Staying Put vs. Roaming

(My monthly article in the January 2023 Brazos Living Magazine)

I once heard about a man who lived his entire life in the same house.

When he graduated from the local public school, he hired on as a car salesman in town and looked after his widowed mother until she died and then just kept on living there.  He had sufficiently flat feet to avoid getting drafted into World War II and he married a girl he’d grown up with and raised several children who grew up and moved away.  He and his wife grew old together and he died in the same room he’d been born in. Maybe in the same bed. 

The person who told me this story was an upstanding and trustworthy sort and I have no reason to doubt any of it.  In fact, he saw nothing out of the ordinary about that man’s journey, or lack of a journey since he stayed in one place. But its intriguing to me to think of how that man watched the changing of over three hundred seasons from one fixed vantage point, maybe toward the end sitting in the shade of a huge tree that he’d helped his father plant over eight decades before.

That man didn’t roam; most of us do. 

Have you ever come up with a complete list of every place where you’ve lived, not as a guest or on a vacation, but actual places that were for a time, no matter how short, your official and primary places of residence?   I know many folks who have lived all over the country and some all over the world, and my personal trek is downright boring in comparison.   

I was born in Palestine – the one in Texas, not the Middle East – and the next day my parents drove the twenty miles to their house in Oakwood and I decided to go with them. I liked the situation so much that I stayed for eighteen years before taking up residence in a college dormitory for a brief enough time to convince the Selective Service System that I’d do better to live in several Army barracks for a spell. Then I went back to that college to do a much better job of studying and got my mail delivered to several apartments over the next few years.   

Diploma and teaching certificate in hand, I moved up to Palestine (still the one in Texas) where you might remember I began my pilgrimage. After teaching there for three years I moved into a rented beach house down at Matagorda for a summer to write the Great American Novel, which turned out to be not one bit great. Its several hundred pages ended up in a little bonfire on the beach before I commenced a nomadic odyssey that involved two more teaching gigs, some graduate work back at that college and three more apartments. Then when I was still in my twenties (barely) I got a phone call from a fellow unknown to me who identified himself as the principal of a school in a town I’d never heard of. He was in desperate need, he said, of an English teacher (the new school year would begin in a couple of weeks) and I’d been recommended by the principal at one of those schools I’d briefly wandered through. I drove down to Brazoswood High School in Clute and took the job. When Mr. Gene Marcum and I shook hands, he informed me there was only one more small matter needed to seal the deal and I paid him for the first of many Rotary Club Shrimp Boil tickets I would purchase throughout the rest of my career.

For the first decade I lived in a succession of apartments, each one nicer than its predecessor, before buying a house that was plenty big enough for me but not nearly big enough for my new bride Karen and her three young daughters and a cat, alI of whom I’d married in one fell swoop.  After a year of bumping into each other we bought a four-bedroom house that we happily called home for three decades.  When Karen and I, by then empty nesters, retired we downsized to a senior living complex in Pearland where we determined, after a couple of years, that we weren’t yet senior enough to fit in there.  So we moved into a nice apartment in a regular complex where we are, ironically, among the most senior souls on the property.

I’ve had twentyish official residences, so far.  How about you? Put the pencil to it; the total number might surprise you.

Of course, you might be like that car salesman, in which case you won’t need a calculator.

3 thoughts on “Staying Put vs. Roaming

  1. Was conceived and delivered
    Much to my chagrin
    No vote I was offered
    About where to begin

    Biloxi, Mississippi
    Dad in the service 1945
    A sweet war baby
    Just glad to be alive

    Only two weeks of my life
    Were spent in that state
    Before moving to Commerce
    And Texas, so great !!!!

    Dad chose to teach and coach
    Luckily only in Texas towns
    So in Commerce and Childress
    I began life’s ups and downs

    Whitedeer, McAllen,
    Galveston and Houston too,
    I created my beginning’s
    Wore a child’s wandering shoe.

    College completed,
    Marriage and child
    Brought me to Lake Jackson
    Small town, secretly wild

    In Lake J sixty years later
    No desire to roam
    Lived in two houses
    Always at home.

    Made up for strong roots
    By traveling around the map
    Adventures with great friends
    No time for a nap….


  2. Somehow, I have amassed 27 different addresses over the years. I think I will stay where I am for a while! 🙂


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