After 30 years in the same town, I’m moving on. But it’s not easy uprooting the threads and memories that make a hometown.
I first saw Montclair one snowy day in 1978. My wife wanted to show me a sprawling Victorian house for sale in a spectacular town. We decided on the spot to move to this picturesque New Jersey suburb on a mountain slope with stunning views of the New York City skyline. Our sons grew up there in a rambling, rustic wood-shingled house designed by architect Stanford White’s Gilded Age firm and, as property taxes shot ever higher, in two smaller, yet memorable places when we made downsizing moves. I went from youthful pursuits to PTA dad to retirement in that eclectic community of old money, new money and lots of hard-working strivers. My wife died of cancer at home in the town she loved best. I’ve been a renter at yet another Montclair address in an apartment with a front window view of the high school marching band as it parades down the street, drums rattling an infectious beat, to the football field around the corner.
Yet it’s time to move on. Covering rent and heating costs of my large apartment in a drafty old house would have been dicey after I retired in June from my newspaper job. Then a letter arrived that the building is being sold, for the third time in a few years. With housing prices rising faster than my head can spin, and now in a tailspin, life in Montclair has gotten to be too much like the financial market gyrations for me.
As a retiree on Social Security, I could move anywhere I can afford. My kids live in California, but I have no desire to move across the continent. I spent some time at a friend’s mountain retreat in the Catskills, considering his offer to stay there and fix up an old artist’s studio on the forested property. But living alone come winter on a snow-bound mountain didn’t appeal to me. I considered the Ithaca area further west in New York state; my parents still live there and I love the Finger Lakes in summer. But I remember miserable snow storms and rainy weather most of the rest of the year when I was growing up there.
I spent some wonderful weekends in Philadelphia, hoping to woo a woman whose art work I admire. My courtship hopes didn’t work out. Neither did any of my other romantic encounters in these alleged golden years. But that’s another story. So I thought out a workable move for a widowed, single, reluctantly retired newsaholic who still wants to keep a hand in current affairs and rented a small apartment near New Brunswick, NJ, next to the Delaware & Raritan Canal (for kayaking) and Rutgers University (for graduate school studies and teaching writing courses).
I’ll miss Montclair. To ease the transition, I moved a car-load at a time the 30-some miles to South Bound Brook, over the course of more than a month, sorting through tons of stuff that a family accumulates over 30 years. That was exhausting. Right now, I can’t wait to get settled in the new digs.