Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Located



Three years and two months.

That's how long I've lived at 6420 NW Starflower Drive.

That's a long time for me to have an address. In fact, it's a record for me: my previous record for holding one address as an adult was two years and ten months.

You may be thinking that's a horribly itinerant way to live. The saving grace, you may also be thinking, is that the word "adult" in that paragraph means I had a more stable childhood. And you'd be right for thinking that--but not a lot. The longest I lived anywhere before college was four years.

When I tell people this, their first response is typically "Army brat?" "Preacher's kid" is my reply. And that does explain all that moving around in my childhood, an average of every three years: my father was an American Baptist, and then a United Methodist, pastor. As an American Baptist, his job was subject to the whims of his church council and the personalities that ran it. After finding himself abruptly dismissed twice, the first time a few months before my birth, the second time a year after he'd had his second child, Dad found the mostly compatible theology and far superior job security of the Methodist pastorate appealing enough to make a denominational switch. While that did mean he never again had to worry about coming home to find a pink slip on the dining room table, it also meant he was now, by definition, a "traveling preacher," moving whenever his bishop decided it was time for a change.

Growing up like that, I learned not to get too attached to anything: not to schools, not to neighborhoods, not to Scout troops, not to friends. The only constants in my life were my family, my books, and my grandmother's house in McMinnville, Oregon. I became adept at the logistics of moving, organizing all my possessions, packing them efficiently, then unpacking them in whatever my new space was, quickly clearing out all the empty boxes and claiming the space for myself.

Those skills served me well through college, graduate school, and seminary, where the student lifestyle dictated frequent moves. By the time I finally--at 30--was living in houses of my own, I could almost do the packing and moving thing in my sleep.

That does not mean, by the way, that I wanted to move that much. I moved because I had to: because divorce, remarriage, re-divorce, employment, unemployment, getting and changing jobs meant moving. There were times when I moved to have better access to my children. There were other times when I moved to get away from a place that had become too oppressive.

But this house--this is special. When Amy and I moved into this house three years and two months ago, it was specifically so that we could have a place that was ours: not my place that Amy came to visit, not Amy's place that I moved into, but our place that we chose together, and made our own.

And by "made our own," I mean really our own. Two years after moving into this house, and just days after celebrating our marriage, we were told we would either have to move out or buy it. We wrestled with that choice for a few days, considering options, looking at other homes, and quickly came to the conclusion that it was time to put down deeper roots than a lease. So we don't just live in this house: we own it. Actually, we're in the decades-long process of paying for it, but that's neither here nor there. Here is where we are, and here is where we're staying.

So I've broken my adult address record. Another ten months, and I'll break my all-time record. Three more years, and I'll break my long-term relationship record. These records may seem arbitrary to you, but to me, a man who has spent his entire life changing homes, changing friends, changing lovers, they mean a lot.

In historical Methodism, when a circuit rider decided he'd had enough traveling, got married, and settled down, it was called "locating." Ten years ago, I changed my appointment status with the United Methodist Church to "honorable location": I was done being an itinerant preacher, ready to hold a normal job, finished with moving. It took me a few more years to find the relationship, the home, and the job that would make "location" my true status in life. Now that I'm there, it feels right. My soul is at rest in this house, my heart is full with the love of my wife, my family, my students, and there is no itch in me to relocate. Sitting on my couch, admiring the roses on the patio, knowing that Amy is working in her study upstairs, Sarah is out for a walk, and school will be starting up again in a few days, I am content, fulfilled, happy.

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