There's No Place Like Home
Tuesday, 09 February 2010
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I considered yesterday's “announcement” that I've decided to move to Portland, Oregon, to be a personal indulgence, not something that really belongs on this blog about aging. But I'd been busy thinking through some of the details of selling and buying and all, and by Sunday evening I had not written another post for Monday.
And look what happened – wow! I had no idea so many of you would have so much to say about it. I'm taking seriously all your various kinds of advice, and I thank all of you for your good wishes on this project.
As any of you who have moved in your life know, it is important to run the numbers, accounting for fees, expenses, commissions, taxes, etc. to arrive at the smallest offer you can or are willing to accept in a sale to net what you need for your move and new purchase. What are the moving costs? What costs are attached to buying in the new city? How much new home can you afford? How much fudge room is there? Ship the car, sell it or drive? Not to mention the timing so you're not homeless for too long.
All that kind of stuff makes me grind my teeth, so I took a lot of breaks from the calculator yesterday to think about the idea of home and how we find it.
Ben Franklin said, “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” A couple of thousand years earlier, Cicero put it more simply: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” There is also Robert Frost's well-known dictum: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” but you can't count on it.
Even after her adventures in Oz, the feeling of home was easy for Dorothy: Kansas.
It's easy for me too: Greenwich Village is in my bones as deeply as if I'd been born there. I've made peace with leaving, but not easily and I don't have much chance of finding a pair of ruby slippers to take me back.
On the other hand, I love this apartment in Portland, Maine. I have been more comfortable in this physical space than anywhere else. It suits me and that may have something to do with why it took so long to decide to leave. I wish I could wave my magic wand and take the apartment with me to Oregon.
(A lot of wishing going on here...)
A number of people yesterday agreed with the comment left by Marian Van Eyk McCain (elderwomanblog) about my decision to move:
“The image I've had ever since I met you, Ronni, is that you dug yourself out of the soil of NYC and carried yourself to Maine in a pot, intending to re-plant yourself, but that your roots are still in the pot.”
It makes me laugh to picture myself hauling around a miniature Ronni potted up like a geranium. Marian proves a point I've often made to new bloggers: over time, there is no way you can present yourself as anything other than what you are; whatever that is, it will always come through your words. Apparently you, readers, knew Portland, Maine might not be my final resting place before I did.
Probably the best quote about home is one of the simplest: Home is where the heart is. My heart will always be partly in Greenwich Village, but it lives in Oregon too. And not in Maine. It's a nice enough place, but it doesn't feel like home even after nearly four years.
So tell us today what home is to you - and where.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Shirley Karnes: Humpty Dumpty
It takes courage to take such a leap and make such a change, but your writing indicates you are strong willed and this last move will be your best. I never felt you were happy in Maine. Go back to that old list I gave you so you have that box fist to unload from the moving van or the car.
Posted by: Tabor | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 03:35 AM
I don't know why you said that post doesn't belong here. Many of us will be faced with moving during our elder years, so any info on the possibilities is important!
Posted by: kenju | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 05:17 AM
Moving is never easy. As we grow older, our wants and desires become simpler economically but more complex emotionally. I've moved several times in the past 3 years and have learned a lot of what not to do or expect. We're all like plants: we need containment, nourishment and space, but we have the advantage (?)of knowing what types of each nurture us better. Good luck in Oregon.
Posted by: Molly | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 05:24 AM
I could write forever on this subject. Then, fortunately, I remember that I already have: my blog began with a For Sale sign in the yard and struggles regularly with decisions like yours. Until '91, we moved every three years as an Air Force family, so you'd think we'd be good at it, but needs and the meaning of "home" change radically in one's sixties.
Today, we take the sign down because of a decision about what constitutes home at this stage of life: this house and its environs, in all their imperfection, have turned out to be home, because we have lived here longer than anywhere we've ever been. Our children's highly hormonally-charged adolescent DNA lingers in the crevices of every room. I know where all the light switches are in the dark. Perhaps, most importantly, this happens to be where we found ourselves when the Nomad Window unexpectedly shut...a developmental milestone of aging that I'd forgotten to anticipate.
We find these decisions so tough, we actually liked it better when the USAF told us what to do.
Posted by: Nance | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 05:31 AM
I like what you have said here. My family moved here when I was 12 and except for college and a short stay on the East coast, it's where I am even though I've never really felt like this is home. When I went back to Toledo, where we lived for nine years, I felt an intense feeling of being home as I crossed the big new bridge. I don't have anyone there anymore except my stepmother so I ask myself why I feel that way. I'm heading back up there this summer for a few days in June and I hope to explore some possibilities but I suspect I'll be stuck here until it's time to meet my Maker.
Posted by: Kay Dennison | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 07:10 AM
keep in mind, if you move, you lose old friends, new ones are hard to find.
Posted by: estelle bruno | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 07:21 AM
I think the topic is very oriented to elders today because of the freedom we have to move if we so choose. That has not always been so for the old.
My favorite quote about 'home' is one I write in the front of my journal because it so speaks to my heart and mind. "Where we choose to be-- we have that power to determine our lives. We cannot reel time backward or forward, but we can take ourselves to the place that defines our being." It is by Sena Jeter Naslund and from her book 'Ahab's Wife' where the main character is finding the place that speaks to her being.
I have never been one who feels I am somewhere and must stay there. I like knowing I could move or make changes and in a year might be somewhere else-- even if I end up being here. It's the freedom to choose that is so valuable.
The place that defined my being is where I grew up and 80 acre farm on the edge of wilderness at the end of a gravel road. I wanted to never leave there and when the farm was sold by my parents, I wanted to buy it back, used to dream I had until it got subdivided into fancy little 'estates' and didn't exist anymore. I think I still look for it but it probably only exists in my heart now. We can't always go home and sometimes just have to carry it with us.
Posted by: Rain | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 07:43 AM
Before my late husband died, we bought a small farm after living in a small southern city where I was born and grew up; we lived in that house 25 years. He died after only being at the farm 2 years, and I could not leave that place fast enough. Felt homesick for the city home all that 2 years; however, the city house was rented and I bought another house in the same neighborhood. Lived there the past 3 years, but I never really had that same "coming home" feeling I did in the other house. So when my renters moved last fall,I did some renovations and now I'm living in the house husband and I spent 25 years in. And I am very content, HAPPY. Unfortunately I'm one of those people who if I'm away even on vacation, gets terribly home sick (the to point of miserable) until I get back home. So home to me is definitely "place."
Posted by: Cara | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 08:15 AM
We were in the way of a tornado on Oct. 29 (our 38th anniversary!). We found a new home and moved in on Dec. 15. It was quick, and although not painless, relatively easy.
I feel more at home here than in any place we've ever lived. My bookcase and reading nook (complete with cats) and my sewing/yoga studio in the "bonus" room upstairs are part of the pleasures. The house is small, but cozy, and there is plenty of storage.
Home -- husband, cats, garden, books, sewing paraphernalia.
Posted by: jenclair | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 09:04 AM
Ronni, never doubt that moving is a *perfect* subject for this blog, because most elders struggle terribly with moves--either avoiding them or being forced into them.
Even desired moves involve a lot of decluttering, disorientation, and disruption. That's the reason I bet you get a huge response every time you post on this subject...we've all done it, are doing it, or have done it for someone else.
Home for me? Easy--the next place I can have a cat. Seriously, my wish list is the same as yours: Family close (but not too close); transit; urban amenities.
Posted by: Paula | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 10:06 AM
I have lost count of all the places I have lived over the years. Moving is a real pain in butt because of the logistics, but other than that, I figure I must be part gypsy. "Any place I hang my hat is home." Every move brings with it a whole new set of experiences, and I'm someone who gets bored easily and likes change.
I never felt "at home" in the home in which I grew up, and maybe that set a pattern for me. Last year I moved I with my daughter, son-in-law, and 7 years old grandson. Lots of new experiences here, and, with a 7 year old who's being home-schooled, moments here are never dull.
Wherever I've lived in the past 50 years or so, I've had my books, my computer (or typewriter), my crafts, and my cat. And then, again, no matter where I go, there I am.
I imagine that this will be the past place I'll live. But, one never knows.
Posted by: Elaine of Kalilily | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 11:40 AM
We’d like to make a move to something smaller and remain in the same township, but something smaller, with less privacy might end up costing more than what we now pay. We go back and forth with should we stay put in our present house or look elsewhere for something more affordable. It’s best to make these decisions while relatively healthy in mind and body. We honestly don’t know what to do and so we end up doing nothing. I like Bucks County PA and don’t feel I’d want to go back to where I grew up in New Jersey, but who knows.
Posted by: Claire Jean | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 12:28 PM
We moved house 20 years ago - for a new job - when my daughter was about 5 years old. We didn't realise how confused she was about this moving house business until we realised she thought that is exactly what we were going to do - move the house!
Posted by: ian | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 01:12 PM
We are settled on the island of Montreal, 5 min walk to bus, close to library, community center, shopping. We love our older, renovated home.
It's exactly where I used to dream of living when going home from high school on the late bus. I still get teary when crossing the Mercier bridge to home after being on a long trip to the USA.
The city scape is right there, in all its radiant glory.
We love Montreal. We're walking distance to a lake with lake rights, have kayaks, bikes, inline skates. When we don't feel like driving to downtown, we take the bus, with our senior passes.
Neighbors are friendly but not in our faces. Mom is 5 mins away by car. Most of my family live on the island.
The ONLY thing we don't like, is winter. It's too darn long for us, so we go somewhere else for at least a month per year.
We don't do winter sports, but we use the library regularly. When we downsize, we will not move anywhere unless we have public transportation close by, grocery shops, a library, clinic and a university in case we want to take a course.
No way will we want someone to drive us everywhere. We'll sell one car, get 2 electric bikes, and keep on ticking.
I see too many seniors stuck in highrises, nobody to take them shopping...we need to think long and hard about location, as seniors.
Location is number one. Friends, you will make new ones if you join activities. Take care, Ronni.
Posted by: doctafill | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 01:26 PM
Yikes! I advised before I checked. Now I learn that your tenure in Maine won't make the five-year requirment for a homebuyer stimulus bonus. Knowing that, my advice reverses. Rather than hurrying the process, take all the time you need to (1) get the price you want in Maine, and (2) find the place of your dreams in Portland. I now join several of your friends who advise renting in Portland. It simply takes more than a few visits to find the right piece of real estate, be it a house or apartment. It takes months. Take all the time you need to find the physical surroundings you enjoyed so much in Maine, and a just-right location. We moved 11 times during my working career. A year ago, we moved as retired elders. Now we know one of the great benefits of moving unfettered by school, work, or other constraints is that plenty of time is available to make very sound decisions. Incidentally, my sister lived in both Portlands, and once arranged an art exchange between the two cities. I think her happier times were in Oregon.
Posted by: Gabby Geezer | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 02:51 PM
From a woman with a history of a gypsy lifestyle -- think small, travel small, seek nature, live simple, do your homework on your future place, rent until it fulfills your spirit -- otherwise if it doesn't -- move on with no strings attached. barbara
Posted by: barbara | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 03:01 PM
I agree this is a very important topic for seniors. We rented for six months when we moved here years ago, so we had time to find a house we liked. Our area has fairly short winters, long summers and good scenery, and is not too expensive, so decided to stay here when we retired. Will stay here until we get too old to take care of a house and/or drive ourselves around. Hate to think about renting an apartment then, for what is life without cats or a garden? But renting first worked for us.
Posted by: joni | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 03:08 PM
I just read about your pending move. I appreciate the fact that you are moving back to your hometown, but I hope you enjoyed your stay in Portland ME. I have family in the Maine Portland and I love that area. I usually only visit it in the summer or fall. The Northeast is cold enough where I grew up, and live, in Albany NY so I generally hibernate here through the winter. I wish you the best in your move and I am somewhat envious because if my circumstances were different I would definitely consider a move to somewhere other than smallbany - as I call it. Hopefully you will continue "Times Goes By" when you move.
Posted by: Ellen Younkins | Tuesday, 09 February 2010 at 08:32 PM
Home is Oregon for me, and I'm so excited that you're moving to Portland.
From the moment I moved here from my native Nevada I've known it was where I belong. It has taken good care of my soul, and I intend to take good care of Oregon.
Posted by: Lydia | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 at 02:51 AM
I agree with other posters: thinking of moving in later life is a perfect topic as it can be a minefield.
We wondered when we left UK for Spain whether this was to be our final move. We still don't know what might drive us back to our roots but will be interesting to find out.....eventually.
Posted by: Pam (lady luz) | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 at 07:59 AM
I grew up in Oregon and always thought I would return there. I never felt like I put down roots the 38 years I lived in Wisconsin. Upon retirement we sold our house and moved into a motorhome full time. We spent 10 1/2 years full timing. Where ever we went I would ask whether it was a place we could live. Then we spent the winter of 2005 in Tucson, AZ and kept coming back. We bought a place in 2007 in Tucson. It feels more like home after 3 years. I think it is partly because it is in the West. I plan to travel and will visit Portland yearly as my Mother and much of my family is in Oregon and Washington.
If the time comes when I can no longer live independently I'm not sure if I will stay here or look for something near one of my children.
Even after downsizing I still have too much stuff most of it books. Sometimes I think home is where my books are.
Transporting a household is expensive and the less you have the better it is. Figure out the cost of transporting your furniture versus selling and buying new.
Posted by: aenodia | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 at 09:49 AM
Best of luck, Ronni, on your decision...boy that is a tough one. Syd and I have lived in the same house since 1972 and hope to go to heaven from here. Just the thought of moving sends shivers down my back. All our needs are met here, so long as our children and grandchildren are near...we are at peace!!!
Posted by: Sheila Halet | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 at 10:19 AM
My honey and I found ourselves intentionally moving further and further away from Seattle, where I was raised. I had the oddest feeling - I was aching, homesick for a place, but where?
Nineteen years ago, he took a position in Montana and we had two days to find a home to buy. We were within a mile of the first house we were going to look at, and I already knew I was home. Twelve houses later, we came back to the first one, home, and haven't left since.
I hope you find the perfect home in Portland.
Posted by: Heidi | Friday, 12 February 2010 at 09:31 AM
Sorry I'm late to the moving party!! Been dealing with back to back blizzards and snow shoveling!
I moved to the DC area from still living with my parents in Minnesota in 1982. Lived in DC proper, Alexandria, Arlington, and now my little home in Takoma Park, MD. I can't imagine moving anytime soon, although I hate the heat and humidity here.
My favorite "feels like home" quote is rather long so bare with me:
It is from the Wind in the Willows:
"The weary Mole was also glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of tgeh firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour...He saw how plain and simple--how narrow even--it all was; but clearly too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life adn its splendid spaces, to turn his back on the sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think that he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could be counted upon for the same simple welcome."
Posted by: possumlady | Friday, 12 February 2010 at 11:06 AM
Dang! Saw a couple of typos but was not able to edit for some reason. Sorry!
Posted by: possumlady | Friday, 12 February 2010 at 11:08 AM
My Dad taught me that "Home is where you hang your hat."
Posted by: Miki Davis | Monday, 15 February 2010 at 06:24 PM