Friday, April 1, 2016

What's (Not) Missing

On this day one year ago, this was the scene in our Chicago condo:

The movers had come, packed everything up, and put it on a truck to send to storage. The walkthrough with the new owners was completed. Our keys were in hand for our temporary, furnished apartment, only a few blocks east and south in our neighborhood.

We did not have our new Florida house yet. We were only 90% sure we were moving to Florida; the movers still had Arizona listed on the second line of our file, just in case.

The home in which we live now wasn't even on the market, which was good for us. The following day, we met with our agent, Monique, for our closing, at which time we had the funds to really start a new home search, in earnest. On April 2nd, we stood with Monique at the front entrance of Coldwell Banker, moments after the last papers were signed and the keys were handed over, with smiles that showed our relief and excitement. There are very few moments in life where almost anything is possible, and this was one of ours.

There was also a lot of melancholy and fear during those weeks. Even after seeing our temporary apartment, as the moving boxes piled up around our home, our daughter began talking repeatedly about what would happen when we signed the papers and were "homeless." The many truly homeless people in Chicago had always held a soft-spot for her—when she donated things, homelessness was the cause that most concerned her, and she wanted her things to go to those affected by it. We kept reassuring her that we would have a roof over our heads, but her insistence on that term really spoke of how adrift and frightening this whole break with our old life was.

What we didn't know then, but know now, was that our final months in Hyde Park would feel, in many ways, like a good-bye vacation. Even though we were very close to where we had lived all those years, and had frequently spent time in this side of the neighborhood (Hyde Park isn't that big), living within walking distance of different shops, restaurants, and Hyde Park's only movie theater made our free time more fun than usual. Not having much of our own stuff, living with another's furnishings and knick-knacks, was actually liberating, and made me dread the eventual day when the moving truck would arrive at our home, to surround us with our not-so-necessary belongings. We were also slightly closer to EJ's school, which meant that even during awful weather, a drive there wasn't usually necessary. We walked around for everything, which was always the best part about city living, noticing all the flowering trees and and snapping up pictures of the signs of spring that we would miss once we moved to a more temperate climate. I smelled every single lilac I could; I wanted a sense memory of my favorite scent, with the cool gray Chicago sky and the architecture that couldn't be matched in the background.

To imagine the life which we have now at that time was simply impossible. IMPOSSIBLE! It's one thing to believe in your family, and to believe in the vision that you have put together for it; it's another thing to predict how real life will actually go down. There was no telling what kind of house we would find, what our neighbors would be like, how easily the school transition might go, etc.

On the other side of the big jump, I can say this: we are so, so grateful. This house is exactly enough space for our family of three. Our neighborhood is friendly, and the houses aren't cookie-cutter. Our neighbors have become close friends. Our child has kids with whom to play right on the cul-de-sac, and frequently does, after walking home from her bus stop around the corner. School has been a dream transition, with two supportive teachers and new friends. Girl Scouts and theater productions have rounded out our kid's time, while the quest to find work and the need to continually put the new home together have kept me busy. We have gone to the theme parks more times that we can count with our annual passes, more often than not with visiting guests—we have had more friends visit in the last nine months than we did in the entire 10+ years we lived in Chicago. Mike can work from a desk on our covered, screened-in lanai, with birdsong breaking through into his meetings and his brand new fig tree close by, gaining new buds every day.

We are asked fairly often if we miss Chicago. What can I say to that? We miss friends, surely. We miss a few fun places, favorite eats, etc. We miss proximity to our extended family in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest, for sure. But do we miss Chicago?

It's a great thing to feel, absolutely, right down to your bones, that you love where you live. To know that you belong exactly where you are. To not sense the need to drift, or look, or plan for the next big jump. We feel that way where we are now.

There is nothing to miss. We are home.

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