Moving On

Scan 1When I was seven, my father decided to enroll in seminary to become a minister,  which meant that our family moved from a four-plus bedroom house to a five-room campus apartment.  The apartment was tiny, and had an odd layout because it had been pieced together from single-student dorm rooms.  Our bathroom was dormitory style, complete with a toilet stall, and our kitchen had no sink.  We lived there four years, and for that whole time, my deepest desire was to move back to my old house.  Even now,  I still have fond memories of living in that house, and feel a twinge of longing whenever I’m in my old neighborhood and drive by it.

So when I heard that my old house was going for sale, my first thought was that I could actually buy it now (if I could talk my husband into it) and move right back in.  For a while, it was exciting to realize that I was finally in a position to make one of my strongest childhood dreams come true.  But it wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t really want to move back there anymore.

It’s still a wonderful house, with bright and spacious rooms, hardwood floors and lots of original woodwork, and it’s going to make somebody a fabulous new home.  But I’m no longer the kid living in a cramped apartment and longing to return to her former home.  I’m all grown up now (and then some), and am quite happy in the house I’ve been living in for the past twenty years.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that moving out of that house wasn’t quite the tragedy I remembered.

It was tough to downsize as drastically as we did, to have to give our beloved dog to family friends, and leave my familiar neighborhood behind. But moving to seminary housing meant I had a huge campus to roam, and a constant stream of new friends (sometimes from other countries) as the families of new students moved in.  And after my dad graduated, we moved to rural Kansas were I learned first-hand what small-town life is like.  That was a hard adjustment at first, but it was also where I finally got the horse I’d always been wanting and where I made strong friendships that have continued to this day.

I have moved many times in my life, sometimes through choice and sometimes from necessity.  And there was a time when I thought my life would have been so much better if I had just stayed in one place, and been spared the pain of leaving friends, family, and familiar surroundings behind.  But I have come to realize that there was something good that came from each move, and that each and every place I have lived has helped shape me into who I am today.

Life is often referred to as a journey, and I believe that is a good description.  Sometimes my path has been smooth, and sometimes it’s been rocky, but either way, it has led me to exactly where I am now.  From the hard times, I learned that I was much stronger and more resilient than I had ever realized.  From the good times, I gained beautiful memories that will always be with me as I forge ahead.  All of it had a hand in shaping the person I have become, even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

ScanThrough a series of happy circumstances, I was invited to visit my old house the other day, and got to walk through all the rooms I remembered so well.  It was a wonderful, if slightly surreal, experience.  I still love that house, and I think I always will.  But I won’t try to go back to it.  It’s someone else’s turn to live there now…..

77 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. well written and sincerely appreciate the sentiments you express here Ann!
    Every relocation and every event in our life shapes who we are today. We learn and grow from the hardships and store memorable moments indelibly on our hearts 🙂

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  2. I felt exactly the same way when we moved from my childhood home. I dreamed about it for years afterwards and yearned for the big backyard, the trees I climbed, everything inside that I loved and the cat we left behind but like you, in hindsight, it was all a growing experience. Lovely nostalgic post Ann.

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    • Thanks, Miriam! I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one who had such strong feelings about moving away from a favorite childhood home. It’s odd how we can get so attached to a particular house, isn’t it? But looking back, the move did bring it’s advantages, even if it was painful at the time.

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  3. This post touched quite a chord in me, and set me off on reflections of my own. I hope you don’t mind that I share them in what will most likely be a lengthy comment – even for me.

    I share this, not to complain, but to add a bit of balance for anyone reading your post, hoping that they will be on the lookout for areas where they will probably need to double support for their children if they move them around frequently. Not all of us are able to look back fondly and agree that it was “the best of all possible worlds.” I am truly happy for you that you are able to do so, however, and I assure anyone reading that I have made peace with my background.

    I moved often as well – practically every year of my life, actually, until I entered High School. I have no attachment to or concept of “home” as a result – and I very much wish that I did. I see what a difference it made in my sister’s life. She was entering the third grade when my father was stationed as Congressional Liaison and the family “settled” in beltway Washington for the 4 years prior to my father’s retirement from the Air Force and entry into the private sector, when I moved on from what I will always regard as “my father’s house,” leaving to attend college.

    It wasn’t so very difficult for me to leave “friends” behind repeatedly – most likely because, on reflection, any friendships that can be formed in a single year as the new girl can only be superficial at best. For most of my sister’s childhood, she was able to be confident that her relationships would be allowed to deepen over time. That changed her expectations and behavior substantially and for the remainder of her life, despite the fact that we were both equally outgoing by nature.

    I was always wary, subconsciously awaiting the sudden announcement that we would be moving yet again at the end of the school year – or during the semester break. My home life was strict but supportive and loving, by the way, make no mistake about that, but I was certainly not consulted – or prepared in advance – for what always seemed to come out of the blue.

    I cannot quite believe to this day how wonderful it is that I am still able to keep in touch with a few of my college friends, but there is a residual reserve from those peripatetic years that I have tried to shake unsuccessfully, despite how much I love and respect them all. I missed developing what I call “relationship continuity” skills to the level I might have otherwise, and much earlier in my life than mid-adulthood.

    As the oldest, so most at the effect of those repeated relocations, I believe it is no accident that I am the only one of my surviving siblings who did not marry successfully and build a family of my own. Perhaps, as a military family, my experience would have been different if we’d lived on base instead of in established neighborhoods where long-term friendships had already been formed. I imagine that would have been easier for me, since most of the other children would have come from a similar background.

    There have certainly been lasting benefits to having to learn how to “hit hard and break in fast” that I could point out. I was always “popular” – but never especially connected emotionally in ways that I finally understood in my late 20s and developed subsequently, bit by bit. At this end of my life I have to conclude that moving frequently is not an especially good experience for a child’s development, even one as extroverted as I. It was not for mine, in any case.

    Continuity of education was sketchy at best. I missed fundamentals that had already been taught in the prior grade in my current school, and was forced to revisit content I had already absorbed at the pace of students who were learning it for the first time – bored to tears. Since I never had to study to make
    practically straight As in those subjects, I never developed decent study-skills, even when I was in grad school, despite a 4.0 average. Had I, I would probably have gone on for a Ph.D. that would have further expanded my options and altered the trajectory of my life in a beneficial manner.

    In addition, my early teachers had no idea how to context the disparity in my “performance,” so a math learning disability (dyscalculia) was missed entirely, that might otherwise have been caught – which certainly would have improved my SAT scores at the very least (practically perfect in English and significantly lower in math). That would have opened doors to higher education at a few top schools I would have liked to have attended that would have benefited me greatly. I’m not sure how a child without my high IQ and compliant temperament would have retained any hope of getting into any really good college at all.

    Then there is the also the not so inconsequential matter of ADD. I was 38 before I was finally diagnosed, since any executive functioning challenges were chalked up to difficulties adjusting to the new school by teachers and administration alike — especially since I did not present with gross motor hyperactivity. You can make a real mess of a life in 38 years struggling undiagnosed – especially with that particular disorder.

    I make great “lemonade” as the result of my background – but I’d be lying if I denied that I regret I had to learn that particular recipe at so young an age.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

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    • Oh, I can’t imagine how hard moving that often would be! It is much easier for me to see the good in my moves, because we stayed in each location for at least four years, and that’s a whole different experience. Thanks for sharing your story!

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      • Thanks for understanding, but it did not seem hard at the time – it was all I knew. And the times themselves were very different.

        Only upon reflection did I become aware of its impact – especially as I grew older and noted the way my siblings matured into adults and how they parented (contrasted with the lives and parenting of friends whose parents did not move like gypsies).

        We carry our childhoods like backpacks – ALL of us in America. Some of us manage to dump much it once held, but few of us understand how to remove it.

        Still, there are many children in the world and in America with lives that are truly grim. My childhood certainly wasn’t that! 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

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  4. Very good and thoughtful post, Ann. I feel similarly though what I missed when I moved from my family home was not the house, but the garden (yard). I remember begging my dad to let me stay somewhere in the house – make a garden flat (apartment) for me so I could still enjoy the garden, but he was set on selling the place to free up capital for both of us after my mum died. After that I moved to a house I thought I’d love but it brought me no end of bad times and then when my husband and I saw this place that we currently live in, it was love at first sight. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else (but one will probably have to).

    None of us can go back to how we were, it’s good to accept the present. That said, my memories of the past keep me afloat still as, I’m sure, do yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see where the attachment to a garden would be just as strong as the attachment to a house. And as you say, we will always have the memories, and have learned to love where we live now. I know that if/when we move from our current house, it will be just as hard as leaving that first house all those years ago. Thanks for the comment, Val!

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  5. So beautifully touching and I can relate in many ways. Moved a lot as a child. I think sometimes the memories we have of something ( like a house) are even sweeter than the actual object or event. So cherish those memories. ❤️☺️

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    • Thanks, Jodi! I know you moved a lot as a child, too, and had even more disruptions than I did. And I think you are right in that we remember things as a bit better than they were. My family did go through some rough times when we lived in that house, and yet my memories there are only of happiness. And I’m good with that!

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  6. I understand the sentiment, Ann, and it’s probably true to say that most of us yearn for nostalgic aspects of our past to return. Still, there’s also the realisation that the past is just that, and must remain so; we can never bring it back to life except in memory — the place where we can best do justice to the reliving of it?

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    • I agree, Hariod! We can never truly go back, and if we were completely honest with ourselves, we’d probably realize that we don’t really want to. The best is to hold on to the good memories, but to live in the present. I have found that time does provide a perspective I didn’t have before.

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  7. Like you, my earlier years were constant moving (my parents were both in the theater business, and we (5 total) lived in a caravan for many years simply because it was practical. Upon reflection, they were good experiences because, like you, we met so many different people and were exposed to many different lifestyles. We learned to enjoy what we had, and adapt as necessary. All that is, to me, an excellent primer on life, and I am often saddened by people I meet who have a narrow view of the world because of not experiencing those things in their early years.
    Stability however is very important and “us three kids” grew up to be very self-sufficient, but.also a little anti-social. It was not that we did not like people, but more that we did not need people! I loved the experiences of my childhood, but there is a value in staying in the same place during those childhood years.

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    • Yes, there is both good and bad to moving and being exposed to different people and different cultures. I think, for me, the liberating moment was to stop mourning for what I “lost” by not having more stability and to start recognizing what I gained from the particular path my life took. It was as if someone had lifted a curtain and revealed something I had never seen before!

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  8. Ann your writing has a way of drawing me in, and dredging up similar experiences in my own life. I hope you’ll see it as the compliment its meant to be when I hijack your comment feed for a moment to share what you’ve helped me enjoy again.
    Until about 5 years ago, my definition of home was closely tied to the house I was living in at the time. There were childhood homes that took Dad more than 8 years to build (we called it Sangra La and I can still feel the carefully crafted stonework lining the enormous fireplace that served as an anchor for so many cherished memories), there was the first house I bought during med school, remembered best for the bed the I never got the chance to use as much as I wanted to, and several others that became less enchanting as the novelty wore off.
    The thing about “home” that I still hold onto are the experiences and the relationships, the chance to plant roots and watch things grow. Thanks again Ann.

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    • Gabe, you are welcome to “hijack” my comment feed anytime you want! That’s what it’s there for, and I’m just thrilled that this post spoke to you. It must have been hard to leave the home your dad so carefully constructed for his family. But I agree, when it comes right down to it, “home” is so much more than just a house. It’s where we belong, where we grow, and where we connect. Thanks, Gabe, for your kind words and insight!

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  9. My wife’s family celebrated 150 years on the same farm. All of her family lives within a half dozen miles of the original farm. Needless to say, they have a strong sense of place.

    Growing up in my old neighborhood, I could hear six languages on any given day. Now when I go there, I can hear at least three, with multiple dialects, yet the languages are different.

    Some people thrive on that diversity and I admire that but I chose not to. Not that I have anything against it, goodness knows, but a sense of place is important to me and I thrive where the roots run deep.

    I was talking to an old Hmong (Laotian) guy in the neighborhood where I worked for years. He liked the place, he liked what his life had become – but it made him sad, living like he did – as a lifelong visitor.

    Almost Iowa will be my home until I die – but like him, I will always be a visitor.

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    • I think you’ve brought up a very good point. There are a lot of advantages to having a strong sense of place, and to living your whole life in the same area as your family has for generations. I didn’t have that as a child, but I wanted it. Still, I can see the advantages I had in moving to different homes in very different areas, and I am glad I had those experiences.
      But what did I do as soon as I was old enough to choose where I could live? Come right back to St. Louis, my “home town” and I’ve been here ever since. We moved to different houses, but that was due to our financial situation, as we bought what we could afford at the time, fixed it up and then sold it for a profit to move to a slightly larger house. We had every intention of doing the same thing with our current house (a dump when we bought it), but that was over twenty years ago, and we’re still here. This has become our home, but not in the same way it would if I had never left St. Louis in the first place. Home is a funny concept….

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  10. “The Journey”… When we are young it’s looks scary, when we are in it it’s a love/hate relationship, as we grow older we come to appreciate it, see the value in it, and even thank God for the turns and occasional fender benders in it… Great article!

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    • I think you are right. And realizing I could buy my old childhood home again, but no longer wanted to, really brought that home to me. It was lovely at the time, and it’s still a wonderful home, but for someone else, not me.

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  11. So beautifully written! I can relate to that so much and understand of the “spare the pain of leaving family and friends behind”. With moving through continents I found a new perception for what a home is to me. And it is a place where my close family is, no matter at what physical location in the world I am in.

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  12. A moving piece. It is true that thinking back to places of yore evokes nostalgia for the best times of those places, but it’s also true that moving, physically or otherwise tends to bring growth along with it. You’ve illustrated that beautifully.

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  13. Children are far more resilient than we adults realize. My parents moved many times from place to place in postwar Germany. Before my wife and I had found a place in Canada to put our roots down, we had moved many times from one place to another and our children with us. The same I now observe with our grandchildren. I believe that as long as one feels loved and cared for, the physical surroundings matter far less than the emotional sphere within which we live. I always wanted to tell you, Ann, that you truly have the knack of weaving your life experiences into a beautiful tapestry for all of us followers to see on the walls of your wonderful blog.

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    • Thanks, Peter! That is such a nice thing to say!
      And I agree with you that frequent moves are made so much easier if children have a strong, close-knit family unit that they can count on. We all react to things differently, and as a child, I wasn’t crazy about any move, at first. But once I settled in, I did see advantages to each new place I lived. And looking back on it, I honestly think it was good for me. We moved to a different house when my kids were young, and they handled it just fine. Kids, as you say, are more resilient than we give them credit for!

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  14. People always say you can never go home again and maybe there is some truth to that, at least in certain aspects of our past. I’ve often wanted to walk through the home I grew up in so I’m glad you had that opportunity. I’m sure it was very surreal, as you mentioned. Sometimes it’s just time to move on and give someone else a chance. You just take the memories with you…:)

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    • You know, George, that’s exactly how I felt! I was so glad to get the chance to walk through it again, and see that it was almost exactly how I remembered it. But I also knew, deep down, that moving back wasn’t the right move for me anymore. I just hoped that whoever lived in it next would appreciate it as much as I did. My family moved out of it in 1965, and only two other families have lived in it since. I think that does say something, don’t you? But I’ve reached the point where I’m happy with my memories!

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  15. Interesting! I remember discussing before that our fathers were both ministers, though mine was already one when I was born. In our case, it meant we lived in large, rambling manses that we couldn’t afford to heat properly, and moved every 5-6 years. As a young adult I moved a few times too as a studen,t and in the early part of my career / our careers, but we’ve lived in Glasgow since 1986 and in our current house since 1993. Can’t imagine moving. I’m drawing a parallel here – have our itinerant childhoods caused us both to settle down in mid-life with a sigh of relief?

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    • I think that is a very accurate parallel! There were certainly good things that came from the frequent moves, but I think that is also the reason I have been in the same city since 1980, and the only reason I moved between houses was that we outgrew the ones we bought early in our marriage. We’ve been in our current house since 1995, although when we moved in, we really didn’t intend to stay this long. But now I love this house, and don’t want to move to a different one! That sigh of relief is real!

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  16. Great post! I sometimes envy those who had the opportunity to move and change and grow. I have never moved. I still live in my childhood home at age 53 and I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live anywhere else. I love that our home in still in my family, but there is always that what if factor that goes along with this old house.

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    • That’s interesting! Those of us who have moved a lot sometimes envy those who didn’t, and I hadn’t even realized that the reverse might also be true. I guess the truth is that there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides, and whichever one we chose (or chose us) always leaves room for wondering how our lives would be different if we had or hadn’t moved. But you know, I think the end result is the same: everything we’ve experienced so far in our life journey has contributed to making us exactly who we are today. And if we look at it like that, then it’s all okay….

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  17. Sometimes memories are best to remain memories for risk of not being able to live up to expectations. But so great that you got to go back into the house to re-experience it. I’d love to read a post about how you felt, were the smells the same, did the rooms seem as large etc.

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    • Great minds think alike, and so do ours! I actually thought about writing the post from that perspective, but I wasn’t ready just yet. But I think it would be an interesting one to write in the future. What was odd was that I have often had dreams where I go in that old house and nothing is like I remembered it. In reality, my memory was pretty good, with a few exceptions. I didn’t remember a door that joined two of bedrooms, and I remembered the kitchen being bigger. But overall, my tour actually verified the memories I have. I think I will write about that soon….

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  18. Home is a theme that everyone can relate to in some way. I appreciate your efforts to truly reflect about what you want now in this present day. It is easy to live with a belief that if you could go back your life would be so much better. You dug deeper to explore the truth for yourself. Thanks for sharing your process for others.

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    • Thank you for your kind words! It is odd how long I believed that things would have been better if only they had gone differently. But eventually, I figured out that simply wasn’t true….. It was my own “aha” moment.

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  19. I think our previous homes (houses, people) hold both their original, familiar identity, and the changes that have happened over time. They continue to grow, as we do. So, I guess that old saying about not being able to go home again is true.

    Loving the happy nostalgic spin on this!

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  20. Very nice post! You are blessed to have so many good memories in your childhood home and the opportunity to revisit. It’s wonderful how we can reflect on our past and realize that what was tragic to us at the moment was actually a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn.

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    • Thank you! It took a long time for me to realize that moving from that house wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was. I will always have good memories of my time there, and I still think it is a beautiful house, but I also know that I grew a lot in the years after I left, in ways I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t moved. So, all in all, thinks worked out just fine.

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