St. Helena society enjoys certain rituals that are certainly repeated elsewhere. One of those is the school-day wave.

Being a childless spinster, I first heard about this from a friend with kids in school. Here’s how it goes: Parents (and by this I mean one parent, because the other one is busy) have a narrow window of 30 minutes to drop off their multiple children in front of multiple schools in multiple locations around town. The streets are clogged with parents making the identical rounds, waving at one another as they go.

Running this circuit confers membership in the wave brigade, a tightly knit society in which outsiders are conspicuous and scrutinized. If you buy a new car, it will take some time before you are recognized and acknowledged with your wave. If you are a man using your girlfriend’s car, call your lawyer because the brigadiers have already run her license plate number and know who she is and what you’ve been up to.

For practical parents, this ritual is uncharacteristically inefficient. Any McKinsey or Bain Capital consultant running for president will tell you that multiple parents dropping off multiple children at multiple locations is a waste of time, effort and fuel. After lengthy and expensive study, the consultant’s recommendation would be to simply swap children, so that all of the elementary-schoolers are in the same households, the high-schoolers in others, and so on.

Of course, you people are attached to your children and may object. This is the kind of emotional decision-making that holds America back and prevents us from taking our rightful place among heartless nations with stable currencies. Still, the plan is probably flawed anyway, since no household would be willing to take just the middle-schoolers.

While I am not in the wave brigade, I sympathize with the effort required to deposit one’s offspring and collect them on school days, not to mention on weekends for sporting and social events. I myself participate in a similar ritual almost every weekend, and some weekdays too, pertaining to the repeated relocation of my personal effects, priceless belongings and the detritus of my existence, or what the late George Carlin would call my “stuff.”

Here’s how it goes: I take my stuff, wrap it, box it, strap it to a cart, and move it from point A to point B. Then the following weekend I move it to point C, followed soon thereafter by the inevitable retreat to point A. When I am not moving my own stuff from points A through C and back to A again, I am moving my store’s stuff, or my customers’ stuff, or my friends’ stuff. I even move my pets’ stuff.

How did I get all this stuff? And why is it so hard to get rid of?

You parents are lucky; your kids will eventually move to Point B and on to Point C without your active participation. My stuff, on the other hand, will never move anywhere on its own.

There are several reasons why I am doomed to move stuff for all eternity.

First, I once had money to buy a second home, and the real estate market allowed me to sell that second home and purchase another, and so on. All those homes required their own stuff, including the basic stuff, like silverware, and the other stuff, like bobble-head dolls.

Second, I no longer have money, as a result of which my second homes were sold, sending all that stuff back to commingle with my other stuff.

Third, I moved my St. Helena home twice and then downsized, so there is less room for stuff.

Fourth, I moved my retail store and then closed it, moving the same stuff inside the store, between stores, and back and forth to storage. Plus I sold stuff and delivered it so that it could become my customers’ stuff.

Fifth, I am emotionally attached to every bit of this stuff.

An example: Producing a play in San Francisco, I furnished the actors’ apartments with stuff, including a glass salad bowl purchased for $6 at Target in Burlingame. When the show closed, the bowl moved to my first New York apartment on 47th Street, then to my second apartment on 83rd Street, and then — stay with me — to my beach house in California. Then it moved to my last New York apartment on 72nd Street, and back to my storage unit in St. Helena, finally landing in my current St. Helena home. At this point, I have spent $1,000 on this $6 bowl, easy.

All of this moving requires help from friends, which means that I have to help them, and so on. Which is why I will rarely have a weekend free for the rest of my life.

I sometimes think it would have been easier to have kids. Except that they would move out eventually, leaving all of their stuff behind.

(Laura Rafaty is a national award–winning columnist, a resident of St. Helena, a Tony-nominated producer, author, attorney, and retailer as Read more at