I’m a born New Yorker, and I fell in love with one, too. When we bought a home in Brooklyn and got engaged, I figured our life story was written. We’d live in New York forever, raise a family on the same streets we’d both known and loved as kids, and live within forty minutes of our own parents (built-in babysitters, anyone?).
Imagine my surprise the day my then-fiance came home and told me he had a job offer in Dallas. Suddenly the Long Island beach wedding and years of New York coupledom that I saw unfolding ahead were hazy. We considered the terms and decided as a couple that the Texas move was the right one, but that shift in geography and perspective was hard at first.
At the Texas State Fair in Dallas
Almost three years later, we are no longer living in Dallas. In fact, there was a year+ in Washington, DC sandwiched between that first move and our current status as almost-New Yorkers again. (We are now close to home, in New Jersey.) My husband’s work has taken us on quite a wild ride. Our daughter was prayed for in Texas, conceived in Manhattan, born in Virginia, and brought home from the hospital to Maryland. We apartment-hopped from one end of the DC metro area to the other right before having her, but had to pick up and move again when business took us back north a few months after her birth.
With the job market running hot and cold from coast to coast, I’m sure many families can relate. And it’s nothing new for military spouses, of course. As far as my husband and my current plan goes, we’re here for good…at least for now. But when I tell people about our three years of cross-country craziness, they look at me like I’m, well, crazy. But I’ve always managed to feel at home in all the cities we’ve landed in. Here’s how.
I bring pieces of the home(s) that came before.
In addition to our furniture and art that we’ve collected together as a couple, I like to bring a specific piece of the previous home(s) with us. For the most recent move, that meant making a framed scrap-picture of our daughter’s first nursery to hang in her new one. I spent so much time and poured a great deal of love into her first little corner of the world. I used to rock in her chair nine months pregnant and daydream about what it would be like to have her in my arms. Once she was born, she slept in there every night. It smelled and looked like her, and I was heartbroken to leave it.
On our last day in that home, I painted her little feet and pressed the imprint into a sheet of pink card stock the same hue as her walls. I also peeled one of the gold dot decals off of her wall and and affixed it to the paper. I added a picture of the nursery and labeled it, and it now hangs in her new room. This daily reminder brings the feeling of our first home into our new one. When she’s old enough, it will be a way for her to experience seeing that first nursery even though it’s now gone.
We find our “local,” stat.
The concept of places being “ours” is something so important to my husband and me. We had our diner in Manhattan, our corner deli in Brooklyn, our spots that served our spicy margaritas, played our favorite country songs, and so on. In order to make each new city feel like home is to find our “local.” We’ll wander the streets on day one and check out the nearest pubs. We look for a menu that’s friendly for our food needs, an ambiance that clicks, and now, a place that’s cool with babies, too. Our newest local is right across the street.
Two weeks in, we chat with the owner. The waitresses know I’ll have a gluten-free beer, but not until I’m done nursing the baby. They’ve met my mother-in-law and they love my daughter. It’s a place where my husband can grab a cold one while I’m writing on a Sunday afternoon. No matter where we go in the world, we’ll always remember our local spot; it makes us feel like part of the community.
Pregnant in the Shenandoah Valley a few hours outside DC
I throw myself in.
In addition to the “local,” I become a part of the city without saying goodbye to my core values, preferences, and style, I soak in the things that make each new home unique. In Dallas, we sought out the most authentic barbecue and Tex-Mex. I got a great job where I met new friends, and I put time and effort into these relationships. I wore my hair a little bigger. We drove to Fort Worth and bought cowboy boots, and we went to concerts.
In DC, we enjoyed the proximity our apartment afforded us to not only nationally important monuments but also big shopping malls. We went to the movies, something we never really did in New York. We checked out the cherry blossoms and ate some of the country’s best crabs. We drove to obscure corners of the city and walked around, soaking in the history. I made a close friend in another new mom in our apartment building. I sat on her floor and drank nursing tea and confided in her some of my deepest secrets. It just felt right.
Visiting the White House while living in DC. Willow was here, about six months in the womb!
I remain open to the possibility of another move.
Now that we’re in Jersey City, we’re exploring what makes this corner of the New York metro area unique, from the diner across town to the striking Manhattan view at our local park. As always, I’m remaining open. Throughout these moves, at times there have been clouds of doubt over my head. The possibility of another move looms, of course. Sometimes the thought of going out there and finding work, meeting new friends, and decorating yet another apartment is exhausting.
But here is the thing: In order for us to live somewhere, we have to live. We have to go and do and see and breathe it all in and just be in it. I keep the feeling of home by actively making each place my home, even with the knowledge that our geographical location might not stick.
When my husband and I visited friends in Dallas this spring, I was startled to feel tears rolling down my cheeks as we drove past our old local. My stomach twisted up and I was homesick—homesick for a place that wasn’t home at all. Even in the sudden sadness I knew it meant I had done something right. I’d loved that town and truly made it home, if only for a short while.
My little family on a recent trip to Dallas. Collecting hometowns is just part of our story, and sharing them with Willow makes it so much fun.
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