No Going Back


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.

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.

6 thoughts on “No Going Back

  1. I never realized we had this in common. I always thought of your life as safe. You grew up with two parents, living together! I always described my Mom as a nomad. The only difference was she followed Men instead of food. I fought to get to Chico. To stay in Chico. It took me 38 years to find a home I could plant seeds. My kids have been in the same school district since birth. For me that is an astounding accomplishment. I love my home but I’ve realized my home isn’t about 4 walls. It’s about the man who calls me his wife and the two beautiful boys we brought in the world. It’s about having my dear friends nearby. Home means the door is always open and the house will probably be messy. I too wanted your dream of the family home and somehow when I was busy living I made one. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good to know others have traveled similar roads.

    1. I didn’t know we had this in common either. That nomad life still calls to me every once in a while. I plan to satisfy it with travel after my youngest granduates (in two and a half years!!!!). I love your wording “Home…is about the man who calls me his wife and the two beautiful boys we brought into this world.” Knowing just a bit of your story, it brings tears to my eyes.

  2. Thanks for sharing. For me home was and is my family. When you were about 2 years old I read an article in Readers Digest about a woman and her young son. In the late 1800s they arrived at a train station a little late and missed their train. Unfortunately the next train going to their destination wouldn’t arrive at the station until the next day. As they were settling in to the bench for the night the young boy was complaining about missing the train and how horrible it was to be stuck at the station. His mother replied “Oh son, I think this is a great adventure!!!”
    I tried to make each move an adventure. I didn’t always succeed but it helped me deal with life. Though we have lived in several houses n apartments in Chico, it is comforting to have lived in Chico for 16 years!

    1. Each move was an adventure! I think that longing for something new and that deep “gypsy” impulse to live all over the world is so important to me. I love the story you shared. Home is always with my family. Love you.

  3. Where do you live now? Address please. I don’t relate to moving very much. As a child I lived in one house. Lived there until Uncle Loren and I were married. After that we did move several times mostly from one apartment to another until Loren was in the Air Force. After he got out we bought our house on 16th St. In Antioch. We lived in Antioch a total of 7 yrs. before moving to Citrus Heights. We lived in our house on Holm Oak for 38 years. Now we have lived in the Gray Area for 31/2. I agree with your Mom, home is where my family is and truly with Loren and Lance both here, this is Home. My next home will be Heaven forever. Your writing and word pictures are so
    beautiful. love, aunt lavon

    1. Thank you! The compliment warms my heart. 🙂 I still picture you in the Holm Oak house. I have such fond memories there. All the Thanksgivings and Christmases, summers spent in the pool making whirlpools with my cousins. I can’t wait to see the Gray Area! We need to plan a visit. Love you!

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