Cardboard Boxes Photo of boxes.

Kristin K. Fouquet
© Copyright 2001 by Kristin K. Fouquet

1 bd, 1 ba apt. In Victorian house. C a/h, w/d, d/w, call...

It was this ad in the real estate section of the newspaper that prompted us to pack our bags last November. This proved to be the sixth move my husband and I have made together in the five years that we have been one. This may seem excessive to the sane of mind but in actuality this statistic is nothing compared to what I've accomplished on my own. Prior to meeting my husband, I had moved eighteen times. Next month I celebrate my thirty-first birthday and moved out of my parents' home when I was seventeen, which adds to the realization that I've moved twenty-four times in fourteen years. Excessive, indeed.

Apparently, residential consistency tends to be a trait of stability. There's usually a question about it on all the standard forms: employment, academic, rental, insurance, etc... When faced with a request such as "State your residence for the last five years," I find myself relaying street names aloud, counting on my fingers, and trying to remember zip codes and phone numbers. Also, that change-of-address form at the post office completely confounds me. It has a box to check off if this is a temporary residence. I find myself thinking about relativity. Define temporary; everything is temporary. Moving is a pesky vice.

My parents were a stable folk, living in the same residence for all my years at home and longer. I can't blame them for my passionate yearning for a new and improved floor plan. Not being my parents' natural born child, my father would often try to explain my apparent wanderlust by suggesting that I must have some gypsy blood coursing through my veins. My mother would propose that my father buy me a warehouse so that I could move from floor to floor when the urge would strike. Regrettably, this did not happen.

Well, put up to gypsy standards, I really haven't traveled too far. I consider myself a livelong resident of New Orleans because I've lived here all my life except for three months. The three-month stint was in Memphis and even though I did hang all of my hats there, I continue to think of the experience more as a vacation. So, that leaves us with twenty-three apartments in New Orleans. I've enjoyed most of my temporary residences along with what each neighborhood had to offer.

I loved the historic aspect and prettiness of my apartment in Algiers Point and reaped the benefits of the economical house in which I resided in the newer section of Algiers. The lovely City Park area of Mid-City is quite delightful; I've had four apartments there. A sense of security was comforting in my seven apartments in the residential section of the city called Lakeview and the quiet was appreciated in my house in Gentilly. My exciting French Quarter years will never be forgotten; I enjoyed three different apartments in that community. My first apartment was in the Marigny, an eclectic neighborhood right outside of the French Quarter. But it is the oak-lined streets and genteel beauty of Uptown that attracts me still; I am currently in my fifth dwelling in this section of New Orleans.

Each of these apartments has tempted me with some architectural feature that caused me to think that my present conditions were slum-like in nature. Each had their own exterior appeal, as well; the promise of a balcony, courtyard, screened-in porch, large backyard, or swimming pool could have me folding and taping cardboard boxes within seconds. Equally tempting are those interior amenities: cathedral ceilings, wooden floors, crystal chandeliers, intricate plaster ceiling medallions, clawfoot bathtubs, coal- burning fireplaces with wooden mantels, stained glass windows... did I mention clawfoot bathtubs? I've always wanted an apartment with a dumb waiter; I guess there's still time. There have been many motives for moves: better neighborhood, cheaper rent, closer to the park, more room, less room but more charm, etc...

What is so pleasurable about moving for me? It's not that I dream of the smell of cardboard, newspaper, and packing tape in the morning. It's not the roar of the moving van pulling up that I long to hear. It's not even the sheer exhaustion of packing and unpacking that heightens the senses. And it's certainly not the confusion of wondering which box has the alarm clock in it that quickens the heart. Rather, it is the pure thrill of placement, the art of placing the familiar in the unfamiliar; that is what excites me.

My face beams at the challenge of a difficult floor plan. Perhaps, I should have found a career in interior design or followed the occupational path of a stage set designer or studied to be a feng shui consultant, but as it stands, I have to be content with moving only my own possessions around. I love nothing more than to place the perfect piece of furniture in an otherwise useless corner or niche thereby making it a productive area. When I am shackled by the legality of a rental lease, I usually move the furniture around to simulate the feeling of change.

When I was younger, I think I moved for a different reason. I suppose I was trying to run away from my problems; it is truly saddest when we try to run from ourselves. During one fall semester of college, I moved three times. Of course, some of this had to do with roommate dilemmas; before my marriage, I preferred to live alone but would occasionally try to save money by living with others. Time and maturity have given me the insight into the wise saying, "Wherever you go, there you are." More recently, I feel my moves have been motivated by a quest for inspiration. Often, I have caught myself thinking the old writing desk placed under this window with the view will no doubt inspire great works of fiction. Shameful!

Moving me is not an easy task, either, for I am a pack rat or collector of sorts. In these fourteen years, I've shed the majority of my older furniture because of space restrictions or natural disasters (I lived through a nasty flood that produced eighteen inches of water in a basement apartment). But at one time or other, I owned an old player piano, a bar, three separate dining room table sets, a sideboard, three armoires, two china cabinets, a fainting couch, two vanities, four desks, several beds, and nine or so miscellaneous chairs. It is also a feat moving all of our clothing, costumes from countless Mardi Gras and Halloweens, and my remaining hat collection in twenty-three hat boxes.

The worst aspect of my apartment adventures is that I now have casualties to my insatiable desire for a change of scenery. My husband hates moving, absolutely loathes it. The mere mention of plans for moving sends uncontrollable tremors through his body. Not even my promise of "I'll do all the work" can calm his quivering nerves. Before long, the poor wreck is frantically navigating through a maze of cardboard boxes.

He's not alone; the felines also become freaked. The changing of their terrain traumatizes our two beloved indoor cats. At first, all the boxes amuse them; they take delight in conquering the cardboard towers but alas, after that treacherous car ride to the new place, they hide behind them confused and afraid. That car ride with the cats should be enough to keep me put for awhile. The sounds of horrible howling and the rattling of cages from the backseat unnerve us. To further my fraying nerves, a sarcastic comment slips from my husbands lips, "Having fun, baby?" I guess I deserved that.

It must not be easy being married to a real estate junky, as he calls me. It must be slightly embarrassing for him to have to update our address and phone number every year. I have a friend who told me that I've taken up two pages in his address book. I imagine one day, my husband will want to settle down and actually buy a house. That thought weighs heavily on my mind; I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment.

Sometimes, I can go months without thinking of moving but then I have the recurring dream. The dream, as recurring dreams tend to go, is always the same. I'm hanging up a picture and the wall moves revealing an undiscovered room. Of course, I always say the same thing, "I didn't know this room was here." Then for the rest of the dream I am cleverly setting up my new office in there. After that dream, morning is a real killjoy.

The dream triggers the littering of real estate guides, apartment ads, and newspaper classifieds around the house. I find myself testing my husband's patience, reading aloud ads such as "$700, all utilities paid" trying to appeal to his thrifty side or "Cottage facing the park" praying on his sense of aesthetics. In return, I receive frightened stares and the inevitable question "Baby, what are you doing?" I, as always, respond with my beguiling answer "Just getting a feel for the market."

I've already boldly declared that we should stay in our present apartment for another year. If this can be accomplished it will hold the record for the longest duration of any dwelling I've occupied, outside of my parents' house. More room is always nice; but other than that, this apartment has lovely features: a balcony, stained glass windows, high ceilings, mantels, wood floors, nice neighborhood, close to the park. We are really happy here. However, the gypsy blood flows, we don't have a clawfoot bathtub, and the lease does expire in November.

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