Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Measure Me in Moves

When semi-strangers find out how much we have moved over the course of our adult lives, the first question is generally, "Is your husband military?" Nope. Even once I explain that my chosen field of work is fairly specialized and not offered at many universities, there is still that look of consternation that can't easily be explained away, other than to shrug, laugh, and close the topic with something along the lines of, "Yeah, we both come from pretty nomadic families and seem to have inherited the wandering spirit."

It's true, actually. My husband's parents were born in rural Louisiana and lived, by way of my father-in-law's military career, in many different homes (including a stint in Germany) before settling in the Tacoma area when he retired while posted at Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McCord). Pretty far to travel when you both grew up as poor black kids in the country pre-Civil Rights era. A couple generations before them, my husband's ancestors were slaves. We haven't been able to trace his lineage past his grandparents as far as given names go, and documentation is scarce. Even my father-in-law didn't have a birth certificate; we think he was about 70 when he died but, since he picked his own birthday, that may be off by a few years.

My dad is from Zurich, Switzerland. His parents both came from large, farming families, but moved to the city to find work as young adults. Even now, 30 years after leaving home, my friends describe my dad as sounding "like he just fell off the boat from Switzerland!" So funny when they ooh & aah over his accent except, you know - Switzerland is a land-locked country. After completing trade school, my dad moved to Toronto for a job, where he met my mom. She grew up in Saskatoon, but her father was an English immigrant and her mother a first-generation Canadian who was raised in a boxcar. We've been able to trace back several generations, enough to know that my grandfather's father died in World War I, there is a strong streak of Irish on my grandmother's side, and I am without question the tallest woman ever in my family at 5'9" - most of my female ancestors hovered around the five foot mark.

So perhaps wandering & moving is in my blood, but it's still a pain in the ass. Every time we move, I swear we'll never do it again. Even now, as I pack boxes, yet again, I know that this is merely a resting point, not a final destination. You know, unless all three of us want to squeeze into a teeny one bedroom apartment at some point in our lives. It's part of my personal history, I suppose: college dorm shared room to college dorm private room to junior year off campus house to senior year off campus house, all in Washington; third story apartment, basement apartment across from Mormon missionaries, townhouse, rent house, all in Virginia; crappy apartment, third story apartment, run-down apartment, nice apartment, all in Texas; my parents' guest room, my new teeny apartment (with my boys at my mother-in-law's), and then...? 14 moves in 13 years - ugh! And yet, the memories created in each of those homes? Irreplaceable, indescribable, beautiful. So I'll keep packing.


  1. In contrast, I've hardly ever moved...and, sadly, our family has accumulated a lot of junk. Oh, and it looks like we may have to help my parents downsize, so this could be the Year of Decluttering.

    Even if I don't have to help my parents navigate changed, this summer, when school is out, I plan to begin a quest toward a clutter-free lifestyle in my own home, to borrow your phrase. :)

    I look forward to freer space.

  2. Good luck, Ann! I'm at the point in packing where I'm about to just set everything on fire and start over again, LOL