Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Nov 24, 2009

Moving Your Family Cross-Country

The Eastward Expansion
Instructor, Molly Beck Ferguson, singer/actress

Who says you can never go home again? After 11 years of living in Los Angeles, my husband (who is also a native New Englander) and I decided to pack it up and head back home to Massachusetts. I can’t tell you how many locals have looked at us like we are crazy and said, “Move here! Why? To this weather?” (Or more accurately, “Ta this weatha?”)

Aside from the fact that California is broke, hot, and LA was on fire all summer, we also have a 2 & 1/2 year old daughter.  We were afraid that she might grow up to be like Lindsay Lohan if we raised her there. We wanted seasons, a back yard, to be close to family…and to have the kind of upbringing that WE had.

It’s all about the little things. I never saw a school bus in the entire 11 years I lived in LA. How can she learn bad language from other kids on the school bus the way she’s supposed to, if we have to drive her to school every day?

When I read about the pioneers who traveled for months across the plains in search of a better life out west, I have to admire them. Many didn’t survive the journey. They had it really rough. Well, maybe they did…but they also didn’t have to deal with garage sales, moving companies, the TSA, cable companies, or banks that don’t tell you that since 9/11, all wired money transfers are stopped midway for an undeterminable amount of time until approved by the federal government. So sure, some of them keeled over from smallpox…but they didn’t have to get two freaked-out cats and a rambunctious toddler through security and onto a red-eye flight, did they? No sir.

In hindsight, I wish that we could have thrown more money at this situation to make the transition smoother for us – like to pay movers, babysitters and magical elves who pack your stuff in the night. But we just couldn’t quite make that happen, so we ended up doing almost everything ourselves, with the help of a few wonderful friends who lent a hand. It was a Herculean effort. With a capital H. It was 104 degrees in LA the weekend we had to load up our moving truck. Our TV weighed about 4000 lbs, and kept slipping out of my sweaty palms when moving it to the garage to sell for the garage sale. I’m completely shocked that my husband and I are still married after moving that thing. There were many times during this 2-month long intense process that I’m sure my husband and I were each secretly plotting to kill the other one in our sleep, simply due to extreme duress and irritation.

I do think that we did a few things right. We sold almost all of our furniture and appliances in California, and decided to re-buy stuff here. We probably spent a little more money this way, but it would have been a small fortune to haul a free hand-me-down bookshelf that someone gave to us 7 years ago across the country. So why not purge and start all over again? Purging is good. It’s therapeutic. And really, who needs all that crap in your garage, anyway?

We also shipped our cars with a reputable, bonded company equipped with an online tracking system. I heard so many horror stories from people who shipped cars, and I have to say the day we took them to be put on the cage to be shipped, I thought I’d never see them again. But everything went smoothly…and they arrived on time and in pristine condition - there wasn’t even a dead bug on the windshield when they arrived in MA.

Our most brilliant purchase for the move was the monkey backpack-leash for my toddler. Best $13.99 at The Right Start I ever spent. Yes, I feel your judgmental eyes reading this. A LEASH!?! For a kid??  I thought that way once too. My daughter is a  RUNNER. And when we knew we were going to fly with her, our 2 cats AND all of our luggage, we knew that there was no way to wrangle her and everything else.

While my husband was dealing with the TSA and all the hairy logistics of getting our cats checked in to cargo, I was running up and down the airport with her on her leash. My eyes didn’t meet the glares from fellow travelers who clearly didn’t think it was right to tether your child…because I knew that I was doing them a big favor. You see, by wearing down my border collie of a child and letting her burn off her extra energy, once she boarded the plane, she pretty much slept the entire flight. Oh, you’re welcome, red-eye travelers of American Airlines. Hope you had a good night’s sleep.

We’re also adjusting to a smaller town mindset, since there isn’t the anonymity of living in a city any longer. I see the same people every day on my errands, which is something I’m not quite used to. I realized that I can’t be irritable with store clerks, postal workers or bank tellers if the customer service doesn’t meet my satisfaction that particular day…because now they are my only go-to people, and I’ll be known in the community as “THAT lady.” But it definitely has its perks too. I was stunned when a woman in line ahead of me at the store turned around and offered me a coupon for 20% off my purchase, since she had an extra one. Uh…who does that!?! A person could get used to that…

Now that we’ve been here for almost 2 months, I know that despite having the “OHMYGODWHATTHEFRACKDIDWEJUSTDO!?!” moments that bubble up from time to time, this was the right decision for us. It was difficult, expensive, scary, exhausting, and frustrating.
One day back in early October, when I was at my wits end from unpacking and moving heavy furniture – thinking I couldn’t do it anymore without cracking up, my husband came into our kitchen and handed me a single red maple leaf, newly fallen, as a New England reward for all of our hard work. It couldn’t have been any more beautiful to me at that moment than if he had brought me an armload of roses. It’s still taped to our fridge, a reminder of why it was all worth it.
It even made up for moving that stupid TV.

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