2012, Our Moving Year

Just over a year ago, my family was homeless. Okay, so it wasn’t in the sleeping-outdoors, panhandling-for-change sense of the word, but technically, we were without a place to live. We’d packed up our West Hollywood condo, and everything we owned was traveling through parts of the country we ourselves had mostly never seen.

Other than our decision to have kids, it was the biggest, scariest choice we’d ever made, but it seemed like the right thing to do for our family.

We spent the holidays with Drew’s parents and siblings in upstate New York, then I came down to meet the movers and start unpacking our stuff. Each item was tagged with a number, so it was easy to see exactly how much junk Drew and I had jointly amassed in our years on the West Coast. The highest number was roughly equal to my score on the SAT verbal section. (Granted, math was my forte.) Three days later, with only about 3 or 4 boxes unpacked, I opened the door to Drew and the kids, all of whom were seeing our new home for the first time.

That was one year ago today, January 1, 2012.

It’s nice to ring in this year with some stability, because the last one started off so full of uncertainty. Would we like it here? Was this the right thing for the kids? Would we ever get unpacked?

I wish I could say I had definitive replies to those questions, but the only one I can answer for sure is the last one — no.

Earlier today, we sat down with the kids and looked through some pictures of our last days in California and our first days in New York. The differences kind of surprised us, as in this image of the moving truck:

movingtruckThey’re crawling! That may not shock you as much as it does me, but in my memory, the last time my kids crawled was a hundred years ago. In actuality, it was just one year, or, according to the Mayan calendar, a mere 355 days followed by a timeless void.

It took me a minute before I could remember the moment. They knew how to walk by then, but the rickety ramp was a little too unsteady for then. Just to be safe, they got down on all fours. As we got ready to leave our past behind, the kids gave us one last glimpse of their infancy.

Confidence in walking ability wasn’t the only thing our family gained in 2012. We made some amazing new friends, reconnected with some old friends and spent wonderful times with our East Coast family (by which I mean our actual families, not the loose network of Bell Biv DeVoe-affiliated artists popular in the early 90s). The kids also made new friends, they learned about 10,000 new words (only 1 or 2 of which we’d prefer they hadn’t), caught a dozen or two kiddie viruses and started school.

Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed at how happy I am in our new home. Other times, I’ve overcome with grief at the lives and the friends we left behind. I’ll ask my kids if they remember someone from our old life, and they’ll just stare back at me blankly. Los Angeles is a blur to them, and soon, it’ll be nothing but a series of pictures their dads show them when they’re in the mood to look back and reflect.

Browsing through at the photos, I admit, I got a bit choked up. As for Drew, he sobbed uncontrollably and had to leave the room. So the big question facing us now, at the start of 2013, is pretty obvious: did we make the right choice?

I’ve asked myself that at least once on each of the last 365 days, and I sat down to write this post determined to address it. Once again, though, I’m not sure it has an answer. There’s no way of knowing what this last year would’ve been like if we hadn’t moved. All I know for sure is that none of these things would’ve happened:

bennetttrain suttonrainbow grandcentral throwingleaves suttongardenWe would’ve made a completely different set of memories, some incredible, some undoubtedly sad. I wouldn’t have any of these pictures to treasure, but there would be a different set, one I probably would’ve loved just as much. And I’ll never know what they might’ve looked like.

That’s because changing the setting may change some things, but it doesn’t completely alter a story. Wherever we put ourselves, we’re headed forward on a similar trajectory through an uncertain future. Here or there, New York or LA, we’re still us. The same people and the same family.

We end one year tentatively crawling, and the next, it seems like we’ve been walking forever.

54 comments on “2012, Our Moving Year

  1. What a wonderful post. The joy/agony of parenting is never being sure you made the right choice. I, myself have questioned things as of late. It seems when everything is going smoothly I feel like I’ve made all the right decisions but the second something goes wrong I question every path I’ve ever taken. I guess we just do our best and adjust when it’s needed.
    Your children look beautiful, happy and healthy so in my opinion you are doing just fine.
    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    • Thanks. You’re right, too — moving is no different than any other choice I’ve made as a parent in terms of its effect on my kids, although the repercussions for me were a bit bigger on this one. :)

      Happy new year!

  2. We have a move in our future – from Cleveland to Chicago – and each day I think about the impact on the kids. And me – I recently developed a great friendship with a woman that has b/g twins same age as mine and lives 5 min from me. Finally someone I can relate to who also makes me laugh and now I have to leave? On the flip side, I look at the big picture and don’t want to miss the opportunity to take a risk. I think it is a great thing for kids to experience. Thank you for sharing your stories!

    • Thanks, and I agree, life’s an adventure. Take risks! Leaving friends behind is the hardest part, because people matter a lot more than places. We’ve talked about moving back to Cali at some point, but now that would be just as hard, because there are so many people here I care about. At least there’s Facebook, so you never really lose touch these days. (And you can still watch your friends’ kids grow up.)

  3. My family just moved from Canada to Kansas! what a difficult decision it was and my husband and I stewed about it for a long time. We brought 2 teens and left our oldest at University in Canada. I can’t say it has been easy but life is an adventure and you have to take a chance…you never know when something fantastic is waiting for you.

  4. What you know about Bell Biv Devoe – Bro? I tell you what I know – POISON!
    Another charming article. Of course you’re happier here. It’s closer to your roots.

  5. Wonderful post! You made me long for upstate NY (again). That’s where you guys are now, right? I’ve never been. I live in the SF Bay area, which is (mostly) where I’m from and (mostly) where I’ve always lived and (mostly) where all our family is. But… There is something -probably just a fantasy- that pulls me to your area. I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe someday we will investigate further… Until then, I’ll observe your experience and enjoy myself that way. What made you move, btw? (family, it sounds like) And, are you enjoying the full experience of the seasons, that you can’t get in LA? Just curious…

    • We’re actually downstate (is that a term?) in New Rochelle, just outside NYC. But Drew’s family is from upstate. It’s really pretty there, much cheaper to live, too. Just too darn cold for me.

      Yeah, family is the #1 reason we moved back. Also, Drew got a job offer he was really interested in.

      The seasons are nice in theory, but I’d like it better if winter only lasted a week or two.

      • I love the “idea” of seasons, esp. the color changes of fall and the snow in the winter. But I’m with you- a week or two of that beauty is just about right! Ha-Ha.

        I’ve never been to NY. Is it a blast to be so close to NYC? Do you go there often with the kids…? I laugh at how infrequently my wife and I make it over the bridge into San Francisco. It’s a beautiful city -I can see it from here! I just HATE dealing with the traffic and parking and bridge tolls… Ugh. Once naps no longer need to factor in I hope to do more city adventures with our girls. Until then, we enjoy Oakland and Berkeley. I miss the warmth and beach life of SoCal, though…

  6. If I had a vote… I’d say: Come back!! There are memories to be made here!
    (But I’m glad you’re all well and happy and walking toward the future.)
    xoxoxox

  7. This post really speaks to me because we are homeless right now in transition from Boston to Denver with a 3.5yo and a 4mo old. I am terrified we made the wrong decision but thrilled to see what comes of it and experiencing this change with the girls. Your kids look amazing, bright and happy. I hope I can say the same in a year.

  8. Your kids just steal my heart every time you post pictures of them.
    Their little faces are always so full of personality!

    I’d totally babysit for you!
    From the posts I’ve read, they seem pretty cool to hang out with.

    After, of course, you make sure I’m not some creepy weirdo. ;-)
    Maybe Sutton could even give me some fashion advice?
    Unless she thinks I’m beyond help, LOL.

    (Hope that came out as un-weird as it did in my head? :-) )

  9. What a beautiful story. We had the same thought 8 years ago when we just up and moved interstate with out life packed into our wagon – somehow the kids fitted in as well. We are ow back where we started, but that was part of the plan. I’m sure you’ve made the right choice, if your family is together then you will all be ok.
    Good luck with the new year, and may it bring you many more happy memories. :-)

  10. Nice story. How did you adapt to the weather change? We are in for a move this year too. To another country, about 1000 km to the North, but still in Europe :) I am looking forward to that, I like changes. But this time it will be different, I do not know yet, if my kids like changes too…

    • Where are you? My wife is from Holland and she speaks only Dutch with our girls. We’ve thought about living there at some point (prob. when the kids are older and can better appreciate the experience), but… The WEATHER. Neither one of us can imagine handling the dreary, grey, soggy weather all year long. The summer can get hot (too hot for me, often!), but even then the sun still manages to hide! Blah. Maybe we’ll go live in Spain or France or Italy and just VISIT Holland… Ha!

      • We are from Czech Republic, Prague. The weather here can get very cold in the winter and hot in the summer, althought the extremes take only a week or so. We are moving to Sweden, which is far more north. I am worried more than about the winters about the decrease of sunlight hours in the winter. Even here we get only 7-8 hours of sunlight per day around 21st December, but there it could drop down to 4-5.
        Good plan with moving to Italy, it is gorgeous there, great coffee, food and wine and nice people. Also very hot summers and mild winters. We’ve lived there for around one year, I love that country.

  11. How jealous am I! THat sounds like the most awesome adventure ever. When I was nine, my parents took my sister and i out of school and we went around the world.. I can’t remember how long we were gone but we have amazingly awesome memories of that time. It was the best. Good on you for doing it!

  12. part of parenting if forever wondering if you’ve made the right decision – the decisions are never about you anymore – everything is about the children – true love..

    • You said it. We made a pact when the kids were born that their needs would come first. They were the deciding factor in this move. We thought this would be more the type of childhood we wanted them to have.

  13. That was really beautiful!! We miss u but your life looks amazing and that part about your family being your family regardless of where you are struck me. There are days when i know i made the wrong choice in moving to LA snd there are days when i feel it was a good idea. I am never settled about it and it has been 7 years. Life does that to you!!! Happy new year to all of you!!

    • It’s tough never knowing what might’ve been. We miss you, too, and wouldn’t mind at all if you moved back to NY. :) But there are great things in LA, too.

  14. There are trade-offs everywhere you choose to raise your kids. My friends in the midwest have neighborhood networks, and their kids ride bikes and play outside. My family in NY have tons of cultural resources, but can’t let their kids go outside alone to play. My family in VA have space, but no family nearby. Etc, etc, etc.

    As someone who moved around a lot growing up, I really believe that home is a strong family. And you have that. The love that you have for your kids creates a secure home and foundation for them.

    You don’t need to doubt your decisions at all. Past, present or future.

    • Thanks, I agree with you. It would be nice if the kids could go outside and play without us constantly supervising them. (It’d be nice for both of us, honestly!) But I definitely feel safer here than in the part of LA we lived in, which was a big reason for the move. We’re a little more isolated, which is the tradeoff.

  15. You guys are wonderful commentors. Thanks especially to @freerangeresearch — it feels impossible to know that you did the right thing…thanks for your kind words. And happy new year to everyone!!

  16. Life-altering decisions are always so hard to make. And then you make them and you can’t imagine how things could be any different. It just goes to show that there is never one right way to do things. There is no one right way to live. There is no one right job or home. Life is what we make of it, day by day by day. You four are making the most of each day and I hope your joy will continue and that in time you’ll be able to reconnect with the other end of the continent and spend joyous moments with those friends as well. Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, what a sweet comment. I really hope we get the chance to visit LA and our old friends often, even if the kids don’t quite remember them. Happy new year to you, too!

    • Agreed! Great comment. Great life wisdom. Such TRUTH in these words.

      I have had many decisions that were so scary in the moment (and some so regretted), but those choices sent me on a path… That lead me somewhere amazing. All we can do is pause, reflect, and then do “the next right thing.” Then have faith that we’ll get to where we’re going.

      It sounds like that is happening for you guys, Drew & Jerry. 8^)

  17. So true, moving is always a big thing. We have just loaded all our stuff onto a container and moved to the remote Cape Verde islands. Truth be told, this move wasn’t exactly for the kids’ sake, although I claim that a happier Mommy makes for happier children and I’ll stick with that. However, we were naturally nervous how they would react. Not the newborn but the 3 1/2 year old little monster. So far he seems to enjoy it tremendously and doesn’t have any issues adjusting, keep fingers crossed. So at the end of this year I might sit down and write a post like yours here. Although probably not as eloquent and heartwarming. Good luck to you guys!

    • Thanks, and good luck to you, too! A happy Mommy is definitely important, and whether it was for them or not, you’re giving your kids an amazing gift with this new adventure. Happy new year!

  18. My partner and I just moved from an apartment to a house in the same city. I thought I was overwhelmed until I read this and considered how crazy it would be to move across the country with two children!

    In 2012 I found this blog and it has been a pleasure following it!

  19. I am having my first child in May, and we are contemplating a big move/career changes, etc. I am terrified because now I have someone else to worry about besides myself. Your post made me feel less alone in this decision. We will never know if we made the right choice unless we just go for it!

    • Well, you may never know if you made the right choice even if you do go for it. You also won’t know if you don’t go for it. But I agree with one of the other commenters. What’s good for the parents is usually good for the kid(s).

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