Backstory: Moving

Long ago, we bought an armoire at Made in France on West End. It seemed massive, and I wondered how on earth to get it home. Made in France owner Karin Coble suggested I call Larry for help. “You have to use him,” she said. “He’s the only one I trust to move all our furniture. He may be hard to get — he’s busy.”

When I called Larry, we began to discuss logistics. “It’s pretty big,” I said. “Just let me know if you need help.”

“I can move anything but a piano by myself.” I could swear I was talking to Billy Bob Thornton’s character in the movie Sling Blade. Back at Made in France, he took the armoire apart, removing the doors and disassembling the rest into individual pieces. Larry didn’t look like the body builder I expected, more ropy than buff, but he made the most of his tools: rope and a dolly. The dignity of his labor was impressive; he understood that old piece and how it should be treated.

I fretted all the way home that there was no way to reassemble those pieces in a way that would resemble a piece of furniture. However, about an hour later, the armoire was exactly where it needed to be, intact. “Miz Beth,” he said, “always call me when you need to move this armoire. It doesn’t have any nails or screws. It’s all just how the wood fits together.”

For years, anytime I needed to move anything, I called Larry, who did the job without drama. It was often weeks before the check I gave him cleared. I had the feeling it wasn’t about the money. Larry had a relationship with the furniture.

Recently, I needed a mover again — this time to a new home. Even though we hadn’t talked for years, I called Larry. “I hate telling you this,” he began, “but I had to retire. My doctor looked me right in the eye and said if I moved one more stick of furniture, it could kill me. It’s my heart.”

"Could you come oversee other guys putting the armoire together?" I asked. "You won’t have to lift a thing."

“I’d be happy to do that.” He hesitated. “I’m big now since I don’t lift anything anymore.”

When he arrived, Larry was heavier than I remembered and moved more slowly. He climbed one step at a time, followed by his wife who ensured he didn’t lift anything.

The movers that day were young men. I told them Larry could move anything but a piano by himself. They assembled the armoire but treated Larry as a legend, watching him as closely as Little Leaguers do R.A. Dickey. He said it looked fine, and he and his wife carefully made their way back to the truck, refusing any payment.

I was surprised to get a call from Larry the next day, asking if he could come back out to steady the armoire, which is front-heavy. Again, he climbed the steps one a time, carrying a fistful of small wood shims for the armoire’s front feet. As he left, he stopped, saying, “I just want to be sure it doesn’t fall over on top of anybody.”

Maybe it’s not just the furniture Larry had a relationship with.