I’m looking for a gypsy wagon. I’ll hang pots and pans on the outside, maybe lead a goat along the side while we amble down the highway. I’ll pile all the real essentials inside; coffee pot, iPhone, books about food and street art. The kids can ride on the roof, using colorful umbrellas if the weather turns wet. What we need is the gypsy wagon. We pare it all down to what is essential, we move when the waters rise, we drive to wherever the sun is shining. All in all, it seems like a good plan.
We’re considering a move again. The Nashville house being under contract and due to close at the end of August and our lease running out here in October, we felt it might be the right time to finally put down some roots in Chicago. The housing market is confusing and lean in late summer after a sluggish few years. The reality hit us after looking at a number of houses that Chicago still wants about twice what our house in Nashville cost for about the same sort of house in about the same sort of neighborhood. So, there’s that.
What was interesting though is that as we began to look at houses we found we could not just pick a place and buy the one we liked most, the one we could afford best. Every house led to new discussions about place and rooting. Do we want a comfortable house in the middle of nowhere (been there) or a fixer upper in a great location (done that.) Do we want to be near people we’ve known for 20 years? Do we want to be near the new people we’d love to get to know better? Should we spend more to live closer to the kids schools? Should we spend less and get more space but have a longer commute every morning? Is this a 5 year house or a 30 year house? The choices for each are limited and pricey and all I can think about is a gypsy wagon.
But gypsy wagons lead to rabbit trails and rabbit trails are hard to travel. Dishes shake loose and crash to the floor. Mud collects on wheels and windows and children. We find ourselves sweeping up and dusting off at every stop, re-evaluating, reading maps and sipping espresso. After a while all the trees start to look the same and all the people start to look like strangers. “But, it’s better than being on foot,” we tell ourselves. After a while the wagon needs painting and the children are complaining and we just can’t seem to muster one more ounce of “adventure.” We long for being rooted. The MLS becomes our best friend and our worst nemesis. We eye other open house hunters with suspicion, sizing them up when they wander from the room, “you think they’re serious buyers?” “Will they get it before we do?” We drive up and down side streets in our target area, do internet searches on neighboring properties, mentally place our furniture in empty rooms and try to imagine living somewhere new, again.
Late at night I forget why we wanted to be rooted in the first place and the gypsy wagon calls out again but in the morning I imagine that wagon not gathering broken dishes and dust from the road, filled with world-weary travelers. I imagine the gypsy wagon as centerpiece in the garden; clematis and jasmine laced through the spokes of the wheels, climbing the faded boards, housing the birds and whispering about the places we’ve been, the people we’ve known and the comfort of being home at last.