Did you grow up in the same place your whole life? Or, were you like our family and moved around a lot? Some would adamantly proclaim one is better than the other. I believe they both have their own strengths and weaknesses.
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should preface this blog by saying it is in no way based on scientific data or psychological studies. Ugh, research. It is based purely on hard-earned experience gained during my fifty-ahem years of life. Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
I’ve heard that growing up in the same place builds lasting, more meaningful relationships, and gives you roots that provide you with a comforting sense of permanence, of safety, and belonging.
I’m not gonna lie, growing up in a family that moved around a lot, I can personally attest to the fact that I longed for each and every one of those things from time to time. Not the kind of longing that leaves you feeling unfulfilled or crying into your pillow every night, but the kind that leaves you wondering; What would that be like? How would it change me? Would I like the other version of me?
Then I stop and think about all the good things that come from a somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
I have the ability to make friends pretty quickly. Because, let’s face it, moving every three to five years, we either got out there and made friends, or we would end up bored and worse, lonely. Who the heck wanted that!? Besides, staying in the house was not an option our mother ever gave us. Her words, "go outside and play", still ring in my hears to this day.
Unfamiliar social situations don’t freak me out. My childhood was littered with unfamiliar social situations. My husband has a company function with a few hundred people I don’t know? Psssshh! Bring it on! Can’t scare me!
We all (my five brothers and I) mastered the art of going with the flow. After all, it’s not like our parents ever once asked our opinion about moving and leaving our friends behind. Let’s face it, ‘back then’, kids weren’t always the first consideration when making those decisions. Not like now, when parents lose sleep worrying about how their kids will be affected if they take them out of their primo school, or away from their friends. The attitude was, that’s where my job is, the kids will be fine. They’ll adapt. We were fine, and we did adapt.
Our parents would announce we were moving, and I don’t once remember thinking, how am I going to survive without my friends? I was more excited about what my new house and new bedroom would look like. Yay, something new! Now that I think about it, that, in itself, says a lot. Remember the whole go with the flow thing?
My brothers and I stood in numerous driveways, waving good bye to moving trucks, hoping and praying our bikes or favorite toys would make it safely to our new house.
Then, our family of two adults, six kids, a cat who took off every time we opened the car door, and two dogs (one who suffered from carsickness), would make the cross-country trip packed in a station wagon like sardines.
Each one of us kids could bring one toy in the car. I always picked crayons and a coloring book. Two things that counted as one! BONUS!
The initial hour or so of excitement would wear off, replaced by shouts of “he’s touching me”, “he’s looking at me”, “she’s being a tattletale”, “he’s sitting on my side of the seat”, “she won’t share her crayons”, and my all-time favorite, “he’s breathing when I breath”. Which was followed by my mother’s deep sigh and very deadpan, “Stop breathing when your brother breathes.”
Within a few hundred miles, our father would abruptly pull to the side of the road and threaten to leave us all behind. "Your mom and I would be very happy living in our new house without you." He'd turn to her and say, "Imagine it, Marilyn. Quiet, childless bliss. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?"
That usually shut us up for a couple of hours. Then, when the bickering inevitably started up again, he would zip into the nearest rest area and tell us to chase each other around. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never forget that musky, sweaty boy smell when we would all pile back into the car. Gross.
We would usually roll into our new driveway in the dark. Our dad would puff out his chest, turn toward our mom, and say, “See there, Marilyn. Ahead of schedule.” Now that I think about it, it was almost like we were on the lamb, running from the law, or the mob or something.
Flashlights in hand, because the power hadn’t been turned on yet, we would stampede through the house like a “herd of elephants” (one of our mom’s most-used expressions) searching for our new rooms. I remember spinning around, deciding where every piece of my bedroom furniture would go. Assuming with a childlike innocence that it would arrive in one piece. We would toss old, smelly, feather-filled military sleeping bags on the floor and spend our first night in our new home. Unable to sleep because we were excited about meeting new friends in the morning. Safe in the knowledge that mom and dad had taken care of everything, and would continue to do so. Ahhhh, the ignorant bliss of childhood.
I went to two different elementary schools, two different middle schools, and two different high schools. I’ve made friends with countless numbers of kids during my life. Some I remember, some I do not. But, at that moment in time, each one of them was the most important thing in my life.
What did I gain from moving around a lot as a kid? I learned to value my family and lasting friendships deeply. Because I knew they could go away at any time. My roots may not be grounded in one place, but I’ve never felt rootless.