House on Fire
When I was a child, I used to pray at night that my house would burn down. I went to sleep alert for the smell of smoke, with my escape route planned and the few possessions to be saved chosen. I didn’t put much stock in the power of prayer (or God, for that matter), so I didn’t really believe the house would catch fire. I continued to hope, though. I wasn’t wishing for the fiery death of any family members and a romantic life as an orphan or only child. I just wanted the house to burn down so that we could move.
I was fascinated by fresh starts. I wanted to remake myself into someone different. There was really nothing wrong with me, other than being deadly boring. However, if we moved, I would be the mysterious new girl in school with a past of my own choosing. I could be someone exciting!
The house never burned down and we never moved. I lived in the same house on Pine Street until I left for college at 17. In the next six years though (even before joining the Marine Corps), I would move ten times and live in five different cities and four different states. I loved it.
I loved the change of scenery and housemates. (I never had my own place.) I delighted in exploring a new territory and locating the things I needed – grocery store, park, ballet studio, pool, Target, mall. While I no longer had a burning desire to reinvent myself, I did enjoy the fact that my past life was a secret that I could choose to reveal or not.
I discovered that moving is not all fun and games. Being the new girl can be lonely. Breaking into a new network of friends is difficult, and I am frequently reminded that I do not share their group history. My current location (Cincinnati) seems to be a city from which few people ever move away. My local friends all have family with whom they can spend holidays or weekend shopping trips. Although my built-in best friend, Mike, keeps me from being truly lonely, he doesn’t take the place of a gal pal or sister.
Now that we have a house (and I have a garden), moving has lost even more of its glamour. I am quite attached to my landscaping and looking forward to watching it develop. However, Mike has applied to the Navy JAG program, and will probably be accepted. This means we will again become gypsies, moving every three to four years. Gardens aside, though, I am looking forward to the location changes. My wanderlust remains stronger than my nesting instincts. I consider myself fortunate that my childhood wish was indeed granted, just without the flames and smoke.