Monday, May 31, 2010

Putting down Roots

Putting Down RootsBy the time Andrew and I had been married two and a half years we’d already lived in four states. We’d rented seven different apartments and would have two more to go before we would buy a house around our ninth anniversary.

I kind of liked it—it was exciting to see new places, each area of the country had its own strengths and beauties and in all those moves I met great people while learning not to clog up life with lots of possessions that would just have to be boxed up and moved. But after nine years when we finally signed the papers on a house five minutes from where I’d grown up I remember how it felt to spend that first Thanksgiving Day in our own home and I thought that I might want to live there until I died.

We’ve been in that same house for nine more years and while we’ve considered moving once or twice (for about ten minutes) we love our house. It’s not fancy, it’s not cutting-edge but it has a nice floor plan and a great backyard. My roses have grown ten feet high on the trellis, the sun hits the front room in the morning and the back rooms in the evening and the raspberry bushes give me fifty-four jars of jam each fall (give or take). It’s not big but then I’ve never been one who likes to spend my hours vacuuming so that suits me just fine.

It all makes me think about how much we move. Not "we" as a family but "we" as a civilization. I suppose we’re circling back to our nomadic, tribal roots but it seems that no one stays put anymore. It used to be that people lived and died in the same town, knowing each family and homestead but now that’s the exception rather than the norm.

I don’t want to get all eulogistic here, moaning about how small towns are disappearing because I’m not one to say that everything was better in the good old days but all this moving around does change us. Moving is about change and sometimes too much change can be regressive. We're not close to neighbors, we don't form attachments as easily, we're unaffected by the currents of humanity around us ebbing in and out with each new job or assignment. We worry more about our privacy than we do our neighborhoods and we live as if we're camping--never mentally unpacking all the boxes or really getting too comfortable because we know we'll just be on the road again in a short while.

Only one of the six houses next to us have the same occupants as when we arrived here. If you ask my husband where he's from he'll pause for a minute then say, "Well, I was born in Utah, grew up in several states but the largest chunk of my childhood was spent in Colorado. So I guess that's where I'm from."

He's not unusual, in fact he's lived in Alaska and in our house longer than any other place in his life. Most people in Alaska are transplants, born and bred somewhere else then drawn north by the oil pipeline or the promise of a good place to raise their children and in many ways our state is more like a giant hotel than a hometown--a holding place for people to make their living and raise their kids before checking out to retire south where it's warm.

The farther along I get the less I appreciate an uprooting. At this point in my life I don’t want to find myself in a new house, getting around in a new town and trying to make a new set of friends. We have history here--I love going to a store and running into people I know, of knowing the other parents at my kids’ school, of knowing every single street in town and how to drive it in ice and snow or where to avoid the potholes.

I like having ski trails and salmon streams nearby and I love it that we can drive ten minutes and see oceans, mountains, whales or movie theaters depending on the direction. It’s not a perfect place but I’m used to it and it’s used to me and while I have thought about retiring someplace warm and sunny with beaches and bungalows deep down I also know that I do not want to start my life over, not at 40 nor at 60 nor at 80.

While I can appreciate that change can be good and moving around often can't be avoided I think we’ve gone too far in that direction. People don’t stay in the same job or house or marriage and I think that all that movement—instead of giving us freedom—just makes us unstable, shifting around like so much loose dust.

Dare I say it? Are we all just dust in the wind? (Or at least something like that. . . . )

But I guess the point is, I’d rather not be blown to a new place. And as much as I've fought in the past against living in Alaska forever, when it comes down to it I love knowing exactly where I'm from and where my home is.

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Mel said...

Michelle, you expressed my sentiments exactly.



Patricia L said...

Totally agree. My husband grew up in a family that moved with his dad's job. I moved exactly once during my childhood and it was only an hour down the road.So when we started moving for his job, it was way harder for me to cope with it than it was for him. I've told him that I don't want to move after the kids get into highschool...our oldest will be in 7th grade in the fall.

a Tonggu Momma said...

As the Tongginator finishes up her first year in school, I've been thinking of all the other kindergartners in her class, knowing that we will probably STILL know at least a third of them when she graduates from high school. That's a far cry from my experience, since I attended eight schools between kindergarten and twelfth grade. It feels good to plant some roots.

cndymkr / jean said...

I hope we never move. I love this town and its people. I originally wanted to live in the town where I grew up, but it had changed too much. Here we are still close to my parents, who are the only ones in their neighborhood still there for 44 years. Everyone else died or moved away.

J at said...

We moved so many times when I was a kid, and then Ted and I moved every 2 years before we bought this place. It's a condo, with no room for raspberry bushes (darn it, because homemade raspberry jam is indeed heaven on earth), and we only intended to be here for a few years. We only bought because our landlord was raising our rent 40%, and we figured we would be able to sell if we ever wanted to move.

12 years later, we're still in our condo. The turnover has been high, and we're old timers in our complex. But it's nice to know our town, know our shops and what used to be there before they were built. To know our neighbors, that's a good thing too. I'm not sure I love it here, and it could certainly use more whales and less 110 degree days in summer, but it's home. So yeah, I guess I get what you're saying.

TJ said...

being military, we don't get to put roots down anywhere. in face the two places that are home to me is where i grew up and where i served my mission. (france) my kids have lived in four different places and they are 6 and 4. i guess that is what happens in the army.

someday i do want to stop moving. but it will be so strange to put things on the wall and realize that they will be there for more than a few years. to not keep boxes because we'll know we'll need them in a few years. while i moved rarely as a child, i did like it as an adult. we've gotten to experience all kinds of new places and met all kinds of great people.

but i do get a little jealous of people that don't move, that have known people for years, and have those kinds of roots. i hope that life will be in my future.

Steph said...

I am a "small town girl". My family settled our town and I can't leave. I considered it when I met my husband but ultimately he moved here and that suited me fine. He is not a "roots" person. It's odd because he grew up living in the same city forever also. I think the difference is his was a big city and mine a small town. Harder to put down roots in a big city?

Anyway, when our house burned down it wasn't the material possessions or loss of the life of my animals I mourned the most. It was the roots and I just realized that thanks to your post.

I miss my 10 year old Lilacs that I spent years nurturing. I miss my neighbors/friends. I miss the connections. I can't go back there. I can't do it, it's too much. Now I'm hoping since we're finally settled after 3 moves, to grow some more roots in our new house, in our new neighborhood.

Sorry for the long comment, I just wanted you to know how much this post affected me. Thank you for the gut check. ((((HUGS))))

Sheri said...

I'm the same way. I never wanted to live in Oklahoma, and I fully intended on leaving asap. But after 11 years, this is home, and more importantly, it's my kids home. It's where they'll want to come home for weekend away from college, it's where they'll want to come for holidays. I joke that I'm going to follow them wherever they end up, but I want them to be able to come home, just like I can.

Funny how when you're young, you think that nomadic lifestyle is great. Guess I'm officially not young anymore :)

Kelly @ Love Well said...

This resonates with me. Having moved frequently during our married life, I'm at the stage where I'm ready to put down roots. In fact, I can hardly stop myself. Problem is, Corey is looking at taking a new job across the country. The thought of starting over at this stage makes me want to sob. But what do you do? I have to keep my chin up, look at it as an adventure (if it comes to pass), and hope that this might be our last move.

Stephanie said...

Tim & I are still in the "see the world/go on adventures" season. We'd love to move a few different places just to be somewhere new people, see new things, etc.

Eventually, though, it will be nice to "put down our roots." :)

The Source said...

The area where we live doesn't have much of a turn-over, which I really like. My 20 yr old son still has some of the same best buddies that he met in kindergarten. On the down side of that...if your great-great-grandpa was a horse thief EVERYONE knows about it! LOL

The Texas Bakers said...

Your post resonated with me on many levels. I cherish the roots I put down in my childhood, knowing the same people from kindergarten to high school graduation. I feel my soul expand every summer when I come "home" for a few weeks with my own children. I feel the same tearing anguish along with my readiness to return to my own place when I leave. I really struggle to put down roots and invest myself in new friends, schools, and neighborhoods with each move my husband and I have made, but, really, isn't that what makes life worthwhile?

Chrissy Johnson said...

I've been a floater forever, but keep coming back to one spot: Tennessee. Our impending move back there will mark my third time calling it home. And we're done moving - it will (God willing) be our forever place. We're such a nomadic culture, though by and large, some of us embrace it and some decide it's not for us. Some move because there's no choice in the matter - but I do think that home finds us, and sometimes it's not where you necessarily grew up.

mumple said...

Roots? I didn't even make it out of my childhood yard! We live in the house my parents bought when I was a year old. My children sleep in the same bedroom(s) I did growing up, and my husband got to clean out my dad's workshop and make it his own.

In some ways, I think it'd be good to get out of here and experience something new...but I like that I know the quirks of this town, and this house.

(and My Sweetie's parents live on land his mom's family has lived on since before the Civil War...a house they built that is about 8 minutes from the house he grew up in. They don't move 'round much, either, I guess.)

Liz said...

This is timely as I prepare for my 8th move in 13 years of marriage. This time, though, we are buying a home and hoping to stay put for awile. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have some good strong roots, the kind that will stay put and run deep enough that I won't blow away with the dust.

CountessLaurie said...

In high school, all I could think of was moving to the West Coast, far far away from the East Coast where I grew up. I moved two miles across town, into the house my husband grew up in.

Oh, do we have roots. Sometimes they are too deep, and I still dream of the West Coast, but I don't think we'll leave...

Krista said...

Amen to that! I spent the first 12 years of my life in Oregon - same house. Then we moved to Washington where my parent still live in that same house. Long about the college years I moved something like 9 times in 5 years and the longest stretch in one place was 13 months in Seattle after I graduated.
Now we've lived in the same town for almost 5 years - near my parent's town - and just moved into our first house. So technically we've moved to a new address and have new neighbors, but it's still home.
I know some day we'll probably move again for more school, but this area will always be home to me. 11 years and counting...