Sunday, September 04, 2011

Leaving Things Behind

I’ve spent more of my life in this one city than anywhere else.  And I’ve lived ten years in this house in this one city. I like the city’s smells and sounds. I like its festivals. I love its health food co-op and its hippies.  I like that I had all three of the children here in this city, that I gave birth to one right inside this house, in this living room I sit in right now.   This week, as the big girls said goodbye to their school (they’re starting a new one Tuesday), one girl wailed aloud, “My whole life is over.  How could you do this to me?” and “I will do everything I can to prevent us from moving.” 

It is true, in a sense, that her whole life is over.  Her entire life, its set of parameters since the day of her birth, will be shifting. It will be the end. Of that life on Raven Street, the only life she has ever known.

We talk about how home is really where her family is. That it’s the people that make the memories in a place that then seem to imbue the place with certain sentimental properties.  But this girl doesn’t believe me. The love is in this house, she is sure. In the scuffed wood floors and small bedroom she shares with her sister. It’s in the dark cork and the hollow bedroom doors, which she says she loves and are so much better than the doors in the new house.   Outside and to the west of our backyard there is a Jungle and a Sledding Hill, which translates to a narrow avenue between fences overgrown with mulberry trees, and a steep slope in a neighbor’s backyard.  Our new neighborhood has no Jungle. No Sledding Hill. 

Like the girls, I love the trees on the east side of Iowa City. I also hate them.  I hate that these trees’ roots twist and tangle inside the ground, invading concrete slabs and water lines, causing foundational cracking and drainage mishaps.  I love them because they shade our home, they provide ample fallen branches for the girls to play with, and when I walk these neighborhood streets I can hide inside a tunnel of maples and evergreen, hidden from the view of drivers on the street.  In this new place we are going, I’m not sure there are even trees, let alone leaves. And if there are, there might be only a handful to spread across a whole neighborhood. We might rake up a thimbleful each fall. Where we are going is a new place, relatively speaking.  It is a suburb of this city we live in (if our city is large enough to have suburbs?).  Or maybe you’d call where we’re going a bedroom community.  This new place is one of the fastest growing towns in Iowa. Some periodical somewhere recently put it in the top 100 best small towns in the country to live in, and people put this news on Facebook to authenticate their choice of residence. It really is a lovely place. Without trees.  And it has an Aquatic Center a few minutes from our house, with Water Slides and Zero-Depth Entry.  This is like a goldmine for a mother of a toddler and two big girls.  And so is the bigger house and more bathrooms and space not to trip on each other and every toddler toy we own. And, most alluring, so many of the people we know are in this place. Our church is five minutes away. And down the street from our new home live three families we affectionately refer to as friends.
Still, I will cry someday because I miss living in the house on Raven Street. I won’t do it today, or even next week, most likely.  But soon, I will think about how Grandpa’s house is no longer three minutes from our own, that the girls cannot run out with their sleds and find a hill so quickly, that the hippies and the coop and the festivals and the poetry readings and the Indian restaurant and our favorite Chinese take-out are so very much farther away.  I will cry in the wintertime when I cannot look out of our large picture window to the fresh tire tracks in the street (because we will have no such window in our new living room). And I will cry when the girls cry at the slowness of making new friends, of missing their old school so very much.   

In spite of the losses, we feel this is Right, yet in such an abstract way that we cannot possibly justify our decision logically to these girls. But because it’s Right, we know that staying here would be Wrong.  And since moving is the  Right Thing, we know that Everything Will Turn Out Okay.  More Than Okay--it will be Good. 

So, it is true, Girl. Our entire lives are changing. And we are doing everything we can to prevent them from staying the exact same.

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