Roots

Having roots is important; knowing where you came from, but also feeling secure and settled in the place that you are. I’ve been feeling uprooted for the past five years or so (my husband and I have lived in six different places during that time). While feeling grounded because I have been with Jim through it all (I’m reminded of that song Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, listen to it here), still there’s been this feeling of pause. And I so want to be able to hit play. In each place, I have known that we were going to eventually move, so building relationships has been difficult, knowing they are bound to be broken or at least altered by time and distance once we make our departure.

I grew up in a university town in Iowa, and we moved to another university town in Iowa the summer before I was in sixth grade. Gone were both the friend I’d had since age two with whom I played every Wednesday and the friend one house away with whom I spent practically every other day. And then, circumstances being what they were, we were living in a rented duplex in the new town, a home I disliked and felt kind of ashamed of, especially when comparing it to the grand houses of my new classmates. My home for my junior high and high school years was not a place where I invited others. It was not the hang out house of my circle of friends. And I LIKED my parents and would have loved for my friends and I to get to hang out with them. So part of feeling settled for me is having a house that I like, and knowing that we will live there a long time. Now that I am a parent, I especially want that for my child. I want him to feel comfortable in his home, to know that our house is his safe haven, his place to be his true goofy self. And I want his dad and I to be the cool parents, and our house to be the favored stomping ground for him and his friends.

When you have roots, you are able to grow. Despite not liking our duplex, I felt safe and secure in my family. So much so that I left. I went to college a thousand miles away. And then, after college and a good job, I left the country and went over eight thousand miles away from my hometown to be a Peace Corps volunteer. These experiences were life-altering in so many ways. I met so many wonderful people that I wouldn’t have met if I’d stayed in one place, if I’d stayed where I was planted, so to speak. But sometimes I wish I hadn’t transplanted. It makes it harder to know where to be. In knowing I can survive and even flourish pretty much anywhere, how do I choose where to go? Knowing, too, that no matter where I go all of the people whom I care about will not be there together. I envy my cousins. Three of them are in the same city, with the last likely to move to town soon, and their mother and her husband recently relocating there. So many of the people they love nearby.

My husband, Jim, and I do not love Arizona. When we think about what we want for our child, we naturally reflect on our own childhoods. I miss the vibrant green and the cushioned softness of a grassy yard. I miss the towering pine tree in my backyard with its canopy of branches, each one close enough to the next for my foot to reach.  I miss the faucet of cold rain in a proper thunderstorm, and I miss the silence after a snowfall. Our part of Arizona does not really have these things, and while there are other attractions to this scalded land, those deficits are strongly felt. Add to them the history of poorly funded public education, and we find compelling reasons not to raise our son here.

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6 thoughts on “Roots

  1. After living in one place for 35 years, I needed to move on; to grow and expand and discover. I felt my life was stagnating, becoming stale. I wasn’t growing. So, we hauled ourselves to IA. It was an easy first step, I think. Far enough to not lose touch completely but close enough to make the trip in a few hours.

    But, staying in the midwest was not far enough. It was too much like home. I needed to go farther. So, to CA we went. That was far. Farther than I’d been before on my own. It was liberating and terrifying. I didn’t know how immature I was until faced with such distance from everything I’d known. I balked and became homesick quickly. CA was far different than what I was used to. Our time there was well spent, but ultimately with the job the way it was, unsatisfying.

    So, faced with such unhappiness in a tiny one bedroom apartment in the real SF Bay area and uninteresting job, I packed us up and moved us to AZ. You’ve been wonderfully resilient throughout this and I love you for it (and countless other reasons).

    This was the right move at the time. I enjoy the job here, am well paid, and think often on how lucky we are that this situation allows you to be home with our son. But, as you mentioned, there’s a lot of things that don’t quite fit here: politics, schools, general conservative slant, desert clime. I sometimes stare out our front window and imagine grass, or rain, or snow. You can take the boy out of the midwest, but you can’t take the midwest out of the boy, I suppose.

    So, we’re talking about moving again. It’s daunting. I’d like us to settle down, also. I had a stable home my entire life- my parents owned three houses in generally the same area of the southern suburbs of St. Paul. Some places we’re considering I really don’t want to go- IA and MN. To me, it would feel like retreating- though, the reasoning behind IA is inarguable.

    In the end I want what’s best for Liam: stable home, good schools, safe neighborhoods, and the opportunity to be a kid.

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  2. I’ve lived in AZ all of my life. I love it. It has its flaws but I have traveled a lot and find flaws everywhere. If you are able to stay home with your son, that is a huge bonus. I’d make sure you can do that if you move. And there are plenty of wonderful schools here. You just have to look carefully and decide where is best for your son’s situation and what neighborhood you can afford.
    I have no idea what town in AZ you are living in, but there are many gorgeous areas. Good luck in your search. lily

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  3. Your post moved me more than I can say. I’ve been rootless for over 25 years. Nearly the entire time I’ve yearned for my own home, one I am happy in and can feel proud of, but have never achieved it. Most of that time has been in sh*thole apartments in… the SF Bay Area, and my heart is just screaming to leave. It’s a constant discussion between my partner and I.
    Anyway, this is just to say that I relate to your dilemma and think its a very healthy one. Many people don’t look deeply enough into themselves to figure out what they want or need, they just go with the flow instead of aiming for a promontory, and then it’s too late.

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  4. It’s past one in the morning and I’m still up. I just read your posts and answered my own question. You’re in Arizona. I like your summary paragraph about the things you miss so much. It’s both melancholy and nostalgic. I also pressed your link to the song. Unfortunately, the volume on my laptop was at its highest. My husband is now wide awake next to me. OOOOOPS!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read. And thanks for the comments. That paragraph took a fair amount of rewriting; it started out very cliche, “I miss the seasons,” but I think it improved. Sorry about the wake-up song! Hope you and your husband both can get some rest soon.

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      1. I loved the post and the song too. Not your fault! I should have checked the volume. Happens a lot. Usually he’s awakened by cat videos on YouTube. He’s a very understanding, patient man.

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