Whenever anyone asks how long we’ve lived here I have to remember the age of my eldest, since we arrived in Massachusetts when he was 6 weeks old. What would possess us to move with a newborn?
I had wanted to live in New England since I was 14. My family drove from Michigan to Rhode Island and I fell in love. To a girl from the Midwest, mountains and oceans and 300-year-old houses are heady things. My efforts to go east, via college and graduate school, only took me further west, to Ann Arbor and then to Minnesota. Apparently I needed a better compass.
There were many things I loved about the Twin Cities, especially our friends, but it wasn’t New England. I muddled through four years of a Ph.D. program in American Studies and then fled for a job in the music industry. (OK, I was the publicist for a folk label, which is really music-industry-adjacent). The folk music job exacerbated my desire to be on the East Coast, since that is where that scene is concentrated.
The day I survived my Master’s Degree defense (ahem, 3 years after leaving grad school), I stopped by my husband’s office, sat on the floor and asked, “Can we leave now?”
The possibility of a move east seemed far off – perhaps in a few years. Three months later a Minnesota friend now living in Amherst sent us a job posting at UMass that could have read: “We want to hire Rowlf.” I was about four and a half seconds pregnant at the time, but it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Rowlf applied and was offered the job in April after a breathtakingly slow process. Now I was 17 months pregnant. We asked: “Can you wait until August?” and took the offer.
Moving with a newborn is hard enough. Preparing to sell your house when you’re ridiculously pregnant is nuts. I learned to compartmentalize. My mantra during the multiple middle-of-the-night bathroom visits was “don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it.” Conveniently, the move helped me take my mind off my fear of labor and delivery. Occasionally, my fear of labor and delivery took my mind off the move. Our stalwart friend Alison helped Rowlf clean the entire house the day before our open house while I sat on the couch with my giant ankles propped up.
We sold the house in 3 days – yay sellers’ market! Chuck gave us 10 extra days to pack by taking his own sweet time to be born. We paid the movers extra to pack up the rest of the house (best money ever spent). They were a little overzealous, packing things like light fixture covers and pieces of the radiator. Then we were off!
We refer to those 9 months in Belchertown as our quarantine period.
The following spring, we bought the last affordable house in walking distance to downtown Northampton. Small house, tiny lot, but the kitchen was good, the cemetery across the street was lovely, and the park and school were a block away. We were here to stay.
I’m still trying to learn to like seafood and Rowlf mourns the loss of hash browns, but it’s a move we’ve never regretted.