Moving Away
by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.

I’m standing here in a bare-walled room contemplating a stack of cardboard boxes and wondering which contains the notes to the water rights article I’m working on. And I’m asking myself again why this is happening. What possessed me to box up my belongings, scramble whatever order there was to my life, and leave behind friends and neighbors for a new residence?

Some people enjoy moving. They like the emigrant experience, the transitory feel of ever-changing scenery and acquaintances. They live their lives like travelers on an interstate highway, pausing only for rest stops and business loops.. Life is short. There’s no time for attachments.

My wife and I do not share this feeling. We grieve over places and people left behind. Moving fills us with worry and frustration. We experience sudden headaches, dizzy spells, disorientation and nausea. Each time we move we say to each other, "Never again! Here we take root!"

"Moving House" by Morteza Katouzian
"Moving House" by Morteza Katouzian


We have moved 17 times in 16 years of marriage. Each time there was a good reason. My wife went back to school. I got a better job. We hated the city and longed for the country. We needed money and moved to the city. We missed the country and moved back.
          
This time there was a baby to consider, schooling and day care and life insurance to think about, and a good buy on a good piece of property in a small town we had our eye upon. It's only 36 miles down the road, but it's still a move that involves leaving some piece of ourselves behind, and it still hurts.



It is said that moving ranks with a house fire and the death of a spouse as the most anxious moments in our lives.

From long experience, I can vouch for moving anxiety. In my first move I said goodbye to my pinto pony, my German shepherd guardian, and my second grade classmates. 

Later, I let go of best friends, treasured toys, favorite hiding places, and my position on baseball teams. Over the years I have lost or given away loads of furniture, hundreds of books, several pets, and at least two cars.

The moves I have made with wife have included harrowing cross-country journeys in questionable vehicles in various states of disrepair. We've camped out for weeks on end, moved belongings in and out of storage units and up and down precipitous flights of stairs, been broke or broke down or broken- hearted many a time, and found ourselves locked in or locked out at the most inopportune moments.

I’ve met people who have lived all their lives in one county, or nearly so. I have lived in a dozen counties so far. I cannot imagine knowing only one.
          
Most Americans move a lot -- a third of us every two years on average. We are descendants of footloose peoples from Europe and Asia and Africa and the Americas who left stability and certainty behind for risk and opportunity.




But we are also descendants of peoples that cherished rootedness and sought permanence. In the folds of family, like a thick quilt, lies a sense of purpose and belonging. In the web of community we find our station and our meaning. Only through careful tillage in the same soil over many seasons can we secure a footing.
          
With each move most of us expect to come home. At the end of every relocation there is at least the hope of some constancy. Otherwise, why unpack?
          
I think these thoughts standing amid my boxed belongings and watching the furnishings of one place passing out the back door toward another. In a framed mirror I see my reflected self moving away.


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