our three kids on an acreage between Brandon and Souris. Now they were all grown up. Time for downsizing.

As well, this summer we helped my Mom in Winnipeg move after 54 years in the family home. Time to get out of a two- storey house into an apartment. Again, downsizing.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

1. When moving, head first to the liquor store. Not only for the obvious supplies, but also to get boxes, boxes, and more boxes. 

2. “Decluttering” is the goal. I certainly can see why “decluttering” is not only a concept, but also a roaring business as consultants help individuals bring order to their lives. The stuff creeps in, day by day and year by year. We needed to sort through it all: to figure out what to move, and to get the old house ready for sale.

Of course, our kids helped. I felt like the dad on Frasier, though, when one of the first items they singled out for removal was my favorite easy chair. “Too shabby” for the new look. But it all was worth the effort.

After the transformation, our daughter, who is a fan of those TV home make-over shows, pronounced: “We actually had a beautiful house underneath all this crap!”

3. Moving leads to reflections and questions. We can’t go through all our things without going through some thoughts. How much do our possessions really add to our enjoyment or our richness of life? How much are they just more stuff which must be maintained, moved around, and dusted (at least occasionally)?

We made the most radical change to our old house in the back porch. The back porch was the entrance to our house, and yet it had become dreary and filled with tools, paints, and the leftovers from dozens of projects from years gone by. One wall was chipped - I’d been meaning to fix it for 20 years.

After we were finished, a new space emerged: decluttered, repaired, fresh, colourful, and inviting. Which leads to the question: Why don’t we live like this all the time?

Other questions arose, as we went through piles of stuff which evoked countless memories. What is the difference between a family heirloom and a piece of junk? Will we ever find everything? Will we ever unpack all these boxes? What makes a life worth living? Why do people have to die?

4. Winnipeggers can be really friendly! Perfectly understandable that my Mom’s neighbours would come over to say good-bye and wish her well. After more than one-half century, our family was somewhat of an institution on the street.

More surprising was the reception in the new apartment block. Close to the University, it is a twelve-storey structure with hundreds of people: students, families, and seniors. Many residents, noticing that my Mom was moving in, greeted her warmly. They cheerfully told her how long they had lived there, and would say, “You’ll love it here!” Some were actually beaming.

5. Moving fosters family bonds. Amidst all the physically and psychologically exhausting work, reflections, memories, and meals eaten in strange places because the stove isn’t hooked up, family bonds become stronger. We get to know each other in whole new ways.

In Winnipeg, I had an unusual experience which brought me closer to my sister. Our old family house was empty for the first time since 1950. My sister and I were there for our last fond look. Afterwards, when puttering in the back yard. I felt a sting in my ear, and saw a bunch of wasps. Although I’d never had a reaction before, in a few minutes, my throat was tightening and choking off my supply of air.

Of course, I thanked my sister later. But really, I left her no choice – she had to rush me to the hospital. Fortunately, the medications worked, and I was able to keep breathing. With my swollen throat, though, I wasn’t able to talk. I was most frustrated in not being able to tell jokes, but my wife and sister laughed heartily at my attempts.

Before they laughed at me, though, they did wait until they were sure I was going to pull through. Which was rather nice of them.

Moving can be a moving experience – go figure.

* * * *
See also:  

Live Well, Do Good

A Year of Living Generously

Tax Time Offers Folks a Chance to Reflect

“Memoir Man” a Born Storyteller

Six Words To Describe A Life?

No Ordinary Walk in the Park

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Stories



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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