Monday, November 14, 2005

Raking Leaves

My weekend in the late fall in New England was spent raking leaves, in full anticipation of the upcoming winter that took me by surprise last year, when an ice storm layered my steep driveway so thick that I had to get a running start to climb. California was so much simpler.

It's funny how life works out sometimes. Never perfect and yet ever so in comparative hindsight. We left California social pariahs from a matriarchy of mothers group hegemony, where right took a back seat to alliance, and privacy was jealously reconnoitered by neighbors bearing gifts and smiles--and hearts that churned black sludge. Our mortgage however, was a third of what we pay here.

I read an article in the paper this weekend that many New Englanders are living above their means, and plan to move away from the state. So too with us, as we consider moving south to Houston where houses are bigger for less, thanks no doubt to the low cost of building homes with illegal immigrant labor, and where resides the majority of my imperfect but loving family.

But here in New England we have a house surrounded by trees, from whence comes the occasional fox or coyote. Two or three groundhogs live in our woods and under a boulder in our back yard, and we make a sport of giving them a spook, then laugh as they strain under their weight, comically waddling away. We have birds, turtles, snakes, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, an occasional skunk. The kids love it here. My littlest boy even learned to hold out his hand for the dragonflys, that land on his makeshift perch without a care, as he says, "See, see?"

The neighbors respect each other, and social life moves slowly. Nobody cares how much money I make, or feels inadequate because my lawn mower has a higher CC engine. Across the street is a subdivision of custom homes connected by a single-lane circuitous private road, beyond with is a swamp where duck hunters roam for two weeks of the year. There are no fences, reminiscent of a sweet expanse of childhood memory, when I could run across yards and get a smile from resident families barbecuing on back porches. The collection of yards forms a patch of green heaven, where kids have the length of a football field to roam, where dads play catch with their boys, and girls run and do somersaults, and borrow the neighbors dog for the day.

And slowly, but as steady as the incoming tide, we have friends, the kind that mean what they say and say what they mean. Gone are the automatons of yesterday, replaced by real and feeling people, whose only interest is living together and living well.

For the first time since I was a little boy, I understand full-well what I have to leave behind.


Eve said...

It sounds absolutely idyllic. I bet it will be really hard to leave. You should like it in the south too - I don't know about Houston, but my neighbors are great people. I don't know about the immigrant labor - but land prices are cheaper here than in California. But then, I've discovered, everything is more expensive in California.

Tonight!!!!!!! I bet you're glad it's a Monday night game so you can see it!

Sadie Lou said...

Wow. I've never even moved from my home town. I'm staying put, even if California is the most exspensive place to live. I love the schools and the people and our whole family is here. Northern California--I don't want people thinking I live in LA or some jacked up place like that.

Scott said...

Eve - All I know is that the Cowboys better not let me down. I'm starting to believe, and even talking smack for the first time since I can't remember. It feels good, but I could be living in a house of cards.

Sadie - All places are different. I lived in Fairfield and it was poisonous in my subdivision.

trinamick said...

I still live in my home town. But I wouldn't give up my peaceful life to live in CA. We have people moving in from CA constantly to raise their kids out here. Of course, before long, they'll all be out here, and then I'll have to move to get away from it. :P

Jada's Gigi said...

Moving cross country is a hard thing to do especially when you are at a place to recognize all you will lose by the leaving....but familiy is important too and roots, rediscovering where you came from and why you are the way you are...:) I know...scary...:)
There are nice neighborhoods, just like the one you are describing, in lots of places around this wonderful country we live in cause so many of us still value the same things. But being from the South(and you may know this well already) probably will run in to the "keeping up with the Jones'" mentality. Its still there...inspite of the progress the "South" has made. :)

Moni said...

Wow that was very well written. You've paid your hometown the same homage in writing as Norman Rockwell did in his paintings.

I guess I never really missed a physical location. I've moved so many times in my life that it's just common place. I do however; miss the people I've met while I lived in a particular city. I never really remember the attributes of a city, only certain people I knew when I lived there.

But I can empathize with you. It will be difficult to leave, but I'm sure with time you'll find things you love about Houston. ;)

Eve said...

Oh chihuahua - what a game! What a finish! What a heart attack!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

this sounds nice and idyllic.

A far cry from the gangland suburbia we supposedly live in on the outskirts of decrepit english cities.

jenbeauty said...

I admire anyone he has the strength to be able to pick up and leave an environment like that. But if the cost of living is insane you have to do what is best for you and your wife.

My sister-in-law and her family moved back from Houston this past summer. They enjoyed it there but really missed all the family and friends here in Ohio. We are glad to have them home.

Ever think about Ohio?

magnetbabe said...

I think your situation is truly ideal. You are in the position to give your chilrdren two amazing gifts: showing them a new part of the country and bringing them closer to their extended family (no matter how imperfect). Showing them not to be scared to explore the country beyond their backyard is wonderful. New England is beautiful and maybe one of them will decide to live there again someday. The world is gettting smaller with each generation!

Scott said...

Trina - Yeah, don't go anywhere--you already have it made.

Gigi - I've spent summers in Houston, and I have my reservations. First, there is a heavy reliance on drugs, at least from what I notice. Lots of gang violence and troubled teens. But then again, that's just my family.

Moni - Thanks for all that. I've moved around a lot too, but now that I have kids I want to give them some roots and security.

Eve - I already replied on your blog. I'm still weak in the knees from that one.

UTMG - C'mon, there must be parts of England that are gorgeous to live in.

Jen - Ohio would be a great financial move for as long as I have my job in California, but what do I do after that? If I lose my job I won't find one there I think. What metro area are you living in?

Nat - I don't know if I want to put the wanderlust into my children, but that is what I fear I am doing if I move again. I want to create a home base and have my kids around, so I need a place that affords the opportunities they would need.

mr. schprock said...

I've always appreciated the four definite seasons you get in New England. You know what's funny? In Puerto Rico (where I visit occasionally), none of the houses have furnaces. Being New England raised, I think that's just weird.

Yeah, property values here are unreal, I'll grant you that. Count us among those living beyond their means.

Scott said...

Yeah Mr. Schprock, I feel like I'm one bad news day away from ruin. As long as I have my job, I'm ok. But just ok.

jenbeauty said...

I am in Columbus Scott...tons of big business here as well as Ohio State. I know of another Californian who is looking into moving here due to cost of living, healthier envrionment for the kids, etc.

My sister in law and her husband work for Marathon in Findlay. Another great company and a great town.

Mr. T said...

Sadie, I lived in Northern Cali... its too expensive.. but I didn't grow up there so maybe if I had home roots it would have been harder to leave. What's funny is we left Cali to NoVA and brag at how cheap it is here... people gasp at this because NoVA is the higher priced region of the area. STill LOADS cheaper than Cali.

The boys nearly lost last night.. it was disheartening... enough that I couldn't watch the last quarter.. wish I did now.. an amazing pull by the boys put them over Philly.

Scott its hard to leave what you find to be perfection but despite how dirty I find Houston.. there are good people there too. Good luck on your decision.

Scott said...

Jen - I think I read something about Columbus, or maybe it was Cincinatti, but it was a favorable review of the area. The beauty of Ohio is that I could probably move in with no mortgage to speak of. It's a tempting thought. I like most Ohioans I meet abroad too. It's cliche, but they are almost always down to earth.

Mr T - Thanks for the encouragement. I know financially we would be making a great move, and our family down there is awesome most of the time. I just really hate Houston--it's too damn hot. And the traffic.

I have Tivo, and in the last quarter of the game I watched an episode of HBO's Rome. I left the game after the late hit that put the ball next to the goal line, and I was so disgusted. I came back and decided to watch the rest, and fast forwarded through all the commercials and all the inevitable driving that Philly was doing. Then there was Terry Glen in the endzone and we were six points down with almost four minutes left. I thought ok, there's a chance. Then the big interception and return for a touchdown and I knew that Philly was going to come back, that we would melt down like usual. And it sure looked like it, so I forwarded again until I saw Bill Parcels' hands go up, and only then rewound to see the end. Unbelievable. Lucky, sure, but then again, a few were taken from us this year in the same fashion.

Ok, I've blabbed on, but I understand why you left. I was digusted too.

Eve said...

The one thing that I liked about the ending (other than how fantastic it was) - we didn't give up. In the past we just seemed to poop out and fling up our hands and say "uncle".

Scott said...

Yeah Eve. Read the current cowboys blog entry, about the unsung heros of this game. It was an ugly victory, but we fought for it to the bitter end, and had we quit like we have in the past, this would have been just the same old story.

The Zombieslayer said...

I read an article in the paper this weekend that many New Englanders are living above their means, and plan to move away from the state.

That's half of California.

As for moving to Houston, well, New England has seasons. You might miss it.

I lived in Houston on and off about five times. I can't live there for more than a few years at a time. If you decide to go through with your move to Houston, don't break off ties with N.E. You might realize the move to Houston was a bad idea and want to move back.

Kathleen said...

Dang...I was going to say it sounded idyllic and then I read Eve's comment...

I'm assuming since your family lives there you know about Houston's horribly enervating humidity and heat, so I won't say anything about it.

Scott said...

Zombie - We are also thinking about Austin, which I understand to be a little further inland away from the direct swatch of hurricanes. The weather is supposed to be better, but I think it is also the most expensive city in Texas to live in.

Kathleen - No worries. The heat is OPPRESSIVE in Houston. I know. It gives me great pause to even consider the move. But my Aunt can get me into a home with no realtor fees, and she can watch my kids once in a while too.