thoughts on moving as a child: how it made me

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I was in grade school when my dad got a new job and we moved. I don’t remember if it was sudden or planned for a long time. I can barely remember if we were looking forward to it, either. I was just a little kid.

I grew up in my youngest years in an idyllic suburb of St. Paul, MN. The neighborhood was full of kids our age who were allowed to go and play all day until it was after dark. We had a big backyard with a small forest and pond where our imaginations went wild. Lilac bushes were fragrant in this time of year, and we enjoyed all four seasons that beautiful Minnesota had to offer.

I have four siblings. My older brothers had friends in the neighborhood that did the usual “boy” stuff. They ran around and I remember them getting hurt quite a bit. My little sisters were really quite young when we  moved, but they were always by mom, the foundation for our childhood memories. I was in the middle, trying to keep up, or tag along. I learned how to ride a bike in our front yard, I found bird nests in the back yard. I played with snakes and turtles, and I felt rather wild and alive.

A shot from outside my Grandma's house
A shot from outside my Grandma’s house

Minnesota was also the place where two treasured people lived. My grandparents on my mother’s side were present for all of the big (and little) stuff. We saw them every Sunday morning for church, they would babysit us when my mom had a coffee date with one of her friends. Their house was Christmas Eve headquarters, and I can still smell and feel those cozy nights when I close my eyes.

My Grandma and Mom
My Grandma and Mom

Minnesota, once we moved, stopped being a location, though. It started to become a symbol. It was a symbol of everything that “we” missed. It symbolized emotions that my little mind couldn’t yet grasp when my mom missed her friends and family. It was a symbol for how things “should be” when someone in my family distrusted, or didn’t like something in our new home. It became more than idyllic. It became holy.

And that was so confusing.

Now that I am older, I think about how and when Jay and I should move. I think about the impacts we will have on our little family. We have been house-hunting for about 6 months, and I tend to lean toward buying a house that we can live in for the rest of our lives. When considering a smaller house that we will grow out of one day, I feel a sensation that I could really be hurting myself and my children in the future.

I never thought of myself as the kind of person who is tied to one place. I love the idea of getting out of this corner of the world in search of new feelings, new sensations, new tastes, and new smells. But I worry that my childhood move was traumatic enough that it could be keeping me from making clear and rational decisions.

Whenever I go back to Minnesota, I drive to that familiar house where my grandparents have lived my whole life, just down the street from the church that I loved so much growing up. I see litter in the streets and crumbling city buildings. The same power lines are still up with red, white and yellow balls attached to them for airplanes to avoid that reminded me of candy as a kid. They aren’t as magical. They are just…there. I don’t see the sanctity. It isn’t holy anymore. It is just another place where I loved people who I had to leave, and that can happen anywhere.

I hope my mother’s house is important to my daughter. I hope she is filled with nostalgia for this place we are in now. And I also hope that she understands that if we have to move away, the place is just a place, and the people are everything.

My own Mother's home. Anouk's Grandma
My own Mother’s home. Anouk’s Grandma

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