Sometimes it feels like living under a microscope, being in such close proximity to the family at all times. There is no independent life, when we explore it is together, everyone wants to go along to the grocery store, taking the car alone means someone else is left behind.
At home, our connection to each other was looser. The threads of our lives crossed with others, weaving in lunches with friends, boys fishing trips, sleepovers for the girls. John would be gone to the cabin with buddies, Marlie would drift up the street to Katie’s house and both would show back up in our yard later. Hannah would meet friends to go shopping or to the movies.
Now the tapestry that comes from the loom is made from fewer threads. Our lives may be richer in the places we experience, but the threads of the lives of friends and family that usually are woven in with ours are missing. Weaving with fewer threads means we cross each other’s paths more frequently.
Because we have been so many places where English is rare, long conversations with others and even short term friends for the children are uncommon. We’ve had a few days sprinkled in; visits with other travelers, either from home or random, whose paths cross ours, and we revel in them like the taste of chocolate cake in the midst of dieting.
This intense family time is both enjoyable and not. I think we understand each other in ways we never would have at home, an understanding imposed by proximity. Frictions felt less frequently also do not escalate into conflict, yet conflict draws attention to the friction and makes us look at it, peering into our relationships and own selves. Trying to understand our own reactions and how they impact the others.
Clearly, the memories we are creating together can’t help but make us closer. For the rest of our lives we will have shared stories of magical places and inside jokes spawned from others. Things we have learned about together and about each other will be a part of who we are collectively, a shared family identity.
There is this pressure to experience everything we have time to while we are in each place. It makes it difficult to do anything alone. Here in the mountains, I have been encouraging John to go explore in the mornings when the girls are doing schoolwork. Otherwise, we don’t get out of the house until everyone is ready (a chore that warrants its own blog post) because nobody wants to miss the opportunities that will not be in the next place we stay.
Living in such close proximity means constant interruption. At break times between lessons for the girls or John getting up for another cup of coffee means someone looking over my shoulder asking what I am working on. Marlie’s ADHD pulls me over to her distraction, setting her back on task. The changing configuration of our home surroundings brings the constant “Where is the (fill in the blank)?” question or oft needed help connecting to another new internet wifi or modem.
We try to establish routines and keep our things somewhat organized, but work and living spaces are constantly shifting. Staking out space on a desk or table does not always mean it will be yours when we get back at the end of the day and pull the computers back out of the Pacsafe. Nobody wants to be the one stuck with their computer on their lap every time.
We jostle and bump against each other daily, hourly, each waking minute. We have little other face to face social outlet. We must rely on and wait for each other, sharing most of our experiences. We live in apartments that are usually about a third, and sometimes a fifth, the size of our home in Bend. We sleep and eat there, and also work and go to school in this space. We do this with as much love and kindness as we can.