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.