"Again!" Ronnie said. "You're moving again!"
I could hear the teasing in his voice. My darling brother, three years older than I, and on the cellular line from Kansas City, had just learned the news that in June, I'd be leaving my downtown apartment for one in River North.
"How many is that?" he said, his tone softening into the familiar sweet bonding we've achieved over the years.
"Seventeen," I said faintly, feeling like a felon who had just confessed her latest crime. The number came easily because this was the query I often fielded whenever I revealed my relocation plans.
"You're the original wandering Jew," he said.
Instead of laughing or countering, I quickly moved to a line of defense. "My new place will have a bedroom," I said, figuring this would sway my jury of one. "You can stay over when you come to Chicago."
"I'm happy for you, sweetheart," he said, confirming he had been joshing, just like he had done in the '40s when we were kids growing up in a three-room flat above our family's grocery store.
As I search for clues to my nomadic lifestyle, I often return to that childhood in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. Was there something way back then -- when aunts, uncles, and cousins lived down the block, when we romped with our buddies on the concrete streets, when parents sat on folding chairs watching over us -- that stuck?
Is it familial closeness, comfortable camaraderie, a sense of security that has spurred my frequent quests? Or is the answer much simpler: I like moving, and I have no regrets about any of the 17. So, I hereby announce I will no longer be cowed by my compulsion.
Be aware that the five earliest moves from 1962 to 1979 were made in the service of my spouse. Prairie Shores for an internship, Fort Devens for an army stint, back to Prairie Shores for a residency, to Glenview for a hospital position, and finally to South Commons for a new residency program. Admittedly, although the switches were spurred by her needs, I was a happy accomplice, often goading her on.
From 1979 to 2017 though, I'll take ownership for address changes. When spouse number one and I were still married (until our separation in 1990), I named these moves as "a project we could do together." Instead of facing our strains, or secrets, we scouted Open Houses and relocated.
For each of the subsequent moves -- as a single, married, then widowed woman -- I had rationales. I pushed my second husband Tommy to move from our Lakeview townhouse to a country home in Geneva, IL, explaining it thusly, "I want to see trees before I die."
When Tommy and I inevitably returned to the city, to Dakin Street in the Independence Park neighborhood, we stayed for an amazing 13 years; longer than anywhere else for me. (South Commons was a second long-term home; 10 years. I've often written of my transformation in that experimental community.)
Tommy so loved our home -- with dog, deck, garden; and dear neighbors -- that he often pronounced -- as if a warning to me and my addiction -- "feet first, that's the only way you'll get me out of here." And of course, that's what happened November 2, 2012.
His death spurred my highrise living, save for a nine-month trial in Los Angeles. My theory then was "a desire to live closer to my family." And the excuse for the reverse, "Chicago is a much easier city for a woman my age who desires independence."
You're read that my 17th move is triggered, not only by a desire for a spare bed for out-of-towners, but for the possibility of fostering or adopting a dog. And, throw in my impatience waiting for such an apartment to turn up at my current highrise, I'll be on my way June 1 where I gain both options.
Now, you may cringe at my habit, finding the idea of purging, packing, hiring a mover, notifying correspondents, and finding a new health club, pharmacy, and CTA stops to be overwhelming. But as a techie, I am very good at all of the above, and I take pleasure in crossing them off my checklist.
Importantly, all of those tasks are offset by the possibility (and it always comes true) that I will meet new friends, spot opportunities for fresh engagement, and grow in a way that might not have happened if I had stayed put.
So, if I've convinced you there's nothing pathological about my nomadic personality, how about coming over with a roll of heavy-duty packing tape and help seal some boxes?