We returned to Oregon last week for our best family friends’ daughter’s wedding. It was an event that made me teary, just in its anticipation. One of the hard things about leaving Oregon was moving away from these friends, more “family” than friends, family we’ve chosen.
Traveling to Sunriver, Oregon, from Memphis, Tennessee, took us the whole of 2 days. We traveled with our Memphian daughter and her 2 toddlers plus our Chihuahua, Tif, flying away from Memphis late afternoon and arriving Portland, Oregon, at midnight (2 a.m. Memphis time), after a 3-hour layover in Denver. I made those travel arrangements thinking Hubby and I would be traveling alone. Who in their right mind would travel that way with toddlers?
Day 2, we awoke in an airport hotel, secured our rental mini van and headed south to Eugene to collect our Central America traveling daughter. Seeing, touching, smelling, holding this daughter in my arms, was the first blissful reunion of this trip. She left Oregon before we did last fall, so we hadn’t shared the same space for 8 months, too long a time. We lunched in Eugene, with our son who would be traveling to Sunriver late the next day with his brother who lives in Corvallis, at Cornbread Cafe (vegan comfort food – everything we ordered was delicious).
We left Eugene mid afternoon and arrived in Sunriver by 6 p.m. The babies, and their exhausted mom, were ready for a quiet evening and bed, and the rest of us made our way to “Toad Hall,” the Sunriver home of the friends we had traveled to see. The space was filled with friends and family of the soon to be bride and groom. We hovered near the entry stairs into the main gathering space, just listening and observing, and for me, getting teary. It was coming home, entering a warm happy loving space that opened its arms and took us in, as did the friends we departed from months ago and returned to in this moment. Sometime, not too much later, the oldest daughter and sister of the bride, embraced me and earnestly asked, “Did you make the right choice?” I didn’t understand at first what she meant, so she clarified, “Moving to Memphis?” The question took me aback, partly because I haven’t considered it, at least not seriously. The question won’t let me go, either, not during the entirety of our visit, and not since our return to Memphis, at midnight last night. So what does one do with a question like that? One blogs about it!
As with most major decisions we make in life, our choice to move to Memphis has downsides. Leaving our home of 30 years, on the banks of the beautiful Willamette River, with our wake boarding boat, jet skis, kayaks, paddle board, all docked in our backyard, the home where all 5 of our children grew up and where we lived when 4 of them were born, still wrenches. Our traveling daughter is staying in Oregon for at least a few weeks, and we dropped her at a friend’s house on our way to the airport yesterday. That parting was wrenching; she would have been staying “home,” had she still had a home in Oregon. This daughter has most vocally expressed her opinion, not a good one, of our choice to move away.
We left our 2 youngest, our sons, at school in Oregon. One a junior at University of Oregon in Eugene, and one a freshman at Oregon State University in Corvallis; they don’t have their “home” to go to when the dorms shut down, or when they just need a visit with Mom and Dad.
We moved away from the friends who are family, the friends with whom we raised our children (a combined total of 12!), the friends with whom we established family traditions: Super Bowl fun runs, together with trophies and elicit bloody mary’s; Christmas cookies; Christmas Day and plum pudding; adult dinners out (from which adult children are still excluded); Duck football Saturday; Sunriver, Sunriver, Sunriver. The stories that go with each of these things will make us laugh together for all our days.
And, oh my goddess, Oregon is beautiful: the mountains, the fresh clean air, the misty rain, the green/blue rivers and lakes, the mountains, the mountains, the mountains.
All those things, I think, are the worst of the downsides.
What are the upsides? The first and overriding upside is one of pragmatism: Hubby’s job of 30+ years ended, unexpectedly and abruptly. We were not prepared to actually “retire” in the true sense of the word. We had 2 options, Hubby seeks a new job at the age of 57 (at the time) and while recovering from the shock and rejection of his career loss, or we drastically change things up: sell everything and move to a place where we can turn our housing dollars into income producing property that will support us for the next 10 years or so until we can actually retire and start using the money we’ve set aside for that purpose. Our initial idea was to search for a location with low property values (especially compared to Portland, Oregon), but before we could even “Google” that search, we looked at each other and said, “Memphis!” Our oldest daughter and her husband and their 2 daughters (currently, our only 2 grandchildren) live in Memphis, and we knew property values there are unbelievably low, comparatively, and we knew that given the right properties, Memphis could be a great AirBnB income producing opportunity. Those things drove our decision: we could support ourselves without touching our retirement funds and without Hubby having to get a J-O-B, and we could be grandparents, the way we wanted to be (i.e. not long distance).
So, we did it. We planned it, executed it, and never looked back. That is, not until the question was posed: Did we make the right choice? Pragmatically, the answer is clearly yes. Living is a matter of economics, largely, though our Central America traveling daughter would never agree, but she is braver than we. We need financial security to be content and worry free. Perhaps it is our nature. Perhaps it is our age.
We have discovered other upsides to our choice. It has been an adventure, from start to finish. Purging our accumulation of “stuff,” including our water toys, our 2ndcar, and untold items from drawers and basements and garages, loading what was left (or at least what would fit, and then purging some more) into the U-Haul and driving ourselves plus everything we still owned, including our English Bulldog, Pumba, and our Chihuahua, Tif, from Aurora, Oregon, to Memphis, Tennessee, in mid October last year. Over the course of 5 days, we left the Willamette valley in the fall, drove into winter in eastern Oregon and Wyoming, found fall again in Colorado, and came to Memphis in what seemed the end of summer. It was therapeutic to make that drive, and feel the distance between the place we left and the place where we arrived.
The distance in miles between our 3 youngest kiddos and us has increased, while the distance to our 2 oldest girls, our 2 grandkids, and my mom has shortened. We have the means to return to Oregon, and have done so twice this spring with another trip planned in early June. From Memphis, we drove to surprise our daughter in Columbus, Ohio, on her first half marathon route. We will drive to eastern Tennessee to visit my mom over Memorial Day and our daughter will drive from Columbus to meet us there – it will be her first trip to this home of her grandma.
Another upside: thunderstorms! I’m finishing up this message sitting outside on one of our covered porches and a clap of thunder just sounded that made me jump. It is May in Memphis, and it seems that means a thunderstorm nearly every day, along with the kind of rain that comes down in buckets and turns our streets into rivers. We just got caught at our local farmer’s market in a downpour of raindrops that seemed tablespoon size; we ran to our car to discover we had left the sunroof open – again! We have to stop doing that; it is no easy task to dry the car out with the wet heat here.
We admire how our friends who are family have managed to remain in Oregon within a few hours drive to each of their 7 children and grandchildren. That seems rare and is an amazing accomplishment. Our family has spread across and even out of our country, and we have moved changing up whom we are near to and whom we are farther from. This is not the last move in our future; we want the adventure of seeking, finding, learning a new place again, maybe in about 10 years. My mom, who is 18 years older than I am, says she could easily undertake that kind of adventure at her age, so in 10 years, we should be ready to pack up again, leave Memphis behind, and travel to, well, someplace else.
Our answer to the question is, “Yes, Nikki, we made the right choice for us at this time, though it’s not likely our final choice, it is our best for now choice.” Hubby and I are amazed at how well our plan for Memphis has manifested in reality. We are secure in our financial future and neither of us is tethered to a J-O-B, though we do clean a few more toilets and make a few more beds that we had planned. It is a blessing that Memphis has turned out better than we planned, and it is a blessing that we can return to friends, family, fresh air, and the mountains in Oregon. It is, definitely, all good!