I have lived at 7 different addresses that I can remember and in only two cities. The total lack of variety is somewhat startling. I didn’t so much choose these locations as they were a part of what was next for me. The starter home that my parents bought, the great move out to the suburbs, college dorms and then houses, my starter home and my suburban relocation. The journey is unremarkable. I could mark it in a map or plot it on a graph and the change over time would be slow and steady. The line traveled would be the distance from Cleveland to Denver, the separation from my parent’s family and the joining of my own.
This common journey was nonetheless enjoyable. Because it was so ordinary and felt by so many, it ties me to everyone who makes these kinds of maps or lives these kinds of timelines. We choose to live where we are most comfortable. And it is the little things that make us stay.
At first it was baseball cards. I couldn’t collect enough of them. I would go to specialty shops and shows and purchase packs guaranteed to have the players and types I could hold up as legendary. I would look at the books of cards for hours or fondle an individual card as I contemplated the statistics on the back. This is what made me stay as a child more than most thing. Home was where my baseball cards were.
My computer came next. My father and grandfather had built it from scratch. A pentium 120 MHz. It was the ugliest gray box you can imagine and it took up most of my desk. But, I learned how to write on that box. I learned how to upload and download. I learned how to game. How to manage files and ideas. How to hide things and clear out history records. I learned how to communicate. My computer was the thing that kept me sane in Cleveland until the rest of my life caught up to what my head had known for years: it was time to leave.
My guitar floated me for the few transitional years. It helped me to pluck out what was really important. As I started to write songs for my future wife, I knew that objects could no longer be the touchstones and tokens of where I chose to live. At the time I was comfortable any time I knew the guitar was in arm’s reach. So long as I could run my fingers over those strings I was safe, but my own family changed that.
Now, the totems I keep to know that my reality is right side up are my wife and two children. Anywhere they live, I will live too. They are not objects that I can take with me. They are beings that have to make the choice to follow. We may move cities someday. Certainly San Francisco could be more than accommodating, but I will never leave them. They will always be what makes a place livable. They are what makes my path assured.