Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Permanently Transitional or Transitionally Permanent

I just spent the last two hours moving empty boxes from our storage space to the recycling bin (many apologies, neighbors, it was me who filled up the bins, and that was only 1/3 of what I still have to throw out.)  These boxes have been taking up space in the basement and my brain for the last two years and I'm finally getting rid of them.  It's not that they are in anyone's way but mine, but I have this slight neurosis about 'stuff' and I spend way too much time imagining how I can get rid of all the non-essentials in my life.  It's a little scary.  When we moved in here two years ago, we saved every single box thinking we'd be moving again within a year.  We're still here, and the boxes are beginning to smell.

My 17 year old niece is getting ready for her senior year in high school and looking forward to starting college and the 'rest of her life'.  Funny, I've felt the same way for the last 20 years, since I was her age.  (Okay, 22 years.)  I graduated high school, moved away to college, moved to another college, got married, moved to graduate school (mine), then moved to another graduate school (Mike's.)  I can't count how many apartments we've rented during our marriage. (Well, yes, I can.  Ten, plus two stints at our respective parents' houses.)  Our five year old abided in four of those in as many years.  We are on our third child and I'm still somehow waiting to start the 'rest of my life.'

But what is 'the rest of my life'?  Is it a steady job, a big, red, brick house, and new furniture?  Is it my kids in one school from Kindergarten through High School?  That was always the picture I had in my mind as a child, and it's still there, though faded somewhat.  We've been in such non-traditional situations - graduate student housing one year, a dorm the next - that I'm wondering if we'll ever fall into a 'normal' life.  The job market for composers isn't exactly booming, and when Mike finishes his Ph.D, who knows where we will end up.  We might have to be creative, cobbling together work for awhile (and move to Canada for health care and good schools.) Or, maybe there is a job out there just for him and we'll buy a smallish, red, brick house, and send our kids to the nearby one-room schoolhouse, perhaps somewhere in Idaho.

For all that yearned for stability, though, I love where we are right now.  Of any place we've ever lived, or will live, I think this place is unique. From the day we moved in, the girls became part of a wonderful group of friends just out our back door.  Their parents are our friends now, too; our social circle, and our support system.  I thank God practically every day for our neighbors, for their generosity and inclusion.  I love our dinners together, movie nights, vacations, trips to the museum, the skating rink, the beach, or the pool together.  Birthdays are celebrated en masse, and holidays.  As much as I crave moving back to the country, or on to a stand-alone house with a garden, it's hard to imagine not having these friends who are almost like family, right out my back door.  We've been fortunate, too, to have one more year with these friends, before graduation and new jobs send us all in different directions.  Because that is the inevitable.  This is student housing and we are part of the University of Chicago.  Dear friends move every year, and we say goodbye, wondering when it will be our turn to leave.  If we could stay here, in this situation, while our kids are growing up, I would.  But graduate school is transitional and there is always an unsettled feeling inside of me.  Hopefully we will have to collect new boxes next summer, pack up, and move on to the obvious next step.  At this point, I'm not very concerned about where we'll end up.  We'll be together as a family, eat good food, and create a rich life wherever we land.  It's too much to imagine it would be permanent, but I'll settle for a stable job situation, and the same floor plan for more than 2 years.   I will miss this state of affairs, though.  Being part of this has taught me more how to live in community, and although I know we'll never recreate what we have here, I hope wherever we go, or however nomadic we remain, we'll always find our tribe.      

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