Purging and preparing on an emotional, physical rollercoaster ride

Four days until the movers come to pack my belongings and transport them from Middle America to a port city and then onto a boat bound for Israel. Of all the “projects” involved in making aliyah, purging and preparing the house has been among the most arduous. Deciding what to take versus what to donate, throw away or simply leave behind is an emotional and physical rollercoaster ride.

I have been living back in the States for 10 years and three births; my son was born in Israel. Five people with different personalities, passions … and practical needs. And a lot of junk. “Junk” that is full of recollections and celebrations, bittersweet dealings, associations, challenges and triumphs.

My house is super-clean and organized, but I have come to realize that it is human nature to accumulate things … so many things. I have a smaller home by Overland Park, Kansas standards, but I, too, have bought and kept too much. Flipping through the photo albums, sorting through the knickknacks, packing serving plates and folding baby clothes, is a journey through my last decade.

There are the re-discovered pictures of me in my high school cross country uniform, including at my first race when a half-mile into it some other runner managed to “spike” my hand with her cleat and I ran 2.5 miles bleeding to the finish line. I was still in the top 10 and I have a scar to show for it.

I found the Kiddush cup I used at my wedding. The salt shaker my oldest son and I painted together on a rainy day in Baltimore. The puppets I used to bark, meow and toot at my little girls when I had the time to parent in all its imagination and splendor. The manuscripts and articles and encyclopedias I poured over while I completed my master’s degree on eschatology in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The notebook full of six-months of research that won me my first journalism award but made me rethink whether I could handle the stress of the industry.

And clips. So many articles — several thousand — written over the years. Interviews with Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”), Svetlana Shusterman, Jackie Mason. Dialogues with former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, Natan Sharansky and even Benjamin Netanyahu (the first time he was prime minister).

Talks with day school teachers, Jewish lesbians when they weren’t so out-of-the-closet, political activists, philanthropists, musicians, parents, teens.

The frame of my Zayde, z”l, and me at my sweetheart dance.

The snapshot of my Great Aunt Sylvia, who passed away this year at 104, holding my oldest son when he was just months old.

The images of each birth. Each birthday. Each handprint. Each report card. Each first siddur, Chumash. Each drawing, crayon smudged across the corner of the paper, “I luv you MOMMY.”

Four days out and I am almost done. I have transformed a four-bedroom, three-story home into less than a 20-foot container. I have consulted with my movers, Kef International, poured through the tips and tricks on the Nefesh B’Nefesh website (thank you!) and said goodbye to the past, smiling enthusiastically toward my future in Israel.

Yesterday, on Tisha B’Av, we commemorated the destruction of the Temple, a result of baseless hatred. I think Tisha B’Av is also a chance for us to think about how we fill our lives. Do we believe in things instead of people? Do we feed our souls with purchases or faith? Are we attached to items or the ideas that they hold?

The “lift,” I realize now, is just as much about what you bring, as what you don’t …

About the Author
Maayan Hoffman is director of international communications for a leading Israeli think tank and an American-Israeli journalist since 1995. She raises her large, blended family a bus ride from the Western Wall.
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