Observations: Moving to Serendipity

Published on: September 29, 2011

Mitch Traphagen Photo

Mitch Traphagen Photo


Ah! Another season, another debt ceiling crisis. Working for the House of Representatives a while back, I felt certain that our representatives, despite some evidence to the contrary, actually did, by and large, stay in touch with their constituencies. Now I’m not so certain. However, I am becoming more and more certain that any black cloud that may be hanging over this nation emanates from Washington, D.C.

Since Congress doesn’t appear capable of doing their most basic duty in keeping the budget on track and paying the bills, the least they could have done is come to help me move. If nothing else, that would have been an accomplishment. After all, it’s not like they have a long list of their own accomplishments to point to.

Roughly three moves ago, I vowed I would never move furniture again — I would merely set it all on fire and start from scratch. Somehow, it seems I only manage to remember that vow as I’m loading or unloading a rental truck. While most people my age would hire a bunch of young guys with no necks to carry the furniture, most people aren’t married to Michelle. To Michelle, a few days of limping and whining are a small price to pay to save a few hundred dollars. She’ll regret that, of course, when I keel over carrying a box of unidentifiable junk out of or into a house, but at that point it really wouldn’t do much good for me, given that I’d be…well, dead.

Despite all of the whining, there is something serendipitous in moving. For one thing, it gave me an opportunity to see things that I haven’t seen since the last time I moved — sort of like a bunch of personal time capsules that get packed away into a new house to be discovered again in the next move. In amongst the tons of clutter, I found a bunch of cool-to-me stuff that I don’t need, will never use and, as previously mentioned, probably won’t see again until the next time I move.

I found an invitation to an event with a vice president and media credentials for two events involving presidents. I found a formal invitation from the commander of a military base to a special event honoring a man I respect greatly. I found a report I wrote on communications that made me think my I.Q. is decreasing as my age increases. I found concert ticket stubs with memories old and new attached to them. I found a Seven Seas Cruising Association monthly newsletter from 2000 that contained our introductory letter as we applied to become Commodores in the association. I found old photos and colored artwork from the three foster children we’ve had over the years (all three are now adults and light years beyond crayons). Some of the photos were of Michelle and me as we were preparing our boat for a six-month cruise to the Bahamas and beyond. We looked like children ourselves. I found t-shirts, some decades old, marking events with memories I cherish. The t-shirts have been moved from place to place but are rarely, if ever, worn. Yet I can’t throw them away. They are milestones to me that show I was there.

But more than rediscovering things old, there is serendipity in the discovery of things new. Setting up a new home is an opportunity for rejuvenation with an absence of paradigms and habits. Discovering a new neighborhood is much like exploring a new land. Walking down a new street in the evening light gives the impression that we are on vacation, and we giggle to ourselves in the awareness that this is our new life. As the boxes are unpacked and a semblance of normalcy emerges from the chaos, the realization begins to sink in that this is home.

In late 2007, worn out from all of the changes in Florida, we moved to the exact opposite end of the spectrum: a very small town in Iowa. In early 2009, we moved back to Florida (any romanticism to be found in a blizzard wears off after the first half dozen of them). Now just last week we moved into our new-to-us home — a small, older house in a very cool old Ruskin neighborhood. For the first time in years, we feel as though we are truly home.

Now that I think about it, perhaps it’s for the best that members of Congress didn’t help us move. There is nothing serendipitous about a group of well-dressed people with gleaming white teeth complaining, arguing and pointing fingers about who dropped the box containing the glassware. This home is a sanctuary from all of that and more.

As I look out to watch the tide slowly change and the sun rise on another day in paradise, I almost pity them. Yes, they have good, high-paying jobs but really, who would want to live like that?  However, since they have chosen it, I sincerely hope they just do their jobs without dragging the nation through the mud and muck of their own personal ambitions. I want to look out for my neighbors on my new street. I hope Congress look out for the nation by doing their jobs. You see, this is my home and I care deeply about it. I think most of us feel the same.

The sun is rising on a new morning in paradise. Hints of beautiful autumn weather are in the air. It’s good to be in Florida. It’s good to be home.