Transient Americans & My Parents' House
By Tom Purcell
I'm lucky that my mother and father are doing so well — lucky that, in our transient country, their home is the hub that unites my extended family.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, nearly 36 million Americans moved between 2013 and 2014 — almost 12 percent of the population.
Among our 36 million movers:
- 23,150,000 moved within the same county.
- 6,961,000 moved to a different county within the same state.
- 4,770,000 moved to a different state.
- 1,036,000 moved to a different country.
Like nearly 5 million Americans who moved to another state, I moved from Pittsburgh to Alexandria, Va., in 1998 to seek better job opportunities. I lived in the D.C. area nearly eight years and it proved to be a great experience, helping me land marketing clients who I am supporting still.
As an adult, I've never lived in the same place longer than 4 years. Lately, I've been moving into a property, renovating it, renting it, then moving to another place to repeat the cycle.
That is why I'm so blessed that my parents' home is such a central part of my life.
Unlike much of the country, in which people uproot themselves every few years, Pittsburghers prefer to stay put.
For 35 of my first 37 years, my mother and father resided in a two-story, four-bedroom design that was typical of 1960s suburbia. My father remodeled the basement into a family room. And when my baby sister, Jennifer, expanded our household to eight, my parents added a fifth bedroom onto the first floor — where they were able to enjoy space and comfort for the first time in their lives.
That house was the hub of a lot of people's lives. The door was never locked and aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors regularly stopped in to say hello. My mother always hosted holiday celebrations, especially Thanksgiving.
To house all of the kids and grandkids, however, we had to clear out the living room furniture. We pushed a large table up to the dining room wall, then pushed another table against that table to make one large L-shaped table. There wasn't much space, but nobody minded.
To accommodate our expanding clan, my parents moved to a larger, contemporary house in 2000 — a scandalous affair, as far as my sisters and I were concerned, because Pittsburghers are not supposed to move! The old house had so many memories, after all.
On Sundays when we were little, our dad made us scrambled eggs and bacon and we'd put cinnamon and sugar on our buttery toast. Our dog Jingles lived the good life under the large shrubs by the front porch. We have hundreds of photos of holiday parties, baptisms, confirmations, graduations and the weddings of four of my sisters.
Well, my parents have been in the "new" house 16 years already and that has become the family homestead now, a place where many new memories are being made — and where 30 to 40 Thanksgiving guests can sit comfortably in the massive living room and dining room.
The longer-term Census trends show that Americans are beginning to move a little less — partly because our country is aging, that dual-income families have less flexibility and, in a still challenging economy, because Americans aren't switching jobs as often as they used to.
Well, moving is good for individuals and the economy, and I wish my fellow Americans the best as they pursue their American dream.
But I also hope there is one home in their extended families that brings them as much peace and happiness as my parents' home brings to my family.
© 2016 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Sean McClanahan Mysteries," available at Amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.
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