Moving Mancha

July 6th, 2008 § 2 comments

Do objects belong to people or places? I think they belong to places until they are moved, in which case they are forced to become ‘personal’ objects. Maybe it has to do with the amount of time objects have belonged in a certain place. When M first moved away from our childhood home she took what she took, and the first time I saw her place I was disconcerted—the objects were familiar but the place was not. The longer she has been on her own the more new things she has gathered, and the old seem like watered down versions of the childhood memories connected with them. I have grown used to her moving about, and am no longer surprised by new locations or objects. Old furnishings don’t remind me of Castaic, they remind me of her. They are her objects and they belong wherever she lives, rather like servants. By contrast I like D‘s apartment because everything is so new, so clean, and so removed. The objects are what they are for, and are not holders of something sentimental.


Moving Grandpa, by his own request, became more about moving his stuff (In a lot of ways) than about moving his person. If he must move into unfamiliarly, he wanted the assurance of being surrounded by familiar things, even people. I am more attached to my things than the place I am in, but attached to completely useless items, odds and ends picked up over the years. They remind me of where we have been, and what has passed is often more comforting than what might yet come. Packing the moving truck at Mancha Place, though I spent as much time as I could ask for growing up in that place—I remember it as the last place I saw my grandmother alive—was not nearly as unsettling as I imagined it would be. By contrast my aunts and uncle all seemed disturbed and frustrated by the situation of packing up a “childhood home.” I pondered our differences in perspective all the time I was there, what this meant to them and what it meant to me, with little success. I cannot fathom people who can be more attached to 360 than I am, though I can admit to some having a longer history in it—do happy places have less of a hold? Writing this I wonder it they were more preoccupied with the person they were moving than the place and things belonging to that person, the difference between father and grandfather is the largest gap I can find.


Arriving at the Wilsonville in Oregon with the moving truck, unloading in the florescent halls of a kindly institution for the elderly, the reality suddenly sunk in; it took moving his furniture into this strange apartment my aunt had thoughtfully readied. Looking around the room his things seemed horribly out of place (and perhaps out of time). My feeling that something was not right came from the odd combination of this new place with his old things, and it was a sad combination. Perhaps, however, it was the things without Grandpa that made it so, when he arrived later the place seemed to settle.

The idea of displacement remained in my mind as I stayed with him for the following days, and it seems the best way to describe elderly care. There seemed to be displaced people all around me, some were happy, some less so, some too sick to care, but all were displaced. They told their stories readily over lunch, where they were from, what they were once, why they were here. People seem to belong to their places and their things, and without them they almost seem stripped of their long lives. There is no proof, no pictures, no one to concur, no way to show what you might have been, only what you are. The Bradbury story about an elderly woman who tries to convince neighboring little girls that she used to be young seemed apt in this place. In the story even her long cherished objects from childhood could not sway cold, youthful giggles.


“It’s humiliating! A man my age-to be forced into this kind of position! I’m too old to be having to prove I’m alive!” (The Late Henry Moss)

§ 2 Responses to Moving Mancha"

  • occassia says:

    Remember, that house and its role in the family are only slightly younger than your eldest aunt. Grandma and Grandpa spent 30 years there raising kids and, even after the kids moved out, they were able to return to it for another couple of decades. With grandpa gone, the kids will still be returning to it from time to time. That makes for pretty deep roots in this day and age.

    It used to be that homes stayed in families for generations, and often housed three or four of those generations simultaneously. These days— thanks to petroleum, we may generalize —descendants scatter to the four winds. Thanks to the dwindling of petroleum —we may generalize again— the expression “mobile society” may become an oxymoron. Future generations may be far more tethered to place.

    Childhood homes of necessity contain reverberations of emotional intensity: happy, unhappy, desperate, ebullient, serene, rambunctious. Human memory is largely and bizarrely associative and frequently there is no way to explain the way an object or phrase of music or the smell of the hall closet makes us feel.

    And this may be something which resists generalization. Childhood friends whose homes truly were unhappy walked away without a backward glance; that was a chapter they were relieved to close.

    On the other hand, Aunt S these days makes frequent references to China Court, which we all read many times growing up. That may explain quite a lot.

  • a guzman says:

    I have always liked China Court, it confirmed my childish suspicions that houses do in fact talk, they tell stories and contain memories even without the people. It is a very romantic book however, and at times I find myself wanting to see things simply as they are, rather than as they were or as they might have been. This seems necessary sometimes to be able to accept how people or places have changed.

    I don’t think you need to be literally tethered to a place to be tethered there, sometimes I think I travel more to understand where I don’t belong than to see where I might settle, or to understand why I seem to belong where I do.

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