One of the hard things about living so far away is that we don’t see the family often. While I was in Florida I set the family up with webcams and Skype accounts and we dragged everyone into the world of video chat, which will make a huge difference. But it’s also the reason I chose to leave Hawaii the last few months: sure, I needed the help, but I also needed Maggie to have the same closeness with her grandparents that I had with mine.
My parents are incredibly hands-on grandparents. My mother in particular would vanish with the baby for long periods of time, and Maggie would return smelling like the pool or just slightly sun-kissed from a good walk. Throw in some peeled grapes and a glass of wine and you’ve just described my heaven. She is also a fantastic storyteller.
My dad is a pretty good storyteller too, but his forte is silly faces and the ability to toss the baby in the air repeatedly, to her eternal delight. He was also the one who used the living room rug as a training mat to get her more comfortable with walking and who took care of her while I was felled by a terrible stomach flu. (After eight hours of baby care he all but threw Maggie at my mother when she came in and said “I’m so glad you’re home! She’s so willful.” Taste my pain, Dad.)
Sometimes it pulls at us, having decided to make our home out in the world and not settling down in one spot for the time being. We think about how we’re denying Maggie what we had: the close family web, grandparents fifteen minutes away and cousins for playmates (me much more so than Tom). But even if a job for Tom opened in Tampa, we both balk at the idea of living in Florida. Family notwithstanding, it just isn’t for us. That isn’t an insult to Florida or Floridians, but not every place is a good fit for every person. As important as it is to know where you’re going and where you belong, it’s equally important to recognize when a place that you’ve romanticized (family barbecues! free babysitters! swimming in the family pool! absurdly cheap groceries!) is not a good long-term solution. You have weigh that against the potential good, that knowledge that no matter how hard you try to shape it, it just won’t fit.
That said, we don’t know where we’re going next, but we know that sometime around 2020 we are going to set ourselves up in the Maryland suburbs–the mortgage, the 8-passenger SUV (hopefully a hybrid, at least), the bake sales and soccer fundraisers. That’s another not-so-great fit, but it’s one near Tom’s main office and packed to brimming with old friends in similar industries, much better schools, a climate we can enjoy and planted firmly in the center of Southwest’s eastern corridor–BWI to Manchester, NH or to Tampa isn’t quite equidistant, but it’s close, and cheap enough. The potential good here–a home base for Maggie (and whoever else comes along) to complete junior high and high school in the same place and to give her a place she can call hers–outweighs our itchy feet and wanderlust. And with that location, she can still have the relationship with our families that we want her to have.
Until then, we’ll travel. We’ll still travel after we create a more permanent nest, but we’ll come home to a place of our own instead of making grand plans and trying fanatically to move to other countries or even other continents. For now, though, I want to record us as we are: exploring, seeking, and moving with the sun.