Weekend Journal

When school got out on Friday afternoon, the boys and I drove over to my folks' house. Jonah was a little pissed off about this last minute plan. He had envisioned an afternoon of wii playing with neighbor boys. Jonah isn't allowed to play wii on a school night, so by Friday afternoon, he's jonsing like a crack addict.

My sister came by with one of her two girls, and my sister in law, Tammy, also dropped by with her two kids. The kids ran around in circles in the backyard. Mom made fish and pasta. Standing by the glass sliding door to the porch, I chatted with the adults and somewhat kept an eye on the savages in the backyard. Thomas the baby was handed over to me a couple of times. Steve took the #20 bus from NYC and walked in the front door. Jonah quickly forgot about the wii.

Over time, opportunities for tenure track positions at big universities have come my way. There have been hipper neighborhoods offering cute bookstores and soup shops just an hour away. But I have stayed here.

A major reason for staying put has been my family. My brother, sister, and parents all live within twenty minute of here. It's very easy to have spontaneous get-togethers. The cousins are more like brothers and sisters. We don't do as much babysitting for each other as we should, but we congregate and let the kids mingle at least once a week.

When we came back from college and were wandering around the country, Mom always insisted that we come home for family dinners every other Sunday, if we were somewhat in the vicinity. "We're Italian. Family is everything," she would say. Any move to other cities was considered strictly temporary. Mom required some tough love for us to gain our freedom. Yet, after some wandering from all three of us, we ended up half an hour from where we grew up.

It has worked out just great in many ways. My kids have a small crowd around them at every birthday and an unquestioning support system. When Jonah sees his cousin Megan, they go into their own world, completely tune out everyone else, and talk for ten hours straight. They will always be best friends. Today, my brother picked us up, so that his daughter, Julia, and Ian could run around an indoor playground together.

The adults mostly get along, though we have our bumps. My dad and I got into a fight about the economy last Friday right in the midst of dinner. I think I yelled out at one point, "What do you know, Rush Limbaugh?!" Because I'm a classy girl.

I also do wonder what would have happened if I had settled elsewhere. Would I be living in a university town having cocktails with great minds? Would I be in Seattle hiking in mountains and listening to music? How about London? I have always wanted to live in London.

We're embedded in this area at this point for many reasons now; it's not just the extended family. Schools. The damn house. Steve's job. And Steve is a nester; it would be such a pain to get him to move again. So, there are tons of great reasons to be here. But I'm bored and itchy. I keep threatening to get the real estate agent over here to price the house. Yet, everyone seems to know that this is an empty threat. They smile and nod and then ask me if I'll host the Easter dinner.

10 thoughts on “Weekend Journal

  1. The Pacific Northwest is hard on those not accustomed to only 55 days of sunshine a year (that’s apparently how much Seattle gets). Also, carrying an umbrella is widely considered a sissy thing to do. (An Olympia friend says that that was a glitch in the research for the Twilight movie–too many umbrellas.)


  2. I miss being near family. I’m 3 hours away, and it’s tough. We make do, just as you make do with your job sitch. I’m really not convinced there is a person in the world who “has it all,” because if we did, then what would we have to strive for? Would our lives have meaning without longing for something else?


  3. As an only child (one aunt, two cousins, far far away in more than one way), that kind of life sounds both heavenly and stifling. Special K, on the other hand, is part of a huge family with 700 first cousins (or so it seems), and I love being swept up in that when we go back east.


  4. I would love to live nearer to family, if I had family I got along with better. Both my husband and I fled our nuclear families when we turned 18.
    Instead we’ve had to cobble together networks of very close friends. We’ve had moderate success with this; I don’t know that it ever really matches blood relations.


  5. Having just left my annual visit with my mom, I encouraged my kids to consider family proximity. I think it’s a real quality of life issue.
    I have two uncles, my father and my sister all living within 20 minutes of me. My cousins have all moved in the last decade, and we have lost touch.
    I really, really hope that my kids will settle near us after college, and more importantly near each other.
    Even if you don’t get along perfectly with your family, it grounds you to live near them.


  6. Being near family is the main reason we moved back from the Bay Area. Living in the Bay Area (even with the high cost) is better in many ways, but the thought of having to fly back 4x a year for various holidays was killing us. Now we have family a short drive away. Whew.


  7. I think what I long for is a smaller place. Being in a large suburb of a large city is actually something I thought I wanted back when I left college, but it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. It’s been very difficult to find sympatico folks around. The people I have things in common with and want to hang around with live 1/2 hour or more away. Figuring out times to get together is like scheduling a complex event. And trying to connect with the neighbors is problematic for other reasons.
    Although I’d really like to live near my father, especially as my stepmother is going through some difficult, there are zero career opportunities for either me or my husband. It’s a tiny town with a dying economy. Your opportunities may be drying up, but there are none to be had even in good times in my hometown. Still, there’s some scenario I can imagine where we do just that, and Doug takes a crappy job at the only nearby college just so we can be near family and slow down our lifestyle.
    On the other hand, thinking about living near my mother gives me hives. We lived in the same town for 3 years and it kind of drove me crazy. It’s too complicated to get into in a blog comment, but seriously, I have all kinds of problems handling my mother.
    Then there’s my husband’s family. His father and new wife, brother and sister-in-law, and sister all live within 15-20 minutes of each other and get together fairly regularly, adding in various nearby aunts, uncles and cousins on occasion. Although it’s a bigger city than my hometown, the career opportunities are still limited and after having lived nearby (within 45 minutes) for 6 years, I can honestly say that while there are good things about living near them, I felt very suffocated by them. But they make an effort to visit us regularly and we return the favor, seeing them at least once and often 2-3 times a year. Same goes for my father and stepmother. My mother, on the other hand, is visiting us for the first time is almost 4 years. We went to visit her 2 years ago ourselves (it’s a 20 hour drive and $1200 or more for us to fly there). We kept inviting her to visit us, even offering to pay for her flight–and it never happened. And I’m kind of okay with that in a weird way.
    I do kind of hope that my kids live near me when they grow up, but even if they don’t, I’ll make a concerted effort to visit and spend time with them.
    I think we all have a kind of romantic view of what the places we settle in are going to be like and when they don’t live up to that view, we start to get itchy and restless. I, for instance, am serious about that slowing down, moving to a smaller town scenario, but like you, I probably won’t act on it for 10 years if ever. Moving would probably not be a good thing for the kids. There are tons of opportunities for them here even if I’m frustrated by the lack of connection I have with people. Yeah, I’m sticking it out for the kids. 🙂


  8. I miss being close to the family that I wish I had! What I have realized now as a parent is the long legacy that a particular family’s decisions can take,for better or for worse. My maternal grandmother was an expert at dividing her 4 kids. Now decades later there remain forgotten reasons for resentments that work to keep everyone a bit distant.
    We have made a chosen family from friends but it isn’t the same as blood family.


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