a room of my own

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. — John 14:2

When I was born my parents lived in a little apartment in North Naples, Florida, but when they were evicted we moved to Augusta, Georgia. My dad got a job as a used car salesman and we lived in a little flat over a drug store.

Mom’s dad gave them a piece of land, so we moved back to Naples where we lived in a small RV, then a two room cottage, and then what became the family home, a decent two bedroom house, all on the same lot near the bay. I had a room of my own, and my dad, a sign painter at the time, painted life-size Pogo characters on the wall.

Then Dad decided to go to Bible college. We moved to a small rental house on S. Kelly in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then, after a year or so, to an apartment on Missionary Ridge, where I kissed the landlord’s daughter in a cherry tree. I was seven.

When Dad graduated we moved back to Florida and stayed at my grandfather’s farm near Marco Island. Then Dad took a church in Ft. Myers, Florida, so we lived in two different parsonages, one of them next to a skating rink.

When he left that church we moved back to my grandfather’s farm and then back to the house near the bay. Then it was back to Fort Myers where we rented a house on Sunset Place with a big rubber tree in the side yard. I was in junior high and lived in the garage.

When I was 16 I went to college, back in Tennessee, and my folks rented a duplex on German Town Road and then bought a four room shanty with no siding on the side of Signal Mountain. We fixed it up, even added an in ground pool, and I lived there until I got married, at 21.

Katie and I rented a house and then bought a small bungalow in North Chattanooga. When I decided to go to graduate school in Knoxville, we lived in a garage apartment there until we sold our house in Chattanooga and bought a modular home off Blacks Ferry Road. Katie didn’t like the house but she loved the road.

After graduate school we moved back to Chattanooga where we lived briefly in my parent’s home on the mountain before buying a place on Missionary Ridge, practically in the shadow of the cherry tree.

If you are keeping track of the math, I was 25 and had moved 21 times. Katie was afraid to throw away a cardboard box. A few years later we moved to Michigan and in the 25 years we’ve been here we moved four more times, 3 of them to houses no more than 100 yards apart.

Most Americans (56%) never move out of their birth state, but a new study indicates that those who do move a lot have fewer friends, less satisfying relationship, and are more likely to die young.

“Residential Mobility, Well-being and Mortality” was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology was published last month, and reported in the Wall Street Journal. I have to say I’m glad I’m not dead yet.

Or that somebody else isn’t. According to the National Institute of Trauma and Loss in Children, “ “Sometimes children who kill are children who had to move to a new school, or a new state or neighborhood, resented it, and lacked the coping skills to adapt or fit in.”

One of the authors of the mobility report, Shigehiro Oishi, was raised in Japan and never moved as a child. He concedes, however, that moving affects each child differently, and may even result in increased creativity.

This creativity probably comes in handy if you are planning to blow up the school, but also helps explain the resilient pioneers that settled the country in the first place, or the millions of immigrants who came to know it as home.

Apparently moving is tougher on the introverts, and on kids with fewer siblings, both of which describe me. But seriously. I always thought it was good for me. Flexible. Creative. Sensitive.

OK, maybe not sensitive. But I did learn how to pack.

I also learned to live “as in a foreign country,” an important discipline for people of faith who see here “no continuing city.”

You probably don’t have to move 25 times to learn this.

But it helps.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

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