Staying put


I don’t know if I should count my very first move from the hospital in Manhattan where I was born, to Jackson Heights in Queens, New York where I lived until I was 21. That would bring the count to fourteen.  I was not an army brat, although my father was in the army during World War II.  After a while, into my various moves, my mother told me that she had switched  from writing my address in  ink to pencil, in her address book.  She wasn’t the only one who said that to me.

My parents moved to the two bedroom apartment I grew up in, a few years before I was born.  They never moved from there and my mother lived there, after my dad’s death, for another nine years, bringing the time living there to fifty-eight years.  My sister and I endured living in a very small bedroom sharing the space that my FHB, upon seeing it for the first time, declared it to be the size of a hamper.  That may have  been a gross exaggeration, but not by much.  Two girls, four years, three months apart, sharing one closet, in a room approximately 9 feet by 10 feet (the size of an average prison cell is 70 sq. feet), was challenging.  I rose to the challenge by constantly moving the furniture around and in adolescence, demanded that my parents buy me a folding room divider so I could have privacy and access to the door and window, which left my sister control of the closet.  The various iterations that I came up with was like moving the numbers around that nine cell square plastic puzzle where you try to put the numbers in numerical order.  I was never content with the arrangement, and it led to discontent on my sister’s part which just magnified the lilliputian size of the room. Living with me,  in general, nevermind in small spaces, was not easy.  We had been told that had my sister been a boy, they might have considered a move to larger quarters.  I was pretty territorial, always, and even on vacations as a family, I made sure that I could define my space, by  claiming which bed or how many dresser drawers, were mine.  In retrospect, my parents, having moved as adolescents, from Germany to New York, following the rise of Hitler,  before World War II, had made the biggest move of their lives and once they were settled in, they were there to stay.  There was an unstated message that we got, which was that possessions didn’t matter, because in the scheme of things, they could be taken away. Being “allowed” to move and be an immigrant in a new country, changed what you value in the big picture sense, and being allowed to live, made other requirements for living, less of a priority.

I stayed local for college and afterwards,  left to move to the midwest and start my life as an adult.  The next several moves were from Illinois, back to New York, briefly and then I began a series of moves within Massachusetts.  The longest I ever lived in a place, besides in New York, was for 12 years.  I have an internal restlessness which is hard to pinpoint.  Moving from place to place was like satisfying an itch and I like making each place, my place.  Somehow the unspoken lesson from my parents’s life experiences, made it easy for me not to get attached to more than the people I live with, but not to the surroundings.  I have always like the challenge of a new place and it doesn’t take long to give it an identity.  Moving, on the other hand, is somewhat like forgetting what labor and birth is like.  It doesn’t hurt until you do it again, and then you remember that it is long and arduous and at times painful.  Packing is exciting for a few minutes, because you are already mentally in your next place. However, then you still have that pesky task of boxing up your worldly goods carefully and remembering what is in each box (not one of my strong points). When the movers finally show up, and you always think you have it all under control, you put your stuff in trash bags which don’t have any identifiers only to have a room full of bags and thus begins the “surprise” unveiling of whatever was thrown in the bags at the last moments.  You would think I would get better over time, but I still accumulate too much only to move with too much.   My sister, who has helped with most of the moves, declared that she bows out from future relocations.  I am grateful that she tolerated me, never mind the myriad of moves.  It’s akin to packing for a trip, and bringing your closet, just in case.  My FHB declares never again.  I respond, never say never.  We are just about to sign the lease for another year in the loft.  We do it more easily with each passing year.  I still rearrange the furniture and add and substract possessions.  My level of contentment is bound by my settling into the rhythm of my days.  I fill my head and heart with memories of great moments that I can unpack, and I find that I can always make space for new ones.

Have a good weekend.


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