I moved recently.
Actually, let me start over. Those three words do not paint an accurate enough story. Sure, we boxed up all our belongings, rented the biggest U-Haul truck known to man, and a bunch of our friends helped us load up the truck, drove the three miles to our new house, then unpacked the truck. We fed them of course, had a few beers. But this does not begin to describe what actually happened.
The real story started back when I was three, the first time I remember moving. After that, we never stopped. Like the stories I create, each of my thirteen childhood houses filled in the plot. Each of the eight different schools I attended before completing high school created the subplot. Each new church, each new friend group, filled in the emotional depth. Each story element taught me my life’s theme: I don’t belong anywhere. I have no home. I can depend on nothing and no one.
“Wait!” you exclaim, shaking your head, as you and plead with me to see the real truth. “That’s not true. You can’t really believe that.”
I don’t believe that now, but I did then. I am deeply loved. I do belong. I can depend on people.
I know. I really do.
It took a lot of work to get there.
The truth of my belonging is not the point. The point is, as a bright-eyed and fairy tale-dreamer bride, I wanted one thing—to give my kids a sense of permanency, a sense of belonging to a place, to a community. Better yet, I wanted them to grow up and get married and bring their children and their grandchildren to our family home.
Think Father of the Bride circa 1991.
But this is life and not a dream. Things rarely work out the way we plan.
It didn’t matter anyway, I had the next best thing. I had a neighborhood I belonged in. A neighborhood that looked like a Hollywood set it was so perfectly manicured. A neighborhood where I knew all the families on my street. A neighborhood that barbecued on the Fourth of July. A neighborhood where our friends from down the street would drop in and we’d have a glass of wine on the porch. A neighborhood where my kids grew up.
We lived in that neighborhood for ten years.
That is more than triple the longest I have lived anywhere. Ever.
We had dreams of buying the house. But when the opportunity came, we decided against it. We wanted something different. We had grown into different dreams. So, we said goodbye to my cute, cozy house. We said goodbye to our neighbors. We said goodbye to a long-held dream and hello to a new one.
It occurred to me today that I don’t belong there, in my old neighborhood, anymore.
My son drove by the old house a week ago and saw a young mom out on the grass playing with her toddler twin boys. I imagine the scene in soft light, the mother in flowing white, the boys with sharp haircuts and matching blue outfits. It made me smile. Because even though I don’t belong there anymore, they do. And they will have a wonderful time raising their family with all the other young families in the neighborhood. That house will belong to them like it belonged to me and my family.
And today, I realized I can’t go back. Physically, the logistics would be awkward, of course. I don’t think the new family would appreciate us trying to move back in. But that’s not what I mean. I mean emotionally I can’t go back. I chose to move. I chose a new house and a new neighborhood. I chose a new dream.
Even if for some reason I had the chance to go back, I don’t think I would fit. I think when I moved, a new me emerged. I think somehow, in the month since we’ve been gone, my spirit has spread out. It’s flexed its muscles, exhaled a little, and grown. I think going back would be like trying to stuff cooked maccaroni back into its original container. I can’t. The maccaroni expanded too much. It just doesn’t fit.
I’m good with that. I’m a little nostalgic at times, I miss the neighborhood people, the walks I used to take, but I’m ready for whatever the future holds. Because regardless of where I live, regardless of what dreams do or don’t come true, I belong. To myself, to my family, to my friends, to my community. With that kind of belonging, especially, there’s no going back.