I have a colleague who recently moved from the Washington, DC area to the Houston area with his family. I know what it’s like to move to the Houston area, so this post is dedicated to him, even though I have no intention of ever sharing it with him. (I like to keep this blog separate from work for a variety of reasons that you can almost certainly guess.)
Here’s to you, my friend. I wish you and your family good luck and happiness in your new home.
On the approach to the airport, the flight crew tells you to turn off and stow your portable electronic devices. This was fine. After breezing through Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, which is excellent by the way, I listened to Marc Maron interview Jonah Hill. Once that ended, the announcement to turn off our devices followed shortly.
I turned my attention to the window, and looked over the Virginia suburbs. We flew over houses and community pools and churches and baseball diamonds and cul-de-sacs and all the markers of comfortable suburban living. I thought about my colleague and wondered if we were flying over his neighborhood.
The week my mom and I moved to Houston my dad was in Denver on business. It was a particularly cruel irony, and my dad stayed in a hotel in what was just as recently as a week ago, the city of his home. I was now flying into the city that my colleague just as recently as a month ago called the city of his home and I wondered if his calls home went better than my dad’s went with us. Ours were filled with tears and sadness. I hope his family was adjusting better.
I asked him a couple of weeks prior how it was going and he told me it wasn’t without its challenges. He said there have been some tears and some anger and some frustration. His son said to him, “Everything was perfect there! And you moved us!” When I moved to Houston, things were decidedly not perfect for me, but how much worse things could have been (and were) certainly got thrown into sharp relief pretty much immediately.
I ached for him, and in a way, retroactively ached for my own father carrying the same weight of his own family in the same situation.
Related, I had brunch with an old friend recently. He lives in another city now, but is from suburban Denver. He told me, all things being equal, if he could live anywhere in the world, he’d live back in the same suburban Denver neighborhood he came from. It’s a neighborhood I’m not particularly fond of for reasons that are irrelevant to this discussion, but this point warrants mention because I’ve talked plenty of shit about this neighborhood in the past. What matters is that he likes it, and I want the people I care about to have the things they want.
For a variety of reasons, he is where he is and an exit from there isn’t imminent. I believe his long term plan is to return with his wife and two children to the place he and his wife love, and that his kids have only visited.
Here are two men I have great fondness for, both fathers, both caring for their families, at two different points. On one hand is my colleague who is working through the difficulties of assimilating into a new community where the ties have not been made, the pathways not carved, the routines not established. On the other, my friend who has raised his children in a community that is not his ideal with a dream of returning to the one that is.
In the background, thoughts of my own father who has been in both of these men’s places. I want different outcomes for each of them that yield the same result.
For my colleague, I want his family to find what we never did in Houston. Everything may have been perfect in their former home, but my hope is their definition of perfect changes, and is far more fulfilling than the previous one.
For my friend, I want his family to experience his ideal community the way he has. I want them to return to this place, and live in the superlative.
And for my father, I want him to know that I know what he did for us, and that everything he did was geared toward making my mother and me as happy and fulfilled as possible. It seems like every day I understand more of what that entailed. And I love him all the more for it.
Good luck, friends and colleagues. May you find everything you’re looking for.