This week’s theme for Jane Ann McLachlan’s October Challenge is relationships. So many of our relationships are the result of proximity. We meet someone because they live, work, or play near us. I began thinking about how my many moves have affected my ability to establish, maintain, and release relationships.
From birth to high school graduation, I moved at least fifteen times, but probably closer to twenty. Most of those moves meant a new school, new teachers, new friends. When you have so many people and places changing in your world, it’s hard to have a clear narrative of your own life, let alone of the people who are constantly passing by.
When I began writing my memoir about two years ago, my memories were a jumbled mess. I could hardly remember what had happened when. I had a slightly better recollection of where certain things happened. I began visiting the exteriors of places I had lived, so that I could figure out the order of my memories. I still have gaps, but each time I revisit a place I have lived, I build a little more structure on which to hang my past.
Between the ages of 18 and 20, I lived in eight more residences before landing in Vancouver, Washington where I started attending Clark College. Within a couple years, I got pregnant.
My twin sons and I moved eight more times before we settled in Oregon when they were six. During those years, I had a number of beater cars: Ford Mustang II, Chevy Capris, a green Ford Pinto, a yellow Ford Pinto, Buick Skylark, and a Mercury Zephyr. I had a bunch of jobs, too, working my way up from Dairy Queen to Bonneville Power to the Social Security Administration to becoming an electrician’s apprentice in Local 48.
When my sons and I moved to share the home of my husband-to-be on the 13 acres he owned, we found the consistency I’d always sought.For the first couple of years, all was quiet. Or as quiet as any home with two working parents and twin boys can be. And then, the other children began to come. Some left. More came. It went on like this for a decade, by which time, our family looked like this:
In thinking about how proximity begets relationship, I can’t help but believe that my early childhood changes: learning to adapt, make anew, create a family out of whoever was close, promoted my later life choices. I was adamant that my sons would have stability and would finish school in the place they started. They would know the constancy of both their parents actively participating in their lives. And they did.
I didn’t see it at the time but it’s ironic and a little sad for me to recognize that the stability I strove for on their behalf was compromised when we became a revolving family system comprised of additional children who started their lives in families other than our own.