On two different Ellis Island ship registries from the early 1900’s, it was noted that the nationality for both of my immigrant grandparents was “Magyar”. This could have meant one of two things; that the language they spoke was of Hungarian or Czech origin; or the more interesting explanation, that they were descendants of a tribe of eastern European gypsies.
My husband and I had become a family of gypsies. This started out by choice, both personal and professional. But in the end, it was about economics; we moved where the jobs were.
By the time my children were in elementary school, we had moved no less than 9 times. To date, we have had 12 addresses across 8 different zip codes.
There are psychological studies that show that moving is number 3 on the list of life changes that cause the most stress; right after death of a spouse and divorce. Yikes. We should be one stressed-out couple. But stress can be either positive or negative.
We often would settle in what could be called transient suburban neighborhoods, finding comfort and friendship among those like us who moved because of job commitment or military service. We bonded almost immediately; as a matter of fact, we ignored the “locals” and sought each other out. Our social life was vibrant, especially among those of us privileged enough to be stay-at-home soccer moms and PTA volunteers while our spouses climbed the career ladder on our behalf.
We were the Welcome Wagon group, the party people, the “ladies that lunch”,the husbands who golfed. We met for book clubs and scout troops, for Tupperware parties and Longaberger baskets. We assembled cookbooks of favorite recipes and shared war stories about our relocations.
This was a lot of fun for the decade or so when we were childless. The pre-school years were also manageable.
But then it happened. My daughter was in second grade in a very sheltered private school when word came that her dad was being transferred, this time to South Carolina. It broke my heart to watch her tearful good-byes to friends she had made at age 3, the toddler years.
She was to tell me in later years that it most likely was more emotional for me at the time; she was looking forward to making new friends in the South; where, as it turns out, both she and her younger brother spent their most idyllic years living a life of outdoor play and sunny exploration, and maybe even a bit of danger. They laughed and spoke fondly as young adults about their adventures in the woods and streams surrounding the Ashley River, where there were poisonous snakes, wild boar, and even alligator sightings in their friend’s back yard.
I was partly naive, mostly unworried, and even a bit joyful that while friends were buying Sega Genesis for their soon-to-be sedentary children, my own kids were healthy, active and sun-kissed, spending their days outside. This was a throwback to the childhood summers of my generation, when we never came in except for meals and sundown.
We survived all that, and moved only once more here to Pennsylvania. On the advice of a lot of transient friends, we became stable during the teen, high school and even college years. I’d like to think that the choices we made, the career opportunities that my husband gave up, and the adrenaline that I was missing by settling in the state of our birth, were all done in the best interest of the family. But I’m not so sure.
My daughter never moved back home after college graduation; choosing instead to follow her dreams, and her love life, to several major eastern urban areas including NYC. My son is in the process of job interviews that will most likely take him out of state.
That will leave the two of us, approaching the retirement years, and wondering what our next address will be. I do still get that mixed feeling when I see a moving van pull into our community; knowing that, at least for now, it is not for us.