This morning I decided to count up all of the different homes I have lived in over my past forty-one years. The total may be a little surprising to people that do not know me well, but if you’ve been paying attention, then the number twenty-one might seem low. This confirmed suspicion and I have now built enough evidence to prove … I might be a bit of a gypsy.
On average, I move to a new home every two years. Now, many of those moves are only across town for a new, better, cheaper, etc. living space. Occasionally it’s across the country from city to city for work or because it’s time for a new challenge. Now that I prepare for my next significant move, I am attempting to categorize the why in a way that will feel familiar and in some respects give it a sense of approval that it is currently missing.
Whenever I am asked to recount my personal history, I usually toss out the tale that I left home at the age of eighteen, never looking in my rearview mirror, and promising myself that I would never move back home. This proved false when a semi, full of my belongings, pulled back into my hometown fifteen years later. However, that initial move was a mere fifty miles down the road. So, although it was some distance, I could still bring my dirty laundry back on the weekends.
The first real significant move was north to Chicago. I was newly married to my high school sweetheart, freshly graduated from college, and ready to take on the world. I was excited because Chicago was a “real” city. I wasn’t a local recluse. I had traveled internationally at that point, but there is a fine line between visiting somewhere and living there, becoming part of a community, not observing one.
It was summer in the south, hot. Really hot. Stains of sweat marked the path on the concrete between my boxes and the trailer I was loading, but if I took more than two-minute break, it would disappear. My grandmother, all five feet of her, was trying to help. This mostly meant finding additional items within her home that she thought I might like to add to my collection of nick-nacks. I was attempting to dissuade her, explaining that my new apartment was not quite five-hundred square feet, but it was a losing battle.
When talking about the move, everyone at that point told me my future would look something like the pilot episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. I would be a fish out of water, lost in the hustle and bustle of an enormous place. I could hear the silent conversation of folks laying down bets on how long it would take for me to come back home. My grandmother, however, knew better.
As I was finishing up on the last boxes, near heat exhaustion, she brought me a glass of water. She looked up at me, smiling as she usually was and said, “I think you are going to love it there. The city will suit you better than anyone knows.” Whether she believed that or was just trying to calm my nerves for the impending resettlement, I don’t know. What I do know is she was correct.
These past eight years, being back in my hometown has been the perfect respite for my entire family. They were, perhaps a necessary stamp in the events of my life. I’m not talking about the work I completed, but the people I’ve met and family I got to be a little closer to, if only for a moment. With most of them moved on, both physically and metaphysically, it’s time for us to seek out home number twenty-two.
This one will be more difficult, as leaving home is always, but this second time around feels more permanent. So, perhaps there is no category to define the why for this upcoming transition. Probably transition is just our norm. Some of us are meant to toss our flag in the ground, lay down roots, build a firm foundation, and grow. I guess we’ve just gotten better a pitching a tent and seeking out adventure.