Loose screws and leftover Lego

It’s the same after every move. When our belongings are wrapped, boxed, taped and loaded onto the truck, some little things get left behind. Neglected bits and pieces of our family life nestled against baseboards or hiding in corners: pennies, paper clips, odd screws. I wonder how many screws you can lose before everything starts coming apart. We must be close to our limit after a dozen moves or so. We keep a collection of loose screws, a byproduct of military life or a metaphor? Someday we might discover where they belong.

In every single move since the advent of children in our household, the post-packing detritus always includes one Lego block. Always.

Two of our children are now past twenty. Our youngest is halfway through high school. The Lego days are about over. A few months ago, as I looked around our latest empty house in Virginia, I thought, “Probably won’t be any leftover Lego this time.” It was sad somehow, the passing of this minute milestone of moving.

People who don’t move around like we do say things like, “I guess your family is used to moving.”

I suppose we are accustomed to the idea of moving. We know that each place will be our home temporarily, but I’m not sure it’s possible to get used to relocating a family, even with practice. Maybe if all moves were alike, but they never are.

One move is singular, but its components are legion. Preparations, events, paperwork, goodbyes all have different impact on different family members.

There’s the sadness when a first-grader leaves his best friend, the panic of misplaced passports or the terrible sound when a box of china falls from the moving truck and lands on the driveway. There are positive variables too, like moving to an exciting location, or one that’s near family or friends, leaving an ill-fitting school or job, none of which affect all family members in the same way.

For some reason, I thought the stresses of moving would diminish as our children grow and become more independent. But everyone is still jostled when home addresses change, even those who don’t live there all the time.

Spring and summer were packed with transitions and travel for our family. I’ll skip the detailed itinerary and sum up: In shifting combinations of our five family members, we traveled from Virginia to Texas, back to Virginia, to Illinois, to Oklahoma, back to Texas, then back to Illinois, to California, one more time to Virginia and finally back to Illinois again — oh, and there was a TDY, too.

Every part of the journey served a purpose. At various locations we picked up, collectively, a college diploma, a new driver’s license, a used car, four new tires, three new jobs and another house to call home for a few years. Along the way, we also deposited a son in Texas, a daughter in California and the remaining three of us in Illinois.

The usual milestones of family life become more complicated when they occur in a moving season. Seems like I should have known that.

Our daughter got her driver’s license in Texas, where we’re residents. She explained to the examiner that although she attends college in California, she was visiting her grandmother in Oklahoma and taking summer classes while her parents were in transit from Virginia to Illinois.

We’ve all been together at least once, so for that we’re thankful. We’ve all been to our new house, just not at the same time. For that, we look forward to the holidays.

Our youngest son started his new high school last week. After the first day, someone asked him how he liked the school and how he felt about the move.

He smiled and said he thought the school would be okay, but moving is always hard.

Yes, it is. Every move is different, but hard. That part doesn’t change.

After the movers emptied the house in Virginia and I began cleaning, I did find a Lego block after all, a tiny gray one wedged between the wall and the carpet. Right beside another loose screw.

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