Sweat trickles down my back as I wrap my arms around the oversized cardboard box. The word "BOOKS" is scrawled carelessly on the side. This is the sixth box of books I've unloaded in ten minutes. Bending at the knees, I struggle to lift it.
"We have too many books!" I shout to my husband, my voice echoing in the overheated U-Haul truck.
"You have too many books," Scott retorts as he bounds up the metal gangplank. He takes the box from my arms, panting a little as he retraces his steps from truck to garage.
"Yours are heavier," I grumble, kicking a box of history books. It doesn't budge.
"History weighs on us," Scott tosses over his shoulder.
I roll my eyes at the joke. I'm grateful Scott has the energy to kid around. We're in our third hour of unloading the truck. This is after spending the previous day loading it, a restless night on the floor of our old home, and a five-hour drive from St. Joseph, Missouri to North Liberty, Iowa.
We haven't moved in five years. We're out of practice. We had kids. We bought a house. We adopted a cat. Those additions come with possessions, half of which are sitting in a truck, the rest spread out in a two-car garage.
It is the hottest weekend of the summer. Most of the people that promised they'd help us unpack didn't bother showing. My arms ache, my back is sore, and my throat is dry.
We have to return the truck by noon tomorrow. Scott begins his new job in two days. We need to enroll our children at their new school and find an after-school child care program. I need to find a job. And the grocery store. We have no food inside the house except that from our old kitchen. Even if I found the food, I don't know where the boxes of dishes, pots and pans, and silverware could be.
If I didn't laugh, I'd cry.
Swinging a garbage bag of bedding over my shoulder, I walk down the gangplank, through the garage and into the house. The blast of cool air eases my frustration, as does the sight of my daughter curled on the couch, sucking her thumb and cuddling her stuffed rabbit.
"Hi baby. Where's your brother?"
Emma points to the closed door. I knock and go inside. Brady is sitting on his unmade bed, staring at the mattress.
"I miss Missouri," he whispers. "I want to go home."
I never considered Missouri home. As a native Iowan, the Hawkeye State is home. For the past two years, my single goal was to return. Luckily, I married a fellow Iowan who feels the same. Yet as we pulled away from our small house with the red shutters that morning, my heart broke a little.
I wrap Brady in my arms, making promises of good times and new memories. I say things will be better once his toys are unpacked. We'll visit the swimming pool with the waterslides. We'll shop for school supplies and he can choose a new backpack. We'll visit the ice cream parlor and go to the movies. I tighten my hug with each statement, knowing I am reassuring myself, too.
"Everything will be OK," I whisper fiercely.
The hours pass. The mass of objects in the truck dwindles and the hodgepodge of belongings in the garage grows. My grandmother brings a home-cooked meal. My older sister carries furniture inside. My brother arrives with a friend, willing to heft heavy items in exchange for money and beer. One by one they leave, waving away my thanks.
I sit on the front steps, exhausted. Scott is sprawled beside me. I need to leave for Wal-Mart soon. We're sore, we're sweaty. We can't shower without a shower curtain. Brady is a few houses away, playing tag with some neighborhood kids. Emma is drawing with chalk on the driveway.
I want to enjoy the moment.
A neighbor wanders over to say hello, offering stickers for garbage day and some neighborhood gossip.
"Welcome to Iowa," she says.
It's good to be home.
About Iowa Writes
Since 2006, "Iowa Writes" has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers on The Daily Palette, and it has recently expanded its scope to include work published by Iowa journals and publishers. Curated by the staff of The Iowa Review, "Iowa Writes" features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction several times a week on the Palette. In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature. Find out more about submitting by contacting email@example.com
Meredith Hines-Dochterman is a 1997 University of Iowa graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and journalism.
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