It is a question that I both love and dread: “Where did you grow up?” My standard reply is, “I was born in southern California- Fountain Valley- then moved to Phoenix, Arizona, then Scottsdale, Arizona, then Houston, Texas, then Beaumont, Texas, then back to southern California- Mission Viejo- then to Las Vegas. But I have been in the Bay Area for 15 years now.” I love that question because it seems to be a bigger conversation starter than most of the things I say. I dread it because it seems to be a bigger conversation starter than most of the things I say.
There are usual follow-up questions. No, I am not a military brat. No, we weren’t fugitives nor were we carnies (but I would love the stories that inevitably go along with that upbringing). Why we moved so much has a simple answer: my mom was the breadwinner- a sales rep at a pantyhose company- and her territory would expand or change every couple of years. So my dad, sister, and I would go where her job sent her and in Darwinian fashion, we would adapt to blend into our new surroundings.
Besides the practical side of moving so much- I dare you to pack a box better than I can- this sort of upbringing produces many “pros” in the shaping of one’s personality. I find that I easily adjust to crazy situations because I had to while growing up. I find people endlessly fascinating, probably because I interacted with a completely new herd every couple of years. I have seen many parts of this country and tasted the food, seen the scenery, learned the customs- and have come out alive.
But there has always been a little part of me jealous of those people who, as adults, could return home for various holidays to the house that they grew up in. Those same people connect with their elementary school friends on Facebook while I barely remember my childhood friends’ names. They have memories of bad falls, first kisses, and sleepovers (complete with bras stuck in freezers), all of whose locations were probably a few blocks away from their family homes. To see where all my memories have taken place I would need several airline tickets and a much better recollection.
This sense of absence of a “home base” was probably why I pushed my husband into home ownership when I was six months pregnant with our daughter. Because everyone knows that the right time to make a huge financial decision is when you are at your highest level of hormones, am I right? I wanted that video that every parent has of carrying the child from the car into the house and I didn’t want our crappy one-bedroom apartment to star in it. I wanted our huge mortgage debt and largest tax deduction to take center stage.
That is why I think the latest thoughts that have been creeping into my head are so crazy. I want to move, y’all. My most prevalent fantasies lately have all featured big burly men- who are lifting my shit onto a moving truck. I daydream about relocating to a completely empty house, full of blank walls and possibilities. I yearn to complain to friends about how long it is taking to unpack and to find a pediatrician and a good Italian restaurant.
I have been trying to answer what has prompted these completely unrealistic, not at all based in reality thoughts. I can only guess the problem: I have severe wanderlisting. (This is my take on the word wanderlust, which is a strong desire to travel or explore, and combine it with listing, as in an advertisement for real estate.) I want to live in several different places for a small amount of time. I don’t just want to visit Austin. I want to reside there, exploring every nook and cranny until I vomit sweet tea and BBQ. I could then settle in Tuscany, learning to cook different dishes from some Nonna that lives on my street (our vineyards are adjacent). Then it is off to somewhere tropical- Hawaii, perhaps- where I can finally learn to relax a little while I write in our bungalow not far from the beach. It is not enough for me to merely visit these places; I want to absorb them and let them become a part of me. I want to draw inspiration from being in new situations, surrounded by new people, learning new things.
I realize that this is not realistic- this nomadic life- for us or for our kids. I have no desire for the children to look back on their lives and wonder why mommy’s real estate attention span was the size of a parcel. But is there a cure for wanderlist? Probably not a physical location based solution. I have to be content with taking trips when I can, feeling invigorated and ready for new challenges (without having to sign a lease or fill out mortgage paperwork), and explaining to the kids that sometimes mommy needs to travel to recharge her internal emotional batteries. And if anyone can adapt to this, I can.