I did the math this week.
Since I left my parents’ home after High School I’ve moved 13 times. In college, it’s natural I guess, to move every year. One year was spent in the dorm, one year in a campus apartment the next year in an off campus apartment. After that I came to Chicago and moved just about every year again- Wrigleyville, Albany Park, Lakeview and East Ukrainian Village. Then I met Dave and moved to Bucktown, a year later, a different loft in Bucktown and a few years after that we purchased our first house in Chicago. We settled in Ravenswood Manor for about 5 years when wanderlust hit us. For reasons that still escape the both of us we pulled up tent stakes and moved our burgeoning brood to Franklin, TN. We lived on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere for about 5 years when we realized, suddenly, we were not country people. We needed the city so we did what we needed to do and got into East Nashville then a short year later we were back in Chicago, back in Bucktown area and back in a loft.
I joked to someone recently that I’ve moved so much in my adult life that I’ve gotten really good at it. I can pack and unpack a household in remarkably short time.
When I was a kid we moved only once. We moved from a house we loved to a house we loved more. We moved into our grandmother’s house when she downsized to an apartment. It was the house my mother grew up in so we had a special attachment to it. I still feel attached to those two houses. When I’m home in Cincinnati I drive by those houses, secretly hoping they’ll be for sale and that I’ll be able to walk through them. In some ways I feel that every place I lived has kept a small part of me, that I’m walking around the planet now having left something important behind each time. In some ways I wonder if this is what makes me feel homesick every once in a while. Maybe that is what makes me drive by those old houses and apartments and why I feel such grief when I discover a house or a building I’ve lived in has been torn down. It’s strange.
Now we’re house hunting again. It’s become so common an occurrence that my children hardly blink an eye when I say, “We might buy THIS one…what do you think?” They shrug their shoulders, offer a disinterested “looks good” and go back to their own interests. I have taken to saying outrageous things to get their attention, “Hey! How about we live in this underground cave?” “How about we move to Iowa?” “How about we just stay here in this apartment for another few years?” Regardless of what I say, they are not flustered. My daughter finally nailed it down for me yesterday, “Mom, we’re fine with whatever you and Dad find. We trust you.”
And still, there are moments in which I wish someone else would choose for us this time. There are too many variables now and it’s possible we don’t trust our selves to decide anymore. There are school choices, work locations, re-sell possibilities, house size, crime rate, yard versus roof deck…and now, having hunted for houses for the last 9 months having it come to naught…we’re weary of the process. We just want it to be done.
So then, here’s the homesick, the “if only’s,” the waiting, the rooting in a community, the friends we haven’t yet met, the restaurants we haven’t tried, the plants we haven’t put into the ground, the pictures we have not yet hung. The act of moving for us it seems has been an act of trust, an act of submission and sometimes escape but mostly, an act of trust, moving toward something new. There is a homesickness that comes in the wake of it, remembering all we leave behind and I’m struck with the loss and the grief even as I wrap the memories in newspapers, pile them into boxes and ready them for travel. I make a mental, emotional inventory of all we’ve discovered, all we’ve experienced, all we’ve lost, all we’ve found. It’s cathartic. It’s necessary. The homesickness is what we leave behind but perhaps, too, it’s what we unpack when we reach our new place. Here’s what we had, here’s what we have, here’s who we are and who we are meant to be yet, we have only the homesickness and then trusting the unfolding of what comes next.