Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dear Anchor


Dear Anchor,

You are the stability that we seek, the rock that grounds us, and the tether that keeps us from drifting away.  Some of us spend much of our lives trying to grab hold, while others might feel your weight tugging at their transient spirits.  For me, it seems that if my anchor has finally dropped and settled.

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Every now and then, I count the number of years we've lived in our house, usually because something breaks and I think it's only been this many years and it needs repair already?  It's always easy to do the math since we moved in when Dear Son was 5-months-old.  We've lived here as long as DS's years in age.  Six years.

I look around the house and sometimes catch sights of it showing its age: smears on the painted walls, stains on our light-colored carpet, dents and scratches on the wood floor, and the increasing number of repairs and replacements we've needed.

As I looked out my bedroom window the other day, assessing the progress of the house being built in our backyard, I naturally compared the age of my house and the new house I was looking at.  This time, when six years entered my mind, it suddenly occurred to me that in all my forty years of life, I've never lived in one same place for six consecutive years.  In fact, the longest stretch I've ever lived in a residence was four years, and one such four-year stretch was in our last townhome where Dear Daughter spent the first four years of her life.

All my life, I've moved and moved.  And moved.  I lived in at least five different homes in the first five years of my life.  I went to six different schools between Kindergarten and high school.  I lived in seven different homes (apartments) between ages five and seventeen.  Once I was on my own after high school, I moved six times between college and our first (owned) home.  I'm tired just doing the math!

These numbers may seem numerous for some, or a walk in the park for others.  Depending circumstances, everything is relative.  In the time that we've lived here in our little suburban town, I've met many residents that have lived here all their lives.  They were born here, raised here, maybe went off to college elsewhere (or right here), got married and settled, again, here.  I have come to know people who attended a grade school and later taught at the same school until they retired.  Our school's principal is going on her 27th year there.  When I meet such peeps, I try not to let my jaw drop out of proper etiquette and respect, but I can't help but think how vastly different their lives have been from mine!  No better or worse--just different.  Completely different set of life experiences.

It wasn't easy, moving around like that.  Perhaps it sharpened my ability to roll with the punches and adapt to new environments quickly, or perhaps it made me a person who despises change.  Maybe it allowed me to see more parts of a locale, or maybe it challenged my sense of belonging.  Perchance it made me into who I am today, or robbed me of who I might have been otherwise.  Each time I lowered my anchor, I did so half-heartedly, knowing that it wouldn't be long until I'd have to set sail again.

It turns out that birds of a feather do somehow flock together.  Dear Husband's number of moves in his life nearly matches mine.  After he thought about it, he also declared our current residence as his longest one, ever.  When we purchased this house, we both knew that we'd be here for a long stretch of time, for the kids' elementary and secondary schooling, at the least.  But now, six years later, I still almost feel a little surprised that we're still here.

DH and I finally don't feel like neighborhood/village newbies anymore.  We finally know the school system, the city commerce, the surrounding towns and attractions.  At last, we find our spirits beating to the rhythm of all the people around us.  I'm finally beginning to feel like I belong.

And in all the crevices of this house, memories continue to build.  Oh, there's that ding in the wall where I ran the vacuum into cuz I was so sleep-deprived I had no business handling a vacuum.  That's the spot where the Bjorn potty used to sit back when someone refused to use the toilet.  That's the space where a mattress used to be for when little feet would pitter-patter to our room in the middle of the night.  And those are the spots where paint chipped off because of an overzealous birthday decorating parent.  As the years pass, our bookshelves continue to grow books, and our walls keep sprouting new picture frames.  This home now houses more sentiments than any place I have ever lived.

You play the cards you're dealt with.  DH and I set permanent anchor later in our lives, but this will not be the experience our children will have.  They are dealt a different set of cards.  They will have the stability of a residence that we didn't have, but they will not get to experience the sort of adaptation and survival strategies that we learned.  They will have a sense of belonging in their community, school, and with their friends, but will not have the opportunity to experience several different ones.  Their anchors will feel less short-term and more secure than ours ever did.

In the spirit of giving thanks this November, I write this post because I am grateful for my home.  It may not have a finished basement or any furniture in the formal living room (aka playroom full of toys galore), and it may not have the upgrades or big backyards other homes in this subdivision have, but it is our home, our haven, our sanctuary.  I am thankful to be able to have the means and circumstances--at this point in my life--to stay anchored, for better or for worse.

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So, Dear Anchor, you must be as relieved as I am to have been grounded for six years (and hoping for many more).  I would be happy not to see any moving boxes or trucks for a long time.  Unless, of course, they belong to other people.  And as the house in my backyard nears completion, we will soon have new neighbors arriving with their boxes and moving truck.  As exciting as it is for a family to move into a brand new residence, all I can think is, better you than I.

Sincerely,
Me

P. S. On a related note, during this difficult time for the people of the Philippines, my heart goes out to those who have lost their anchors and loved ones after Mother Nature hit hard with Typhoon Haiyan.  I hope for the chance for those in need to recover, rebuild, and re-anchor, and that the rest of us do what we can to lend a hand to help during that long, hard process.


10 comments:

  1. A roof, a home, that's a lot to be thankful for. It is gratifying to see that us parents can give our children a life better than that we had when we were children. Speaking of which, I bet one day, you would be telling your children "when I was your age...." just to make them realize how fortunate they are.

    This is a very thoughtful post, Sandra. I look at my messy home and all the things we wish to have and improve in here, and like you, my heart simply fills with thanks for the simple fact that we have this house. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Imelda! It's true--a lot goes behind "having" a house, and I never want to take that fact for granted. Our kids are more fortunate than we were, but we are also more fortunate than our parents' generation. Like you said, we just want our children to have what we didn't. I don't say "when I was your age..." (times are different and everything is relative) but I hope that they do realize they have a lot to be thankful for. Thanks for sharing my sentiments about our homes!

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  2. Aside from living with my grandma during high school, 4 years is the longest I've lived in the same home too!
    I'm glad you are comfortable enough to let your anchor down for good-I am all too familiar with the half-hearted settling in. Even now, I know that we will be buying a house in the next year or two, so it's hard to completely finish unpacking those last few boxes that always seem to stay taped up! (Any excuse to get out of unpacking!)
    I hope your new neighbors are awesome!

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    1. Rachael, I am glad that someone can relate to my migrant past! I find that I'm in the minority around here, but maybe I just think that. It's a totally different perspective--that feeling of having to "pick up everything and move" feeling all the time. But you'll get there, and buying a house is pretty much the first step when you haven't had that stability early in life. Speaking of which, there are still boxes in my basement, and if I don't miss them by now, I'm sure they're just there for keepsakes. :) I hope our new neighbors are awesome, too! (As you can tell, we're not that far away from them...)

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  3. Unlike you, I didn't move around at all growing up. Move 4x. Since the hubs and I got married, we've moved once into our 1st house, and then 2x while here in MD. We hope our next move is the longest one, though the kiddos' youngest milestones will be in our current house. Totally agree with the post that we should be thankful wherever we are, however long that'll be. Well, except our last rental. That place was a dump. We could hardly contain ourselves when the lease was finally up & we waived "good ridden" to it ;).

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    1. Haha, we've lived in our share of "dumps." It will feel really nice when you finally settle down for a long stretch of time. It just feels so "secure." I do think it's nice for kids to stay put, more or less, when growing up. Stability is important, and constant changes makes things harder, even for grownups. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lisa!

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  4. Love your post Sandra. I hope to feel that way soon! I felt that way when I was just a mom to Alex and no one else. Just Alex, my gram and me in a townhouse that kept us together as the 3 musketeers. I'm still finding my way with my 3 new kids and craziness!!
    By the way you can Text AID to 80108 to give a $10 donation to the mGive Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund. State Department approved per NPR.

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    1. Thank you, Helen! So glad to see you here! Your boys are still little yet, and I know you'll get there. It's just a relief to not have to move again. I saw your post on FB for the disaster relief fund; I donated through Feed My Starving Children since our school goes there to volunteer and pack food for people around the world (also posted on FB!). We must get together soon. Though I'm sick now so you don't want to see me. :( Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

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  5. This was a beautiful post of thanks. Having a home is definitely something to be thankful for. My prayers go out to those in the Philippines. My mind can't even grasp the devastation.

    Your post got me curious about myself, so I added up the houses/schools I could remember and came up with eight homes and five school changes in four different states. My husband lived in several different homes, but he never lived outside of Arizona. We were in our first home together for over sixteen years before we moved earlier this year. (And we hope to stay put for a long time!) As you noted, our homes may have imperfections, but in them are tons of memories.

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    1. Hi, Janna! You've had your fair share of moves as well! You can relate to some of my sentiments about picking up and settling in, I'm sure. We sure do hope we can stay put for a long time, both for the kiddos' sake and our own sanity. We moved after we got married once ourselves (nearly collapsed from the move) and swore to never do it ourselves again. We were young and unafraid (actually just broke and didn't know any better), We hired movers ever since. I get tired just thinking about that experience.

      Thanks for thinking about your moves and sharing your numbers! It must have been somewhat bittersweet to leave your home of sixteens years, with all the memories?!

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