Like a sea turtle, I found myself called back to my birth place.
Posted Aug 02, 2012
After twenty years away, I just moved back to my hometown. The move was not an easy one. Unlike my single days, I couldn’t simply find another apartment to rent, put my belongings in crates, and bribe my friends with beer to help me move. This move was far more complicated. Now I’m married with two kids, eight and five. We’d lived in our previous town for five years, most of our daughter’s life and all of our son’s life. That town was mostly what they knew.
We all had our friends and our routines. Our daughter had a bunch of dear friends with whom she sold lemonade, hula-hooped, and made posters to “stop the puppy mills.” Our son had his own little posse of friends, boys whom with he shared Squinkies and played superheroes and jumped off jungle gyms. My husband played soccer with the guys, helped coach our daughter’s soccer team, and zipped home from work in a mere twenty minutes. And I had made wonderful friends, the type whom I could count on for anything: to help me out with the kids if I were sick, to run an errand, to make me laugh, and to go out for drinks/coffee/sushi (whatever the need might be).
Why, then, did we uproot our family, leave our friends, and move to my hometown? In many ways, it didn’t make sense. We would be leaving our friends, as well as our security, and adding a crazy commute to my husband’s day. But my husband and I shared a lot of reasons to move here: the proximity to the ocean, the abundance of open space, the closeness of family, and the sense of a small-town community.
I had an additional reason to move. I can only describe it as instinctual. When we visited here, I would feel drawn back home, pulled to stay in this beautiful town. When friends asked us why we were moving, I often found myself stuttering. “Ah, well, we want to be near family, and we like the beach,” but how could I explain what else it was?
Then recently I looked down at the tattoo I got for my fortieth birthday this year. It’s of a sea turtle and a starfish, both of which I’ve always loved. And I had a vague memory of sea turtles always returning to their birthplace. I did some research, and the sea turtle’s journey home is true and amazing. Sea turtles always return to the place where they were born. (Granted, they return there to have more babies, but that’s not my point.) Scientists have studied this phenomenon for years.
PBS did a beautiful documentary on this phenomenon called The Voyage of the Lonely Sea Turtle. In a corresponding article, one of their scientists, Wallace J. Nichols wrote, “In the end, turtle real estate decisions are not too difficult for humans to understand. The determination to make an exhausting, risky journey through the territories of predators and the daunting unknown comes down to historical experience. If you were born on a beach, and it worked for your mom, it will work for you. Their strategy is to go back to the beach they were born. It’s been proven.”
I was ready to make the change to return to what I knew so long ago. Although I did have many tangible reasons to return home, like the sea turtle, I also had some unconscious sense. Fortunately, my husband also wanted to live in this wonderful, seacoast community.
Although I did not have to face the great white shark or other predators of the sea turtle, I too had to face the “daunting unknown,” which for me can be just as terrifying. Would we adjust? Would the kids be ok? Would we make new friends? What would I do if I were lonely or sad or running late for school pick-up? Even though I hate change more than many people I know, I was willing to take the risk. Like the turtle, we made an exhausting move. We didn’t swim thousands of miles, but we did stage our house, show our house, sell our house, throw stuff out, pack hundreds of boxes, move, and finally begin to unpack.
We have been at our new home for a month. We are meeting neighbors, exploring local parks, and navigating our way around town.
“Home again, home again, jiggety jig,” my dad said almost every time we pulled into the driveway when I was a kid.
Not only do I say those words now when I pull into the driveway with my own kids, but my kids have started saying it, too. As soon as we make the turn to our house, they start chanting, “Home again, home again, jiggety jig.”
It really is home again, home again.