One tiny blue duffel bag. That’s all John brought over to my apartment in Hangzhou years ago when he first moved in with me.
So imagine his surprise when he discovered, months later, all the things I decided to take with me when I moved to Shanghai — to find a new job closer to him. My stuff barely fit into his cousin’s microvan, causing him to shake his head at my accumulated belongings and sigh, “So many things!”
It’s no wonder. According to my Chinese husband, whenever he moved before then (in and out of boarding high school and college), he only carried his quilt/cover and clothing (usually three or four pairs of everything). “Nothing like I have now,” he said to me with a grin.
Thanks to me, my husband will never again fit his life into a tiny blue duffel bag, or even those rice sacks I always used to see passengers carry onto those Chinese trains. We just moved last week from Idaho to Cleveland, and though we squeezed almost everything into our Honda Civic, we still needed to ship four boxes of mostly clothing and another four boxes of books. Years of shopping with me has guaranteed that John will never again have only, say, three pairs of underwear to his name.
Then again, years of living with John also means that I can never again hold onto everything with the same abandon I once had. Long before this move, John kept telling me over and over again, “Go through your things, get rid of what you don’t need.” I spent hours in corners and huddled over drawers, sometimes even wondering how I ended up with these things — and knowing that even when I finished, I could still never fit it all into a tiny blue duffel bag like he once had.
Of course, when he moved in and out of schools and colleges with that bag, he wasn’t alone in those rooms. For most of his schooling days, he shared his room with seven other roommates (except in grad school, when he only had three). Space remained a premium — even during the move, which usually involved a bus or train — and nothing beyond the size of a duffel bag could really fit there anyhow. Nothing like me. I only ever had one roommate in college, and otherwise apartments all to myself, each space an empty invitation to fill it with more, more, more — often with the help of a large car or even a moving van.
But for John and I, the mantra has become less, less, less — before this move, and before the next one next year. After all, we plan to move back to China, a move that means we’ll no longer have a Honda Civic to squeeze everything into.
If only a tiny blue duffel bag would do. 😉