If you ever asked me to describe my childhood bedroom or recall my favorite hangout as a kid or try to remember the route I took to school most often, I probably couldn’t do it. And it’s not because I have a poor memory. I still know the birthday of the little girl who sat next to me in Mrs. Tachikawa’s first grade class in 1982. But the details most people remember about the homes where they grew up — the way the bathroom door would stick after a steamy shower or exactly what week in the spring the dogwood tree in the back yard would start blooming — are much fuzzier for me simply because I never stayed anywhere long enough consider it home.
By the time I left for college at 17, my family had lived in ten different addresses (and that’s not counting a hotel we lived in for nine months while we looked for a “permanent” home). Ten years later, I’d added nine more places to the tally, including two dorm rooms, one apartment I shared with a college roommate, three apartments I lived in alone, two apartments I lived in with a boyfriend, and one apartment I shared with a friend post-breakup while I (tried to) figure shit out.
When I moved from Chicago to Manhattan in 2007 to close the gap in my long distance relationship with Drew, I’d been living in my current apartment for three and a half years — the longest I’d ever stayed anywhere in my life. Leaving the apartment was the easiest part of the move, though — much easier than leaving my friends and the city and the lake I loved so much. Leaving walls and rooms and closets behind is what I do. It’s what I know. It’s all I’ve ever known.
When I moved to New York and slowly began merging my life with Drew’s, paring two apartment’s worth of things into one, discussing marriage, and talking about our future, I liked the idea of finally putting down roots. After four countries, two states, and nineteen different bedrooms, I welcomed the idea of stability and I felt absolutely certain that what I wanted for my own children was the one thing I never had myself growing up: an anchor — a neighborhood to grow up in, life-long friends, and a city to call home. And I still want that. Or, at least, I want to want it. But as I begin to put down roots with my husband and son in a neighborhood we talk about staying in until we’re done raising kids, I’m realizing the nomadic lifestyle I grew accustomed to may not be as easy to shed and I imagined it would. After less than three years in our apartment — the place I’ve lived second longest in my life — I’m already scouting new homes (within our neighborhood) for us to move to, if for no other reason that to provide a change of scenery.
“But moving is such a pain in the ass,” Drew said the other day as I started rattling off the newest apartment listings in the paper.
“I’m not saying we have to move now,” I replied.
And I’m not. But the familiar twitchiness has returned and I find myself fantasizing about what our next place will look like and how I’ll decorate it and make it home (for a few years, anyway). I try to explain to Drew just what the twitchiness feels like — the best way I can think to explain it is when you’ve been on vacation a couple days too long and you’re restless and kinda bored and you just want to get back to your normal routine (even if your normal routine is also kind of boring). Moving every two or three years is my normal routine. I get restless when I stay in one place too long.
I try to explain this to Drew, but he spent his whole childhood in the same place — the very apartment his dad still lives in after nearly five decades. Drew has moved once in the last 18 years and that was with me, at my persuading. He thinks it’s crazy to already want to leave where we are now (and it is crazy, considering we have central air and a walk-in closet, two amenities that are practically unheard of in New York City). He’s barely even memorized his route to the nearest subway stop (three blocks away), and still sometimes asks me what our zip code is when filling out paper work. He, obviously, takes his sweet time settling into a place while I’m already hoarding moving boxes under our bed “just in case.”
Growing up, all I wanted was to stay put — to develop the kind of connections to a place that might make me consider it home. And now that I finally can — now that I’m no longer chasing fantasies and “searching for myself” everywhere else but where I am — the idea of staying rooted in one place makes me twitchy. Which would be fine if I were married to someone equally twitchy — equally in need of a scenery change every two to three years. But I’m not. And I know it isn’t fair to force my weirdness onto Drew, especially when I never expressed my nomadic impulse before now (in my defense, I never realized that I had nomadic impulses until now, mostly because every move I’ve made always seemed in some way “necessary”).
But then, how do I tame my restlessness? How do I embrace a life that seems practically stationary if it’s lived in the same home for years and years and years? I don’t know the answer, but I know that for my own sanity and for the benefit and happy longevity of my marriage and family, I’m gonna have to figure it out. And I will. Right after I check the apartment listings one more time today.