(HOST) As he recently packed up to move, commentator Caleb Daniloff found himself contemplating the things we acquire over time – and what gets brought along and what’s left behind.
(DANILOFF) I stood in front of our large living-room bookshelf, as heartless as a prison-camp commandant. I scanned the many hundreds of titles. I was prepared to discard long-time companions, to split up unions. I would ignore memories tugging at my pantlegs. I would not be swayed by cool cover art.
We were moving and I saw a golden opportunity to be free of things I could do without. A lot of these books had followed me since my student days at UVM.
And if I could get through the books, the rest would be cake. So I filled beer box after beer box – new, used, bestsellers, classics. Some I thumbed open and gave authors a last chance to impress. The rest were bound for the public library.
Then I moved on. I fed old notebooks and papers to the shredder with the glee of an insider trader. I tossed out clothes and dusty sports gear, set aside bookshelves and printers. And got to know the guys at the town dump and local donation center.
But still – we managed to fill a twenty-foot moving truck. Staring at the boxes, I couldn’t tell one from the next, nor recall what was in them. But there was our entire life on North Pleasant Street, cubed and stacked. I fantasized about ditching the truck at a Salvation Army and hitting the rails with a bandanna tied to a stick.
On the morning of our closing, I sat on the living room floor and ate blueberry yogurt with a plastic fork, our silverware packed who knew where. The house was empty – no furniture, no paintings, no rugs. Only echoes. We’d already become ghosts, haunting the place with brooms and Clorox wipes. And the more stripped-down our home had become, the more pronounced our voices and movements. Excitement and anxieties bounced off bare walls and empty corners. And I realized the things we accumulate can tend to mute our existence.
I stared at the lights on the modem and router, my laptop open on the counter. The internet connection the last to go. I checked my email and blog stats one more time, took a breath and pulled the plug. I was now fully disconnected – and vulnerable, with a who-knows-what-will-happen-next sensation in my gut. I hadn’t felt this way since I was a teenager. The world beyond was wide open, inside it was churning.
I locked the front door, climbed into our station wagon and crunched down the gravel drive – loaded with the last miscellaneous items: a bag of charcoal, a broom and mop, bags of wet towels, a soccer ball, plastic tarps, half a case of V8, and a gas canister. The remnants of our life in Vermont.
I turned onto Route 7, the car pointed toward Massachusetts. A town cop had stopped an out-of-stater. As I rolled by, I knew soon I’d have to give up my green-and-white plates, my metal fig leaves. And keep a closer eye on the needle next time I’m in Vermont.
I passed the drug store and high school, and thought of all the items I couldn’t pack up – a moon lighting the dirt road I often ran, roadside woodstacks, local humor, the black sparkle of Lake Champlain, the barking of geese through morning fog. There’s no box or poster tube for these things.
But in the end, it’s never about things. It’s about experiences that inform and enrich, that turn the volume up on life. Those get stored in a container of limbs and lungs and heart. Where there’s always space. I turned my eyes to the road. Perhaps the hobo life isn’t so far-fetched after all.
Caleb Daniloff is a freelance writer.