Weather Report From Deep Inside the Family
among other things.
Yesterday’s exhausted moon
shivered at morning’s edge.
Why don’t I move home?
she says, again
among other things.
My gesture at the fog
goes unregarded. We learned
to navigate. I have maps
you can borrow. A compass.
I say, again
she isn’t listening
but I have to say
You’re three paychecks
from losing your false north.
I am not my whole self here.
Angrier, and a child again
but this is home. I know
the declination, and it’s the only place
I can really predict the weather.
we will see
few stars, if any.
Like many folks around my age, I grew to love a childhood landscape where Adult Me cannot possibly afford to live. Mine is a particular coastal plain in Southern California, though it might as easily be the East Bay, an earlier and much-loved home. California, either way, has become my impossible dream — for reasons I suspect many Billfold readers already understand.
You might even own a version of this very tale: I left after college in 2004, unable to afford rent anywhere I could find a job. (This is true even though I had no student debt, and even though I was married, so there would be two of us working and sharing the rent.) I built — and lucked into — a successful life elsewhere, and fifteen years later I’m happy here, I really am. But.
I connect deeply with landscapes, much more than with cities or even, sometimes, humans. And I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several that match my soul — deeply enough that I often feel torn between them. Perhaps it’s a backwards saving grace, then, that my present residence isn’t one. It’s lovely, and we are friends now, after an extended trial. But I long to move home.
Which home? My coastal California plain, also the residence of parents I hold dear, is an excellent candidate. I’ve run the numbers many times — the much lower price of housing here; my husband’s union job, which will not transfer — and there’s no escaping this conclusion: to move back would be to become, in effect, poor. Yet I think about it, seriously, and often.
The speaker in the poem above is not me. They have the same background and longing, but there’s something else I was trying to explore when I wrote this. In addition to the varied implausibilities of choosing to relocate “home,” so many Millennials I know are navigating a particular, awkward chasm. Our parents and guardians (our white, middle class parents and guardians, I should say, since that’s what I know) raised us to expect a very different financial world than the one they actually made for us. Their expectations about our income, job status, and choices like location are, correspondingly, wildly distinct from our realities. In many cases, they absolutely cannot see this. Sometimes, they imagine out loud our reality is something else: laziness, entitlement, selfish choices.
The gap exists for me too, though I’m fortunate that my parents do not insist my reality is theirs. As I listen to others’ stories, though, I find my situation is not common. The gap creates enormous tension within families, and even more stress for my peers, who, like me, already have trouble imagining things our parents thought were basic — say, how we’ll afford to retire.
Not everyone’s family is campaigning for them to move home, or whatever else you hear in my speaker’s dilemma. But I feel a similar tension in many stories of family, home, and finance. Poems are a fine place to explore concurrent realities, and connect them. How do you relate to my speaker’s words, or my own? What does the gap look like to you? How do you navigate it?
Tara K. Shepersky (she/her) is a taxonomist, poet, essayist, and photographer. Read another poem about home and money here; find more of her work at pdxpersky.com. Twitter: @pdxpersky.
Photo by John Westrock on Unsplash.
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