Around this time last year, we decided to buy a new house. We looked and looked in our current area, but nothing seemed right.
We debated (and still occasionally toss around) the idea of moving back to one of our hometowns, either to Bradenton, Florida or Hawkinsville, Georgia. Eric’s family is still in the Bradenton area and mine is still in Hawkinsville. We love the idea of our boys growing up near cousins and grandparents. The appeal of Bradenton is, of course, the beaches, the white, sugar sand beaches. Here we picture boys with brown skin and hair bleached in the sun. Eric dreams of teaching the boys to surf, and I dream of a stucco home with a Spanish tile roof, of a garden with lush tropical plants, and of visiting the Ca’ d’Zan whenever I want.
For Hawkinsville, it’s the wide open spaces that we are attracted to most. When we think of moving back there, I’m sure Eric dreams of buying lots of acreage and riding his four wheeler. I dream of restoring an old historic home on said acreage and having my morning coffee on the back porch. I picture watching hummingbirds zooming to sip nectar from a feeder and deer eating corn in the distance, just as I watch them do at my own parents’ house.
When I imagine this life, I can see my boys doing the things I did as a girl – fishing in creeks and ponds, jumping from hay bales, learning to drive down dirt roads and in fields, and of course, going to the hometown football games on Friday nights. I imagine them spending hours in the woods, just like they do at Mimi and Papa’s house. Harrison fills his little John Deere Gator up with tools for the day and off he rides to do “his work”. I never know what he has in mind, but he rifles through Papa’s shop and finds what he needs – work gloves, bungee cords, ropes, large clips, and a few toys. He picks up sticks and loads them in the back, feeling very important and accomplished. He confidently hooks up a rope to tow things, like his little brother’s stroller (I saved that one in the nick of time). And, now that Whitt is a little older, he’s right beside him for the day’s adventure.
They rarely venture into the house; Papa has everything they need to survive in his shop. In addition to the tools and lawnmower and four wheeler, there is a small refrigerator with drinks, a television to stay current on the Georgia game, and, ahem, a “bathroom” too. I’m sure part of Eric’s dream includes a large shop with similar essentials.
The allure of living close to family was, and still is, very strong. But for now, and for practical reasons, like work, it doesn’t make sense for us to leave the Charleston area. I’m okay with that too. We have beaches, and the part of me that loves old homes and buildings can’t think of a more rich setting. Most importantly, we are blessed by such a tight group of friends that we have created a little family here.
Long story short, since we couldn’t find a house in our current suburb and since moving back home didn’t make sense, we broadened our search. In the process, we found the perfect neighborhood with the exception that it is 45 minutes from most of our friends, from our sweet family away from family, and from our favorite restaurants and shops. While I still see my friends often, it’s the last-minute moments I miss out on. I’m not able to grab a quick coffee, or meet up for a glass of wine in the evening, or go for a walk after the kids are in bed.
Sometimes, being “way” up here feels like such a sacrifice. Like most things in life, though, I guess it’s more of a compromise than a sacrifice.
You see, while moving back home didn’t make sense, we were still craving the wide open spaces for our little boys to explore. And, included with our neighborhood are hundreds of wooded acres them to roam, miles of trails for them to get lost on, and ponds to canoe and fish in.
When the boys and I are having a picnic lunch in the treehouse in the ancient oak trees, I am happy.
When I bring them home, covered in mud from an afternoon of exploring, I feel like I’m doing the right thing for their little bodies and minds.
When I witness their firsts – Whitt learning to skip stones and Harrison catching a fish, for example, my mother’s heart knows this is what is good for them.
And, when we’re all piled in the Ranger for an evening trail ride, I know we are where we are supposed to be.
Slowly, but surely, we are learning to love the new place we call home.
PS – Have you read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder? It’s on my list. If so, please tell me what you thought of it in the comments.