- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2000

When I was in fourth grade, I had a memorable teacher. He was smart and funny and sarcastic. I still can remember some of his jokes. One day he brought an old typewriter into class.

He proudly showed it to us. It was old but still worked. He was especially boastful about its price. It was free. He had snatched it out of a trash can in a rich neighborhood he drove through on his way to school.

"In that neighborhood, they throw out a typewriter when they run out of ribbon," he joked.

I laughed about that for years, but in the past few years, I have bettered the joke. Whenever my house gets too cluttered, I move.

My house recently has become very cluttered, so now we're moving.

Actually, that's not true at least not the cluttered part. But we really are moving. A change in employment is bringing our family back to the Washington area. Five out of six of us are very happy. (The older of my two sons has mixed feelings. He's happy to return to old friends but sad to leave the friends he made here.)

It's not that we didn't like our adopted Pennsylvania town. It actually grew on us. I loved the fact that everything I needed was less than five minutes from my door. I loved the fact that tractor-trailers never jackknifed on the key commuter route, stalling traffic for six hours. I loved the fact that the museum (note the singular), concert hall and theater were easily accessible and surrounded by unlimited cheap parking.

But I hated the fact that the nearest Starbucks was an hour away. I missed my friends and the scenery that had become so familiar in the nearly 20 years we had lived in the Washington area (trying out a number of communities as we repeatedly moved around the Beltway).

My husband missed Wash-ington, too.

One day as we were sitting at the breakfast table, he turned to me and said, "All our friends and memories are in Washington, and we're sitting up here. I feel like we're in the witness protection program."

I think that's when we began thinking about moving back. Events moved quickly. My husband's company happily offered him a transfer. I was offered a job I couldn't refuse, and we were able to purchase a house in a Virginia community we loved. All this happened in the past few weeks.

Because we had only lived here one year, I thought this move would be easy. After all, we still hadn't unpacked half the boxes in the basement. Yet moving is never easy.

While I was in Washington recently, my husband supervised a group of professional packers. Upon my return, he proudly walked me through the now-bare house, showing off the filled boxes stacked in every corner. I had been skeptical initially about his plan because we're not moving for nearly three weeks, but I had to admit it looked as if he had done a good job.

Then I went to get a glass of water.

"Why is this glass so dirty?" I asked.

"Oh," he answered. "that's because the dishwasher soap was packed. I ran it through without soap."

A few minutes later, my son called out from the bathroom for another roll of toilet paper.

"It's under the sink," I yelled back.

"Well, er, no it's not," my husband said.

"Packed?" I asked.

"Yes, in one of these boxes," he said pointing to a pile of boxes all marked "Miscellaneous."

I tried to make a phone call. The phone's base was still plugged in, but the wireless phone was nowhere to be found, even when I pressed the page button.

"Packed?" I asked.

"We think so," he answered. "We heard a muffled beep a few days ago. But we can't track it down."

I was grateful I had just returned from a trip because at least I still had possession of a change of underwear and my toothbrush.

Exhausted from my four-hour trip, I got into bed. But instead of my head sinking into a pile of soft pillows, it landed with a thud on the ultrafirm mattress.

"My pillows," I cried. "They couldn't have packed my pillows."

"Here," my husband said, handing me his solitary pillow. "I'll open a few boxes tomorrow."

Paula Gray Hunker, who works from home, is the mother of four children, the bemused wife of her amazing (but true) husband and a staff writer for the Family Times. She can be reached by mail at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; by phone at 202/636-4897; by fax at 610/351-1791; or by e-mail ([email protected]).

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