During the past nine years of our marriage, the wife and I have moved four times. Yes, four times. Our first time was when we moved from our parents’ houses into our first home as a married couple. Nothing fancy. Just a small studio in a walk-up, low-rise condominium complex. The complex was located near the top universities and was across the street from a semi-private – as opposed to a public – golf course. We didn’t have that many neighbors and there was a circular road withing the complex along which one could do a quick run.
Being in a “university neighborhood” gave us the advantage of student budget friendly dining, and since my wife had not yet found her inner Martha Stewart at that time, we indulged in the myriad dining options on offer. When we found ourselves with no cash on hand, as most newly married couples just starting out in their careers are wont to do, we satisfied ourselves with a dinner of peanut butter and jelly on toast. It was great, really. We were learning about married life and household maintenance together. I would scrub the shower curtain every week or so, while the wife learned how easy it is to use a vacuum. Everything we needed was within three steps of our bed.
We moved out due to a confluence of reasons. My wife became pregnant with our first child, there was a spate of car-napping incidents around the vicinity, and, after 8 months of living in our condo, I suddenly blurted out, “I can’t believe we’re living in a box!” It was mostly for the latter reason why we moved out.
Our second move was when we moved back into my parent’s house “to help us with the initial child care.” It was a big decision for us because my parents lived at the southern end of the metropolis, while we were coming from the northern end. It wasn’t that far distance wise, but the state of traffic congestion meant that the two ends are at least two hours apart. But help with child care, the quiet surroundings and living in a guarded and gated community was worth the trade-off. It was suburbia. In fact, my wife, who grew up in a house along one of the busiest thoroughfares in the northern metropolis, complained that it was too quiet. It was so quiet that she would complain about hearing the chatter of our neighbor’s household staff. Even though our neighbor’s house was 20 meters away,.. Behind a 2 meter high concrete wall…
This time, we had all the space we needed and then some. We had so much space that all the furniture we had in the condo we moved from fit in my old bedroom (this made me realize how cramped we were in our old place, but it also made me think about the practicality of building such a big house). And since my sisters have already moved to more cosmopolitan cities – one moved to Tokyo, while the other moved to L.A. – we converted one of their bedrooms into a nursery.
It was a quiet, comfortable life we were living, but fate had other plans. And so it was, in the month of June, after almost two years of living in suburbia, that we moved into our third home.
Our third home was new, but old (only a few years had passed since it was newly built, but it was designed by our landlord who is a spinster-banker). It was near our first condo, but this time, our home was beside the university instead of being across a golf course. In fact, our home had a rear gate that allowed me to enter the sprawling campus of my undergrad Alma Mater. Pretty neat, actually. Also, my wife’s Alma Mater (the “other” university) was just a short 5 minute drive away. We had loads of space, a front and rear garden, and a community whose residents have been attending the best schools in the country and abroad for generations. It was a very good community for a young couple who dream of a bright future for their yet to be toilet-trained toddlers.
The location of the house gave us the feeling of being in suburbia even though we were in the middle of everything. “Middle of everything” is relative, of course. We were in the middle of everything relative to my wife’s place of work and my children’s school, but I still had to drive an hour or so each day to get to work. Anyway, this home really helped shape our initial identity as a family. My wife surprised herself by discovering her love for cooking and I surprised myself by discovering how much I loved a beautifully tended garden as long as I was not the one tending it. Being an old gated community with such a low density of residents also meant that our children could safely play with the children of our neighbors out on the street.
When our lease was about to expire and our landlady decided not to renew our lease (our children are NOISY), we were forced to move a fourth time into our present home.
Our fourth move wasn’t an upheaval of any sort. Although, we did experience a bit of anxiety having to separate from the house that my young family has called home for three years. It was a relief, really, that we were moving to a new home (our present home) that was just 5 minutes away. This time, we moved into a three-level townhouse located in a guarded and gated compound, inside an old gated community right across my Alma Mater. The vibe was instantly different. The majority of residents are young families who chose the area because of the proximity to the best schools. A number of the houses are used as off-campus housing by out-of-town and foreign exchange students. And in recent years, we’ve noticed a growth in expatriate families.
It’s been interesting, this moving. We’ve kept the friends we made from our previous neighborhood, but we’ve also let go of older friends that no longer share the kind of family-centered life we lead. I love cars, but I have not felt the need to purchase a new car. In fact, we drive around in old cars that we just nicked from our parent’s garages. My wife has kept her closet neat and trimmed. And my children, well, they’re more interested in running about with their friends than purchasing a new toy that has just come out.
Our constant moving has affected us in such a profound way. We’re not attached. Yes, we’re attached to each other as a family. But we’re not attached to anything else. We’ve had to let go so many times in the past that possessions don’t really matter that much. The amount of our possessions have not grown over the years. In fact, we’ve been giving stuff away every chance we get. In a way, moving houses every so often has shown us what is really important in life and we’ve learned to live efficiently because of it.