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Don’t Ever Leave Them Alone

“NO! NOT THAT ROOM!” I yell this time. “Not the room with the door taped shut! The things in there don’t go!”

I get a blank stare and some mumbling.

“Chotomata, Kudasai,” I say out loud in Japanese. To myself I think, “Now where’s their supervisor? At least he speaks more English than I do Japanese.”

It only takes a couple of minutes to find him; the house isn’t big enough to disappear for long. I explain to him, again, “The things in the room with the door taped shut and the big sign with the NO! NO! pinned to it is not to be packed. Also, anything else that is taped or tied down is to stay. ‘No pack.’ O.K.?”

He nods his head, tells me, “O.K.,” in English and in rapid fire Japanese relays my message to the workers. At least I guess that’s what he said because the other man shrugs his shoulders, mumbles something under his breath, probably “Crazy Americans,” and shuffles off to do something else.

Every time we move I read all the books full of all the instructions for “Making Your Move Easy and Care-Free” I spend weeks sorting, stacking and finally packing the clothes eight people will need for two to four weeks of suitcase living since it takes that long for our things to catch up with us.

“Have one room, usually a bedroom, set aside for your suitcases and the other things you will take with you. Keep this door locked, when possible., or tapped shut if the door doesn’t have a lock.” That’s what it says in the manuals put out by some of the moving companies and military transport offices. Most wives have seen those cute little books they supply everyone getting ready to move.

Everyone in the family is dressed in his best clothes, Dad in his good suit, the kids all neat and clean, their hair combed just so. And mother looks like she’s getting ready to go to a party, in her pretty dress, high heel shoes, Elizabeth Arden make-up and that fresh-from-the-beauty-shop hairdo.

The books have to make it look easy or no wife would ever agree to move!

“If Gil doesn’t get back here pretty soon,” I look at the clock. . .No, I look for the clock. The one I tied to the hot water heater.

“Where’s the clock?” I tap one of the packers on the shoulder.

“Clock,” I say again, pointing to the hot water heater and the string dangling down the side.

“Ah so. Yes,” He points to a box fully packed and sealed shut.

“Oh no! Well, unpack it, please.” I start to open the carton and at last he understands. Halfway into the carton the clock is recovered, along with a wet dish clothe and two orange peels. I tie the clock to the water heater again and take a deep breath.

“Hi honey!” my husband Gil says cautiously. “How’s it going? Everything O.K.?”

Keep a cool head now, I think. Don’t lose your temper and disgrace yourself in front of strangers.

“Where have you been!” I scream. It’s not a question. “You’ve been gone for hours!”

“Hey, simmer down,” Gil says. He says this to soothe me? “It’s only been a little over two hours. You know the red tape it takes to get into transit billeting. And I stopped to pick up something for lunch. Say, isn’t that stuff in the bedroom supposed to go with us?”

“OH NO, not again!” Mentally I pound my head against the wall.

“Anyway,” he offers, “What can I do to help now?” He smiles brightly.

“First,” I command. “Get that guy out of there. Tape the door shut again, put a chair in front of it, sit down and DON’T MOVE. No matter what. DON’T MOVE!”

“Been a good day, huh?” He pulls the man out of the bedroom, smiling at him, puts a chair in front of the door and sits down.

“Hey,” Gil says, “It’s starting to snow.” He’s right. “And here come the kids.”

He’d better be wrong.

No such luck. Here they come, all smiles and happy voices. They’re excited. They’ve a nice vacation coming since it will be at least a week before we can get them enrolled in their new schools. The rest of the day is spent reassuring the kids.

“Yes, we took your dolls-books-race track,et cetera.” And, “Get out of the trash! No you can’t take those sneakers. There’s nothing left but the strings. We’ll get you a new pair and then they’ll be your favorites.”

A week later, as the snow falls and the wind blows, the airplane whisks us off to our new home. Not stateside, but at least to a place where they speak both Japanese and Engligh.

“Oksan,” the little Okinawan man says to me. “Where you want this box?” He holds a big carton.

“I don’t know. What does it say on the side?”

“Kit-Chen-Miss,” he sounds out the letters.

“That’s kitchen-miscellaneous. Put it in the kitchen. I’ll start unpacking it myself.”

“O.K. Oksan.” He sets the box down and goes outside for another.

It’s been a long month of suitcase living and restaurant eating, but the kids are back in school, the house is bright with February sunshine and the weather is tropically warm. Tonight we eat and sleep in “Our Own Home.” Finally.

Sniff, sniff. “What’s that strange smell?” I mutter to myself. “Seems to be coming from the kitchen.” “Must be a dead mouse. I’d better find it before I put things away.” I search but there’s nothing in the cupboards or under the sink. Nothing under the stove so it must be something outside. “Oh well,” I mumble. “I’ll find it later.”

I open the box marked, “Kit-Chen-Mess.” The smell smacks me in the nose.

“I thought I told Tommy to throw those sneakers away! Into the trash they go. And these packing papers with them. Now. . .what’s all this stuff? Moldy potato peelings? Chicken bones? Half-eaten sandwiches?

“And dried out fish and rice. . .?”

Lesson learned. Don’t ever leave them alone.

The BEST holidays

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