It has taken me five months to write this blog post. I’d like to blame moving and then settling and all the things that come with moving to a new town and back into life with my family of origin, but (with the exception of the last one) those would all be lies. It’s just been really hard to write this particular post. First I started this with a joke. Then I talked in detail about my family’s health history. Finally, I met a lovely gentleman at a coffee shop and for some reason chatting with him unplugged the well (see Alan).
The bottom line: Michael and I moved to Rhinebeck in September because it was time for me to live near my family again. It has been 25 years since we’d all lived near enough to each other that we could have dinner together with very little notice, and it was becoming abundantly clear that our decades-long hiatus was about to be too long for many reasons.
So, just the facts ma’am. There are three main reasons that we moved.
First, my sister. Many of you know that my beautiful sister has been going in and out of treatment for cancer for over 12 years. Despite being healthy for large swaths of time, she’s never been fully in remission, let alone out of the care of an oncologist. In August, we found out that it was time for her to go back into the mode of more regular treatment. It’s the first time since her children were born that she had to think about active treatment and not just chronic maintenance, so she and her family could use some help.
Second, my parents. In the last five years, my sister and I have noticed that my parents have needed more help than any of us were expecting or wanting. She started building them a little cottage on her farm in 2016 where they could go as they continued to get older and we developed a plan (ha! plans.) for them to go there for the summers until it was time to be there full time–you know, five to ten years. Then we realized that the house that I grew up in was too much for them to manage, so we sold that in the spring of 2017 and moved them into an apartment in DC. Then they moved into a different apartment in the fall of 2017 after spending a nerve-wracking (for them and my sister) summer on the farm. Then they spent a nerve-wracking (for all of us) summer of 2018 on the farm. Then Michael and I moved five miles from my sister’s farm. Then we were all nerve-wracked at the idea that they would go back to DC and live without supervision for the winter. So they moved full-time to Rhinebeck in November (guess where I spent two weeks in November?). Getting them settled and used to life in the country and recognizing that they are aging faster than all of us had hoped is a project, to say the least, in logistics, kindness, and patience.
Third, Chicago. To be honest, Michael and I were done with Chicago about three years ago. Not our people (NEVER our people), but the city. We don’t have kids, we kept saying to each other, why the hell aren’t we trying different places and things and experiences? So we’d been thinking about moving for awhile but just hadn’t figured out where to go. My family basically gave us the excuse that we needed to get out. And the destination. So we found a lovely family to rent our house, a lovely house to rent in Rhinebeck, and drove the cats half-way across the country. They weren’t pleased.
Now, to the best part. We love it here. I mean, LOVE it. The urban studies major in me is spending a lot of her time on a fainting couch because we live in the middle of nowhere. (Actually, according to the academics, we live in the “exurbs” or even the “panurbs,” so “middle of nowhere” is now officially defined.) But she recovers when she realizes that it’s only 90 minutes from New York City by a train with a view of the Hudson River and lots of people commute on the regular into Penn Station. It’s quiet. I know all of my neighbors. (We met during Halloween, which is like the Super Bowl here–seriously, over a thousand kids came to our house. It was amazing. I gave all of the Hermione’s extra candy.) There are two coffee shops. Two pizza places. Three fancy restaurants. Two places you can get organic burgers. Three yoga places. One gym. One bookstore. One library. One tiny post office. One hardware store. Two grocery stores. Michael jokes that it has the minimum number of everything you need.
It’s quiet. The fire department is staffed by volunteers and the village offices take up 1,000 square feet. My house has radiant heating so we don’t even hear the hum of forced air heat clicking on once every half-hour. (My house also has no insulation, but that’s a separate problem.) We both lost weight and gained color even though we didn’t change anything about our diets or exercise.
And I’m spending a lot of time with my sister, her husband, my hilarious and whip-smart niece (4.5), and charming nephew (20 months). As well as my parents, who have finally reached the age where it’s our turn to take care of them. A role that is not immediately comfortable for me or them, but we’re getting there. Everyone seeing a therapist helps.
I’m sure you’ll hear more about this whole kettle of fish as it unfolds. Stay tuned.