Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my time living in Owego, New York, in the rural, southern tier of the state, where I lived before moving to Monterey. I'm romanticizing it, as we're all prone to do when our memories get fuzzy, but it's on my mind so much because it's the kind of place that people make their home.
Not a temporary stop on the way. A home.
For the past five years, I've been living in a transient place fueled by students, military, second-home vacationers, and tourists. I started writing this post a day before we moved, surrounded by boxes, wondering what's in store for us this next leg of our journey. It's no wonder that I'm feeling nostalgic for an "in it for the long haul" kind of place.
One of my friends from New York posted pictures of a front porch he finished building on his home. It was beautiful, but more importantly, I thought, That's the kind of place where you take the time to build a porch on your house. I'm remembering the locally made soaps and preserves, small farms, home gardens, summer barbecues, and fairs. Then there was my old neighbor, Herman, who would snow-blow my driveway without asking for anything in return. And my first teaching job, fall leaves, and spring blooms.
I never wanted Owego to be my permanent home (mostly because winter lasts far too long there), but it was the kind of place where people settled in for generations. That could be bad, of course, with some people not realizing there's a world outside to be explored. It was also bad because the area was economically depressed, meth production was high, and there wasn't much room for growth.
Still, though, that sense of longevity appeals to me. My students would talk about leaving the area to finish college or have some adventures but then returning to raise their families. Although some people did want improvements (to themselves and to the area), no one seemed to be chasing the next big thing. Trends were drowned out by the necessities.
By contrast, most people I met in the Monterey area were either just arriving or just leaving, comparing it to the place we had just left or where we were headed next. It never felt like we were just there, committed to our surroundings. It's hard to make friends or be invested in anything. It's like writing in the sand: cute and fun while it lasts, but what are you really going to say when you know it's just going to disappear soon?
I want to settle in. And I want to feel like the people around me aren't just counting the days until they leave.
I don't know if we'll find that in our new place, or if we'll even want to call this place home, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway (the old college try?).
Only time will tell.