It comes in all forms, big and small. Change your hair, change your clothes, change your address, change your life, etc. Some people love it. Some people loathe it. Some people live somewhere in between the two. It’s the change your address one that I’m most familiar with. Change is part and parcel of being a member of this family since we move, on average, every 2.5 years. A new home, city, state, and, maybe even a new country. If I’m an expert at anything in this life, it’s change. Generally, I embrace it. Generally. Quite unexpectedly, change has happened again. But, this time, it’s off schedule and out of sync with our “norm.” Through various circumstances, we’ve moved—again—and this time, not because my husband’s job dictated it, but because our rental home situation, with very little warning, changed. It’s the change-your-address kind of change all over again, but with a twist.
As a mom of two girls who are 10 years apart in age, change seems to affect my kids in drastically different ways, and yet, if I really look at it, they’re actually worried about the same thing. To my 13-year-old, change means leaving friends, school, social activities…..everything she knows and loves in this stage of her life. Usually, she rolls with it really well (to her credit, MUCH better than I would have at that age!) but this time, the idea of moving away from her friends and her school, yet staying in the same general area, broke her heart. To my 3-year-old, change means the possibility of leaving stuffed animals and toys behind in the old house (despite the fact that I reassured her, at least 48 times a day, that we would pack every single one of them). When I stop and really listen, though, they’re both worried about the same thing. Will their “normal” come with us? That’s a tall order for a mom to answer sometimes, since I don’t always know the answer myself. This time, I was able to say, without question, that it would. I was able to say this with such certainty because this time we, quite literally, moved into the home next door, thanks to a little bit of serendipity and some truly wonderful *neighbors who intervened on our behalf in order to keep us in the neighborhood.
So, this time around, our normal just shifted to the left (or the right, depending on which way you’re looking at the houses!). A literal laundry-basket move; it was exhausting. My eyeballs hurt at the end of it and my in-laws and I made so many trips back and forth between homes, we wore a path in the grass. Though everything we own is finally inside the new house, things aren’t quite in all their places yet and everything is waiting (and waiting….and waiting) to be hung on the walls. Furniture is in different places, rooms are in different locations, nothing is the same but our normal is here. Nothing changed with my 13 year old’s social life and every single stuffed animal made its way to my 3 year old’s new bedroom and, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to both of them. We’re still sitting down for dinner as a family at night and waking up as a family in the mornings, which is all that matters to me. And, really, it’s what I want to give them: A soft place to land in the midst of uncertainty and a life that feels “normal,” even if it’s really not.
Change is a great way to have your life turned upside down. It’s a great teacher, too, and I find that I always learn something from our change-your-address kinds of change—even one where we didn’t really go very far at all. So here is what I’ve learned this time: My kids are more alike than they realize. Having great neighbors who want to go to bat for you is priceless. The house that we called home for our first 2 years here was not feeding the soul of my family. A home filled with sunshine & light, both figurative and literal, is a wonderful place to live. And, though I learned this a long time ago, it reveals itself to me with each and every move: A house and a home are not the same things.
*Side note: That part about my neighbors working to keep us in the neighborhood is kind of huge. When you move as much as we do, you don’t often feel embraced as a part of a community. More often than not, people don’t go out of their way to get to know you because they know you’re temporary and, if I’m being honest, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not getting to know neighbors for the exact same reason. To be embraced by a group of neighbors as we have here has been one of the greatest gifts, and experiences, of living in this area.