Staying Put

By my father’s best calculations, scrawled on a legal pad one evening over dinner, my family moved seventeen times during the years before I graduated from high school.

Life lived out of cardboard boxes and doled out in U-Haul miles.

Vivid are my memories of the first day of school. New and endless corridors lined with artwork the other kids fashioned with exuberant and childlike abandon. Unfamiliar faces of teachers, some of whom cared enough to recognize my own unfamiliar and wide-eyed stare and welcome me with a smile. And the awkward trek through the lunchtime milieu, looking for a bench out of the way where things are quiet and finding only the din of idle chatter and set after set of gawking and mischievous eyes.

I reinvented myself every September; with new acquaintances come unfamiliar interests and I did my best to adjust accordingly. There were new teams to root for. Different shows to watch. Undiscovered books to dive into. And I learned quickly which kids to avoid on the playground. Which ones to pick on. Which ones to suck up to. And even though the dust of change eventually settled and routine took shape, the “new kid” mentally at both ends of every new friendship never wore off.

There are some who would find this a welcome situation. To be able to leave behind the conflicts and bruises of the past and start afresh. Yet gone is the comfort of shared experiences. The joy of “remember when” moments without having to explain everything. Instead there are uncomprehending blank stares. Waiting for the punchline. Crickets. And feeble “I guess you had to be there” sighs of resignation.

I watched my little ones climb on the school bus this week. Sure they were apprehensive; my oldest daughter had a hard time falling to sleep for a week prior to the big first day. But lacking was the fear of the unfamiliar. They quickly found seats with friends they’ve known for years. At school, meandering familiar hallways on their way to classrooms they’ve seen before, each one saw the teacher they had last year, and the year before that, and felt safe and welcomed.

They came home with smiles on their faces. And starving for brownies.

I don’t regret my upbringing. Those years of endless change molded in me a stockpile of rich memories and an adaptable personality.

But I am staying put now . . .

22 thoughts on “Staying Put

  1. That does sound like enough change for one lifetime. Too bad it happens anyway (sometimes). Any tips for the new halls (highways) I’ll be walking in September? I’m literally having bad dreams. Sigh. Always a kid.


  2. Oh wow… thank you for this post. It hit a part of me that needed to be slammed.

    I fight with myself constantly about this. I’m a wanderer. Always have been. Geographical cures are my favorite ones.

    And lately I’ve been feeling the bug. I moved a few times growing up, too. And over the past few years, I’ve just picked up anytime I’ve wanted, and settled wherever the wind blew me.

    But I have a full family now, a mortgage, and a life. Here is where I’ll stay, for better or worse. And I’m happy about that.

  3. Staying put has definite advantages – of the comforting familiarity from which to view changes whether minute or major. I have always been somewhat footloose and because of my experiences, now in my 60s I appreciate the sense of place staying put has provided. Small changes loom as important, to be learned from and to savour. Still, I view life from the vantage point of a perpetual outsider, and always will. It’s not so bad. G

  4. Moving has its advantages. Like you said, re-inventing yourself, correcting mistakes, learning the people to avoid, suck up to. And growing up, moving around to new schools (and you are the first person who ever beat me in number of moves, wow) you do develop a more worldly view. You begin to understand that places are different. That people have different ideas, thoughts and interests, depending on where they live.

    Like Angel, I get the bug if I stay too long in one place. Even now I fantasize what it would be like to move to the east coast. I long to see something new.

    But like you, I have also decided, for my kids, to stay put. I want them to have a home base. I want them to know the familiarity of consistent friends. Consistent surroundings.

    I don’t regret moving around when I was younger. I just don’t want it for my kids.

  5. I’m sure your parents did what they had to do, but I’m really glad for your kids’ sake that you guys have been able to give them that solidarity of belonging. I wasn’t the new kid as many times as you were, but the two or three times I was, was plenty (involuntary shudder).

    We start on Monday – I don’t know about my guys, but MY gut is killing me!

  6. That had to be so hard, starting over so many times. It sounds like your glad you can provide your own kids with a more stable environment, but hey — you didn’t turn out so bad. đŸ˜‰

  7. GAH, I meant, “you’re” glad, not “your.”


  8. Man you got me beat- I only did 9 schools, but that was enough. I divided my life between the midwest and norcal and at times spent summers in Michigan. Its funny, I love having my home and knowing where that is, but here lately I find myself longing for California or Michigan- a change of scenery. However I know as soon as I got there I would be longing for rednecks, mud runs, and my wonderful home where my heart definitely stays.

  9. I always wondered what it would be like to leave behind everything and change schools. I was just thinking about the one time we moved when I was a kid and I was terrified that they’d make me go to the other middle school, where I didn’t know anybody.

  10. Your writing is coming together so well. Sorry, I know that wasn’t the point

  11. I never moved growing up so I never knew what it was like to be the new kid. My kids however have had to move a few times. I have told them over and over that they are my heroes for swallowing their fears and adapting to new schools and experiencing something I never experienced.

  12. We have moved our kiddos a few times and hopefully it will be o.k

  13. I can see the benefits of both.

    Moving around a lot would be tough for all the reasons you mention.

    I attended a small school and the kids we started kindergarten with were the ones we graduated with. So, if you were the one who went to school with the underwear on the outside of the pants in 1st grade, most likely you were “underwear man” in 12th grade. Tough to reinvent yourself.






  15. Oy! That was a beautifully written post, and it sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole of my own memories. My family moved twice. Once away from the town of my childhood, then back to that same town a mere 6 years later. So I wasn’t really the new kid, just the kid who came back.

    It’s comforting, Im sure, to see your kids happy and adjusted in their familiar setting. Thanks for the peek inside.

  16. I went to the same school, Grade 1 (skipped kindergarten) to Grade 12. And while I hated it, I think your experience was my nightmare. And it’s probably what helped shape your unique perspective, making you the writer you are. So, I guess it worked out?

  17. There’s a lot to be said about change but I prefer the staying put! Life is too crazy to have to reinvent ourselves so often. If I had to reinvent myself, I might forget who I really am!

  18. My folks split when I was 5 and I bounced along with my Dad. Not 17 moves but a lot, said when I had kids – no way!!! My son is now 24 and the friends he works and plays with, they grew up together since pre school. When I see him tomorrow I am going to ask him, any regrets, living in 1 town of 20,000 odd for 24 years?

  19. Wow, that is a lot of moving. Kids in military families have told me that they learned to adapt to change, but that much change is overwhelming.

  20. I was moved around growing up like a gypsy. Dad just couldn’t seem to sit still. I managed, sometimes it was good, sometimes not so much.
    But refused to move my kiddies around.

    I moved last year and still drive daughter #2 25 miles away to go to the same school she’s been going to so she can graduate with all of her friends she’s been with since 3rd grade.

    I’m glad yours came home smiling!

  21. My hubby went to 17 different schools. I went to 6. We’ve moved around a fair bit in our marriage, too, which means our children have moved around. But they seem okay. Our son’s best friend is one he met 11 years ago when they were both in elementary school. Our daughter still has friends from junior high. They adjusted, but yeah, I wish I could have given them a stay put kind of life. It sounds idyllic to someone who has moved around so much.

    There’s a little something for you at my blog today. Drop by!

    Peace – D

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