|A rose from our new garden|
Growing increasingly weary of “big” city life, some months ago my husband and I sold our home and moved our family to a smaller community. We were looking for a slower pace of life and a closer connection to people and the beautiful outdoors here in Northern California.
I guess you could call our move a mini-migration of sorts. After all, we didn’t go all that far.
As anyone who has moved from one house to another can attest, moving is a time-consuming and sometimes painful process. You agree to give up the known for the unknown; purge the excesses of your life; pack the loved and necessary; unpack and put it all away again; and give family, friends, and service providers your new address. It can be exhausting. It can be even more daunting to think about going to a new area altogether, whether it is a new town, a new state, or even a new country.
As it turned out, we moved not once, but twice. Our house sold in less than a week. With scarcely enough time to buy a new one, we rented a small, quaint Victorian house in a high-tech city to the north while we looked for a house in a valley to the south. We were hardly there when we found our small-town dream home, made an offer, and moved in three weeks later. It happened so fast, we could hardly believe it.
The move has been good for us. People here are friendly and welcoming. We now live on the far edge of a town some 35 miles south of our old stomping grounds. It could not be more different than what we left. There is no traffic, no smog, no hustle and bustle here. Set in the foothills, our home backs up to an open space of majestic oak trees, pristine skies, and plenty of wildlife.
We inherited some gigantic koi fish who have accepted us – and our dogs – into their kingdom. Our three four-legged creatures, of course, are quite fascinated by their new fair-finned friends. (Okay, maybe the interest is in their fish food pellets, which resemble dog chow. One of our smaller dogs, Kira, has either fallen or jumped in three times already to get a closer look!)
About the only downside would be our commute to work. It takes longer than before, to be sure, but the scenery along the way is breathtaking, and the time we have to talk in the car is a true gift.
In all, it took us some 20 weeks to get here. Putting it in perspective, that’s 284 cups of morning coffee for two people; over 300 boxes of “stuff” (72 of which were just for books); 14 pairs of hands to get those boxes from one place to another; four storage units; and 18 meetings with our Realtor, contractor, and lender.
We moved in a month ago and are still unpacking and purging, figuring out the nuances of the new house, and finding our way around town. Like any adventure, it has not been without its ups and downs, but the blessings that have come from them have been great.
This move also has been an occasion to reflect on the many trials our ancestors endured in their own moves and migrations so many years before us, as they left the familiar for places unknown in search of a better life and greater opportunities. The risks we take and sacrifices we make today pale when placed next to theirs.
Take my great-great grandmother, Catherine (O’Grady) Perrotin. When she was barely a teenager, poor and hungry, she and her older sister left their home in Waterford, Ireland, almost 200 years ago and sailed to New York in search of a better quality of life. Catherine had no idea where life would take her, but she trusted in God that all would go well.
Catherine would move four more times during her lifetime. The first move was to nearby New Orleans. When the Civil War broke out, the Perrotins left the South for the peace of Niagara Falls, New York. A few years after that, attracted by the burgeoning railroad industry in Mexico, they relocated again, this time to Orizaba, a small mountain town on the Mexican east coast.
|Catherine Perrotin built this house in Ruardean, Gloucestershire,
for her family. Wanting them to remember their origins, she
had it built in the same style as their home in Mexico. She named
the new family home “Orizaba Villa.”
Catherine and François lived in Orizaba for nearly two decades. They became integral members of the community and raised two children there before François’ death from meningitis in the late 19th century.
This time, it was a widowed Catherine who moved, alone, back across the ocean to England, where her daughter and British son-in-law had gone with their children a few years earlier. To get there, she had to travel by train to the port of Veracruz, take a small boat across the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans, travel overland to New York, and sail across the Atlantic, traveling overland again to reach her daughter’s home in the south west of England.
Despite the rough and cold waters of the Atlantic, the sea-sick yet determined Catherine arrived in Ruardean, Gloucestershire, in the winter of 1895. She lived a contented life with her daughter and grandchildren until her death some six years later. Her legendary spirit and resolve live on today through her descendants now scattered throughout the world.
Yes, our own little move is small compared with my great-great grandmother’s many long-distance moves, but our motives have not changed. Today, as I unpack yet another box, I remember dear Catherine and my other family members – including my own parents – who moved to new places in search of better lives. I thank them for crossing oceans and mountains and plains, for enduring hardships and overcoming obstacles and uncertainties, because without their sacrifices we would not be where we are today.
I will always remember them with a grateful and hopeful heart, never forgetting where I came from and all those who helped our family “get there.”