“We have a surprise for you!” My mother squeaked into the phone, her heavy New York accent dripping with excitement.
For weeks, I had been persuading my parents to come visit me in California; I hadn’t seen them in nearly a year and I was hoping they could spend Thanksgiving in L.A.. So, when my mom called with “big news” I figured my parents had FINALLY booked a trip. “We bought a new house – in Ohio!” THAT was not the trip I had in mind, and while my mom chattered on about the landscape, the small town vibe and property taxes I felt my world slowly crashing down around me.
In a matter of two weeks, my home base was swiftly dismantled. I watched helpless via Skype as my mom threw out old trophies, t-shirts, bulletin boards, Halloween costumes, books, my recorder, the extensive nail polish collection I had been growing since middle school, my summer camp yearbook and all the other crap held in place by my messy orange and white bedroom. For two weeks I was tortured. I tossed and turned all night thinking about the stuffed animals at the back of my closet, finally emerging from years of darkness only to meet their fate at the bottom of a garbage can; oh, the humanity. Whenever my mom would call with a question about what I wanted to keep, I would respond as maturely and articulately as I knew how, example: “I don’t know, Mom. It’s not like any of this matters to you, you don’t care about what I want, you didn’t even bother to talk to me about this, I’m not talking to you about my stuff.” As you might imagine, the clean-up process was a breeze.
We’ll never admit it, but millennials love parents. They’re the one constant in our ever-changing lives. I never thought my parents would change jobs, or retire, or move to a new state, so when they did all of these things I found myself thinking, “What about me?”
Now that the damage is done and my parents are happily decorating their new house in Why-Does-Anyone-Live-There Ohio, I’ve taken some time to reflect. All melodrama aside, moving is stressful. A year ago, I moved cross country. I had a few thousand dollars, a car and no plans. It was stressful, but I survived, nobody’s world crashed around them and I’m glad I did it; so why haven’t I been able to feel that way for my family?
For one thing, I’m 23, which means I’m selfish. After all, your twenties are the time in your life when you’re allowed to move cross country on a whim. When I decided to move away from home I justified my last minute decision in two ways: one, “I worked hard, and I deserve to do something exciting,” and two, “If I don’t leave now, I’m not sure if I ever will.” My family wasn’t happy about it, but they respected my decision.
The thing is, my parents have also worked hard their whole lives. They raised four kids, worked full-time, gave us what we needed, helped us get what we wanted, and like me, I don’t think they ever saw themselves growing old on Long Island. When the opportunity to move back to my Dad’s hometown presented itself, they thought: “We deserve to do something exciting,” and so they did. It did not matter that their one grown-daughter still lived with them, and that the other was using their house as a glorified storage unit, for once in their lives, they decided to do something for themselves, how bratty am I for fighting it?
Yesterday, I bought my parents a house-warming present, and booked a flight from LAX to Cleveland. I may never call Ohio home, but if I’ve learned anything this past month it’s that home-base isn’t where your old stuff is, it’s where your family is. My parents have always celebrated the changes in my life, so for once, I’m going to celebrate them; even if I do have to go to Ohio.