Something amazing happened to us on Wednesday: we finally got our shipping consignment!
We last saw our possessions on 26 August. After months of thinning out our possessions by selling, donating, recycling and binning, the remaining items were packed and sealed on a day of back-breaking agony and headed off, as it transpired, into a long period of limbo. We were told it would take about eight weeks door to door as extra time had to be allowed because it would be a shared container – we were not shipping enough things to fill an entire container on our own – and, when pressed, we were informed it would be a maximum of 12 weeks. Ha! Try 16 weeks.
It has been a saga of poor communication, ranging from a total lack thereof to wretched miscommunication, misinformation, unprofessional attitudes and staggering incompetence. At one point I had to even step in and do the shipping company’s job for them since they seemed incapable of problem-solving on their own, despite their apparent knowledge and experience. We were told it was on one ship just to find, once that ship had docked, that in fact it had never been loaded on to that ship and was still in Scotland. When it was finally loaded, we were given the tracking information so we could see it sitting on the coast of Ireland going nowhere for a good while. Then, once it finally docked in America, despite being told several times what our Pennsylvania address was, they determined the delivery address was a town in Massachusetts that doesn’t even exist. For real.
Yes, they are only things. It’s material possessions. That doesn’t matter as much as us all being reunited as a family and achieving an international relocation just a little over a year from when Mr Pict had his late night brainwave inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg. But it is what those things represented that mattered most to us. Those things are way-markers of a relationship lasting two decades, of our own childhoods and those of our offspring. Those things are physical reminders of precious memories, people known and people now lost, places visited, events experienced. Those things are what makes a house a home. All those nick nacks that are the emblems of us as a family. And then, on a more practical level, some of those things can be hard to live without for a long period of time. Try cooking meals for six people with minimal kitchen equipment for months on end and see how frustrating it is. My kids have had to trudge in the snow without boots and waterproofs because those were all stuck in a shipping container long after they should have arrived. And the toys! My boys have been playing with the same small bundle of toys for months now. They missed their things and needed them. It is also not easy for four young kids to settle into a house that is largely empty and is devoid of anything familiar.
Then, on Tuesday evening, came a phone call from the company charged with delivering our possessions asking if we might want to take receipt of them on Wednesday. Not a lot of notice. One might even suggest it is another example of incompetence to not provide more notice. However, we were excited at the possibility we might just have our things in time for Christmas. Note we were excited about the possibility. Not the knowledge or belief we would have our things by Wednesday evening. Just the possibility. Jaded does not come close to describing our regard for shipping companies.
Sure enough, Wednesday afternoon rolled around and a removal truck pulled into the driveway. I stood and checked off box after box as two men lugged them into the house and deposited them in three different locations. About a dozen boxes were visibly damaged so I refused to sign the paperwork without adding a note that I had observed the damage and that the contents were, as yet, unchecked but otherwise it was job done in just under two hours. It took almost a full working day to pack it all up but it was all the boxes were unloaded lickety-split.
We were left with a house filled with boxes. It was like having an early Christmas.
My four year old, who was home at the time, was hyper seeing all of the boxes come in. Despite being told not to open anything without my supervision, he sneakily ripped a box open. He was disappointed that it contained my books. Then, when the older three boys arrived home from school, there were hoots of joy, a spontaneous hallelujah chorus and a whole lot of frenetic jazz hands as they did a pogo dance around the living room – precariously close to some boxes labelled “china”.
Then the unpacking began. It takes a long time to unpack things when you are not sure where they should be stored – or when there is no place to put them yet since you don’t have the required furniture – so it is taking a while. I am now 48 hours into when the shipping was delivered and I have probably dealt with ten boxes. I can tell you the exact moment when I opened a box and felt like I might just be able to feel at home here. Indeed I can show you because, as I do with everything, I took a photo of it to record it. It was the moment when I found my Great-Gran’s tea set and placed it on a shelf in a kitchen cabinet.