Tuesday, November 15, 2011

leaving home and the American way of life

Last weekend, Kathy and I traveled to San Diego to visit my parents for my Dad's 60th birthday.  Actually, Kathy went to London for work on Monday, I left for San Diego Wednesday afternoon, Kathy returned from London Wednesday night, Kathy flew to San Diego Friday morning, we both flew home to New York on Sunday, and she left for a business trip in Chicago last night.

"What would be easier," Kathy said yesterday afternoon as she packed for the next trip, "is if we had some family close by to help out with the house and the kids."  Indeed.

When I was 18, I went to college an hour from my hometown.  I lived in that college town for two years after graduation, and then moved to California, where I lived for three years.  During that time, my sister lived in Arizona and my brother moved from Michigan to St. Louis.  Then, my sister and I moved to New York, my brother moved home to Michigan, and my parents moved to San Diego.  Basically, for the last 5 years or so, my family has lived in at least three different time zones.  Kathy's family, too, is spread out.  Her mother lives in the San Francisco area, her father lives in Pittsburgh, and she lives here, in New York.

One of the things I like best about living in the US is that you can move all over the place and there are people who speak your language, share your government and currency, and basically have a kind-of similar culture.  The country is so big that it's pretty likely you can find a place in it that you will like to live.  One of the things I don't like is that my family is spread out over three time zones, varying at the extreme ends by eight hours.  I know there are lots of people in the US who grow up and live their whole lives close to home.  But it is also possible to be extremely mobile when you live in the US, and my family seems to have some amount of wanderlust, because we have certainly taken advantage of it.  I think it's much more common for people who live in the US to move 1,000 miles away or more for college or a job or just to live than people in other countries that aren't as big, and for whom such a move would mean moving internationally.

It totally sucks that I see my family roughly every twelve months, because seeing them requires air travel and jet lag and what to do with the kids if we can't afford to buy five plane tickets (which we usually can't) -- and we can't just leave the kids with their grandparents, because they live all over the country.  It sucks that the majority of my work vacations were spent sleeping on the sofa-bed of a relative rather than on an actual vacation.  It sucks that I haven't seen my baby niece and nephew since January, and in that time they have acquired teeth, legs that actually walk, and verbal skills.  It's a big country, which means jobs, and schools, and life pull you in every direction.

I suppose we could all make a pact to move home to Michigan, or to some other place, but I'm happy here, and my parents are happy in San Diego, Joy is just getting her feet wet in London, and my brother seems to be happy in Michigan, although I have not actually asked him that in a long time so I can't say for sure.  Sometimes it makes me so sad to never see any of my family.  I also wish that my family were around to help in a pinch -- and so that I could help them with any pinches.  I never thought, when I was younger, that I would not have my father here to advise me on insulation and the building envelope (which, as we approach the colder weather, is forefront in the mind of this homeowner).

But it's my choices that have brought me here, while they are there.  I'm mostly happy with those choices, and the freedom I've had to move all over the place, following my heart.  I'm mostly happy that my family members were able to follow their respective hearts all over the place.  But weekends like the last one, full of fun and laughter, sure make me miss them, and make me wish to live in a smaller country, where moving to the opposite end means a three hour car or train ride instead of a three hour plane trip.


  1. Sounds like you're blessed with a wonderful family.

  2. I am :-) It's good to see them, and be reminded to be grateful for them. It's easy to take it for granted.