Due to 5 college degrees and three college jobs, my husband and I have moved 11 times since our respective high school graduations. Three of those times have been returning to my parents, but the area has changed so much that it's new each time. I used to think that all this moving sucked out loud and I just wanted to be settled, but a great walk yesterday during lunch kindof gave me an epiphany.
Currently we live in Northern VA, very suburb-y and slowly the older 1970's townhouses are being blotted out by the $800,000 McMansions that nobody can afford to buy anymore, but they're still being built because, hey, those construction workers need their jobs. I grew up here, about 2 miles from the current house. I used to spend my afternoons wandering the woods of what is now my Metro stop. I point out to the girls places I remembered from my childhood and how much I enjoy letting them share the same experiences. This weekend we're going to the roadside farm stand where I played in the straw maze and picked out pumpkins for as long ago as I can remember. I like the area having concentrations of shopping close to my neighborhood, where I can walk for quarter mile at most and have access to anything I might possibly need to buy (mostly thanks to the WalMart). It's all well-manicured and pretty, our neighbors are nice, and life seems stable nomater what might be going on inside the houses.
Big O was born in Ann Arbor MI, a place which she neither has visited nor remembers thanks to moving away when she was 4 months old. A gorgeous town (Go Blue!) filled with restaurants of every imaginable kind. Half the state converging upon my neighborhood every Saturday in the fall, full of temporary rage against people from Ohio. A beautiful park running for miles along the river. The serene beauty of the Law Quad, which helped move along the romantic relationship that blossomed into my marriage. A stellar hospital which saved my life. A cider mill in the next town that satisfied my sweet tooth while pregnant. And, most importantly, the school to which I currently owe about $50,000.
After a summer of parent-hopping to show off the new baby, we moved to Portland, OR. It only took a week for me to actually get depressed if I the clouds prevented me from seeing Mt. Hood's whitecaps. We browsed the Saturday market under the bridge, drove through the hilly countryside on Sunday afternoons, and strolled through Reed College's simple and picturesque campus, noting all the "hippy students" that my husband adored teaching so much. Big O learned to walk and talk in Portland. One of her last major explorations before moving away was the Oregon Museum of Science and Technology, and although she remembers nothing else, she does vaguely recall the ballpit when I show her the pics of her sitting there.
We spent a couple more years back with my parents, then took off to central NY state, right smack-dab in the geographical middle. If there were a place that I could retire in happily, it would be Clinton. Saturday trips to the cider mill were our favorite, watching apples be mashed on the same machine that has been supplying the valley with excellent cider for over a hundred years. O attended the best preschool ever on the campus of Hamilton College, knocking on Daddy's office window on their twice-daily outings. Hubby so looked forward to that momentary interruption, which quickly became 12 little sets of knuckles knocking as each students walked by and giggled. Later I walked her to school in the village center, feeling safe on the main road as neighbors would wave at us and trees and flowers would smile at us and share their blooms with a curious kindergartener. We spent hours wandering through Root Glen, a fabulous compact nature preserve and flower garden with hundreds of species. We drove up to the base of a 50-foot high wind turbine and looked up, feeling the power that was flowing to the valley around us. We lived in a house that had periodically been rebuilt over its 120 year history, ending in the most curious compilation of interior design you'd ever see. Ebay was conceived there in love (and great planning) and born there in a great hurry. She was cared for in great technology in Syracuse, and returned to our warm and loving home to be spoiled by family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I was most sad to leave this place.
Now that we're once again in Northern VA, I am working in the heart of downtown DC, known as the Golden Triangle. I hurredly eat my lunch so I can get out of the building and wander the city, a different direction each day. In the cool shadows of the no-higher-than-14-stories buildings, I note the people dining with friends, having business meetings at a streetside hotdog vendor, shopping for a big date that night. Homeless people needing assistance, and sadly not many people offering what they need. Survey-takers, associations soliciting members, TV news crews taking street shots for the evening news. The architectural mish-mash of historic DuPont Circle, where the ultra high-class people maintain townhouses. Knowing that nomatter where you are, you're never more than a block from a CVS, an Au Bon Pain, or a Starbucks. Hearing the laughter of children coming from the rooftop playground of the charter school. The most recent occurrence of a handful of emergency vehicles racing by, followed by the dual-driver cherrypicker truck. Traffic stopping for the latest whining and flashing caravan of sleek black government SUVs containing Some Very Important Person Needing Great Security. And despite this bustling city, there are plants everywhere, green trees, fresh flowers, clean mulch. This is one thing that DC does well.
As I walk along the busy, sun-filled streets, I look at my surroundings and I think about how lucky I am to be able to take in all of this, to have experienced so many different environments in my adult life. My girls are getting this world view as well, something I never had until I went out on my own. We had the same house from 3 years before I was born until 5 years after I'd left for college, and rather than experiencing the ever-changing world, I had to watch the world change around me while my life stayed the same. Big O and Ebay have met people from all walks of life and dozens of countries, inspected nature from different climates, seen different landscapes, and smelled the breezes wafting in from several different bodies of water.
Sure, moving has been a big hassle and we leave behind friends we'd only just made, but there are innumerable life lessons that come from taking the plunge and moving to a new place. We explore a new house, a new town, and make new friends. Every day becomes an adventure.
Try it sometime.