Part of me looks with envy on people who’ve managed to stay put — people who’ve remained in the homes and towns and countries of their origin. How secure it must feel to be deeply rooted in a place, as solid and immovable as a massive oak tree.
This hasn’t been my destiny. I’ll soon be moving again, to another small apartment here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This will be my fourth such move in the six years I’ve been here.
The first move was into an attractively priced neighborhood, which turned out to be extremely dangerous. (How could I, a naïve, newly retired, newby in the country, have known this?) Soon after that apartment was broken into in broad daylight and I was robbed, I moved again, to what I liked to call my “penthouse” – a small casita on the azotea (rooftop) of an old apartment complex near centro.
Alas, after a few happy years there, that complex was sold, emptied, and will soon be torn down, to be rebuilt and reborn as a bright, shiny, new events location.
So that prompted another move, this time to a sweet studio with a lovely terrace in an artist-friendly neighborhood just outside of centro. My one-year lease here is up now, and (thanks in part to the COVID restrictions being lifted?) I’ll be moving again to a more-affordable-for-me studio apartment not far away.
The other night in a stretch of sleeplessness, instead of counting sheep I counted the number of times I’ve moved residences in my adult life. I counted close to thirty before nodding off. And that’s me — a person who would have liked nothing more than to have had a fixed address, carve-able in stone, her entire life.
I think of my mother’s attitude toward our family home, how much she loved it and often swooned over it: our three-bedroom, red-brick house (“Brick is SO solid!” she would enthuse) in that middle-class suburban New Jersey town. She sincerely believed that town was the center of the universe; and our home was, for her, the hub. She never had any need or desire to venture further into the world. She raised four children in that house, and she ultimately died in it. That house was her world.
“Children are the anchors that hold a woman to life,” I read somewhere a long time ago, when I lost my anchor. And, like a small boat not fully equipped for ocean travel, I’ve been bobbing about on the ocean’s waves ever since.
San Miguel de Allende, I’m finding, is a very fluid place. Gringos, especially, come and go. We make friends, and the friends then leave, often to return to the States to be closer to their grown children and their growing grandchildren.
It’s mostly single older women like me, I’ve observed, those of us who are alienated from our families, who stay and stay in SMA, moving from apartment to apartment, as circumstances, like tectonic plates, shift.
I’ve met other mothers here who have lost children through death or, perhaps, a hostile divorce in which their child or children side with the well-off ex- who can offer more financial benefits. So I know I’m not alone.
Those of us who have not been sunk by our grief, who have not become mentally or spiritually unmoored, who have not resorted to suicide or mind-numbing drugs — doctor-prescribed or otherwise, who have not fully fallen apart, have had to learn how to go on, how to “go with the flow”: become nomads. Reluctant nomads, I call us. We’ve lost our anchors, so we’ve learned to live on shifting sand in tents.
I could go on! But I have a lot of sorting and packing to do. I’ll write again soon — as soon as I’ve set up my next tent.
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For the full story about the loss of my daughter to parental kidnapping, read: https://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Child-Bonnie-Lee-Black-ebook/dp/B01N5GC4TA/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=Somewhere+Child&qid=1621009093&s=books&sr=1-10
To see my flash-fiction piece “Frida and Me,” which was recently named a finalist in the Ekphrastic Review’s Bird Watching contest, please go to this link and scroll down a bit to Frida Khalo’s painting “Me and My Parrots”: