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…..

My China Horses

When I was a child, I wanted a horse more than anything in the world.  Unfortunately, I spent the first eleven years of my life living in a city with no horse stables in sight, so I knew that the chances of getting a horse of my own were slim.   I learned to make do with the china horses I purchased from the local variety store each time I saved enough of my weekly allowance.  Eventually, I collected a whole herd of little horses that were proudly displayed on a bookshelf in my bedroom.  Sometimes I made the mistake of trying to play with them, but they were so fragile that the play sessions usually resulted in a “thinning of the herd.”

We moved to rural Kansas when I turned eleven, and I was thrilled to finally get my first real horse.  Gypsy was beautiful, but she wasn’t particularly nice, and it wasn’t long before she had me thoroughly intimidated.  Luckily, we were able to sell Gypsy and buy Tony, a sturdy Welsh pony whose goodwill and common sense allowed me to learn what owning and riding my own horse was really all about.  Eventually, I outgrew Tony and got Prince, the world’s most wonderful horse, whom I loved and enjoyed until his death seventeen years later.

I kept my collection of china horses, displaying them for years after I had acquired a real horse.  I even took a few of them to college with me, where they stood on a shelf above my desk.  If my friends thought it was odd for a college woman to decorate her dorm room with horse figures, they were kind enough not to say so.  The horses (not made of china, I finally realized, but probably ceramic or porcelain) still broke easily, so I lost one or two each time I moved them.  Later, when my husband and I set up our first home together, I finally packed away the last of the herd in a box marked “keepsakes.”

I think it was about five years ago that I first saw a tiny horse figure in an antique shop, just like the ones I used to collect as a child, and I bought it.  Then I unpacked the four horses I had left in my keepsake box and placed them, discreetly, on the bottom shelf of the TV stand in our bedroom.  I have since found a few more horses for sale in shops where antiques and collectibles are sold and brought them home to join the herd.  Last year, I boldly moved them to the top of the bookshelf in my bedroom, where my husband has learned to tolerate them.

IMG_2422They may look like a group of cheap horse figurines, but to me, they are so much more.  They remind me of my childhood dream of owning a horse, and of how that dream actually came true.  They remind me that dreams don’t always match reality, but that if I can find the courage to persevere, sometimes reality is just as good, if not better, than the dream.

I have come full circle now, once again living in a large city where owning a horse isn’t practical.  So once again, I am making do with my little collection of “china” horses.  Only this time, they are more than enough.

(Many thanks to Greg over at Almost Iowa  for the writing prompt, “My Stuff.”)

The Roads Not Traveled

IMG_1272We just got back from a fun weekend spent visiting family in Iowa.  On Saturday night, my nephew and his wife graciously hosted everyone for a big family dinner at their home.  They moved to a beautiful old farmhouse in the country a couple of years ago, and this was the first time my husband and I had visited them there.  Their one hundred year-old house (which is remarkably well preserved)  sits on several acres of land, with a beautiful view of rolling pasture right outside their front door.  They have fruit trees, a huge garden, several charming outbuildings and even a chicken coop, complete with six lively chickens.   And as they were showing us around, all I could think was, “I want to live here.”

There has always been a part of me that would like to live out in the country, in a big rambling farmhouse surrounded by enough land to keep a few horses, several dogs and whatever other animals I happened to acquire.  I enjoy the peaceful beauty of rural areas, and the thought of living closer to nature, with the chance to grow lots of vegetables and maybe even have fresh eggs from my very own chickens is appealing to me.  But that’s not the life I chose, and it’s not the life I am living.

I live in an inner suburb of a large city, on less than a quarter-acre lot, with neighbors close by on three sides.  I can’t step out my door and go for a nice walk in the country, but I can walk to several stores and restaurants, and my children could walk to their school when they were little.  My son, daughter, and mother each live within a twenty minute drive from my home, and my husband and I have many good friends who live close enough to see often.  All in all, I am happy with the way things have turned out, and have no plans of moving anytime soon.

I think we all have to make our choices in life, and there are always trade-offs in whatever choice we make.  As much as I would enjoy living in that big house in the country, I also enjoy living in a city with all that a big urban area has to offer. Country living is, for me, one of those choices that I think about from time to time and wonder just exactly what my life would be like if I had followed that particular dream.  Just like how each time my husband and I visit Sanibel Island, we think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just live down here?”  But then we go home, look around us, and realize that we are content to stay just where we are.

There will always be a part of me that yearns for the country life, and for the island life as well.  But I know that not all dreams can be followed, and that we have to choose the ones that are the most important to us.  For my nephew and his wife, the dream of farm life was the one worth pursuing, and I’m so glad it worked out for them.  (And I hope they don’t mind us visiting rather often!)  But for me, both the rural life and the island life are simply the tempting roads that I didn’t travel on the journey of my life.