Friday, April 18, 2008

Home is Where the Heart Is?

Big Daddy and I never planned to raise kids in Memphis. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence hating this town and vowing to leave. But then I discovered midtown, and I realized that my suburban existence really had nothing to do with living in Memphis. I got accepted to Rhodes College, which happened to be the only school I applied to in my haze of oblivion. Luckily it was a good school and a great fit for me, although it would have been nice if the guidance counselors at Kirby could have pulled their heads out of the student council's collective ass long enough to let me know that my ACT score qualified me for free tuition at just about any state school in Tennessee, if not elsewhere. Oh well.

We got married two weeks after I graduated from Rhodes, and about a year later, we did leave town. BD's mom, step-dad, sister, and two brothers lived in Panama City Beach at that time. We are both beach people, we both wanted to move away, and on a visit to his family, as we sat on the deck of a beach-side restaurant and watched the sun set spectacularly into the gulf, he said to me "See that?" I knew then that we would move. And we did, not to PCB, but to Panama City proper, on a little peninsula off downtown that put us a few blocks from the city marina, a bayou that housed a smaller marina, and the St. Andrews Bay. We lived in a tiny, generic little apartment but in a great neighborhood, and we broke the mold by being the two people who live near the beach and actually go to the beach. We rode bikes around the marina and through Bunker's Cove (imagine Chickasaw Gardens on a bay) and ate at Joe's on the bayou and Schooner's on the beach, where I also waitressed for a while. Those parts of living there were fun, and BD was happy to be near his family for the first time in a few years. But there were no good jobs, and the only culture was the culture of low-brow tourism. We left with the intention of moving to Taos, New Mexico, which lasted a week. That's a whole other story, but the end result was that we ended up, unexpectedly and against all my swearing that we'd never live here again, back in Memphis. In the next few months I learned I was pregnant, had a difficult miscarriage, got pregnant again, went back to the school where I had taught before the move, and supported BD in the decision to buy The Tobacco Bowl. So just like that, we were entrenched in Memphis again.

I noticed way back in elementary school that new kids who had moved all over the country came here and never moved again. I didn't understand until adulthood that relatively high salaries combined with a low cost of living combine to make the standard of living for the middle class enticingly comfortable. There have been a few times in the past few years that BD and I have talked about moving and looked around at jobs and housing in various places. But every time, in almost any city where we would want to live, I've faced about a $10K a year cut in pay and said "maybe not just now." Memphis teachers make the highest salaries in the Southeast except for those in Atlanta. And we're still poor! Money is the biggest reason we've stayed here so long, followed closely by proximity of family and friends.

But the list of reasons to leave is growing. Lately it seems like crime in Memphis is spiralling quickly out of control. Too many of our friends and family have been victimized. The break ins while no one was home were a lot easier to take than the recent and all-too-in-person hold-ups. At gun point. I don't like feeling like I'm just waiting for it to be me, or BD, or another person we love. I don't like wondering how I will help the kids feel safe again when, not if, our house gets broken into. When I feel like I'd carry a loaded gun strapped to my person if I didn't have kids, but at the same time like I need the gun to protect my kids and wonder if a taser will be good enough, I think we are approaching time to go.

There has been some exciting talk within BD's side of the family this week about all of us moving beachward, not to Panama City this time but elsewhere in the Florida panhandle. There are still a lot of details to work out, but I know that the idea of living near more of his family again, for the first time in adulthood, is very appealing to him. And of course, we'd love to be near the beach, and also to raise our kids in a place where the crime stats are not even close to the numbers we see here. The decrease in my pay is looking less important when balanced against the increase in peace of mind.

15 comments:

Stephanie said...

Take me with you! It is definitely time to go.

Anonymous said...

Kristy, you don't know me, but I regularly read you and your husbands' blogs. I feel the exact same way you do. My family moved to Memphis when I was 5, and I subsequently spent almost every waking moment plotting my escape. I have 2 children, and for about 6 years, we DID escape...to a city that was safe, fun, and perfect for our family. But, into every life a little rain must fall, we had to move back to Memphis. Since it had been a few years since we had lived here, I couldn't believe what I was bringing my family back to, I don't have to give any details, we all know those. Now, by personal choice, not job transfers this time, we are once again leaving this godawful city. I cannot reconcile the things we have to put up with taxes,crime, etc. to staying here, which is sad. I'm not unhappy, you're right, home is where the heart is...I think as parents, my husband and I are just being astute. The city itself gives nothing back to our family, nothing like what we put into it, and that's sad. Sorry for the long post, I just want to wish you guys good luck w/whatever you decide.

Kristy said...

Thank you! Where did you live before that you liked?

Secret Agent Mom said...

What, you mean there are places where a 9mm isn't considered a door-knocker?

Rita.the.bookworm said...

Oh, wow. I know what a tough decision it is to make that big move (I've done it...four times, and I keep collecting people and pets on my moves!), but when you get the bug and everything seems to click in place like the big hand of fate is moving you along, then you've got to honor that.

How exciting! I always get all giddy when the decision has been made and it's time for the planning. Are you giddy yet? Or still uneasy and a little scared?

warren said...

The grass is always greener on the other side...

I'm a little surprised to hear this type of critique from people who were born/raised here--most of the slamming is typically from people from not around these parts.

I cursed Memphis almost daily for at least half of the 10 years since I moved here from Juneau. I was not only a member, but also the President of the MHC (Memphis Haters Club). Since then, I've grown fonder of the place and look forward to returning whenever away for an extended time.

You have to look for them, but there are a lot of good things Memphis has going that you won't find in many other cities.

Kristy said...

The only person I know who is from Memphis and also likes it is Stacey.I know there are a few good things. They just don't outweigh being second in crime only to Detroit. Detroit!

Stacey Greenberg said...

look at warren loving on memphis!! aw!!

Melissa said...

You can't move until after Tuesday, after the excellence that will be the Elvis Costello concert.

I'm excited for y'all. Sad for us. But you're right. It's not a matter of if, it's when. I'm always looking over my shoulder, like at the young gentleman today who trapped me in my car - in my driveway - asking me for money. The cheap housing just isn't worth it.

This is our one go at this life. I think most of it should be spent at the beach.

All Adither said...

Big decisions...

Aimee said...

I hope that whatever you guys decide on, it turns out to be a good thing for your family.

We're still kicking around the possibility of a move, although the when is uncertain, and I don't think I could move away from my family right now given the current status of things. However, as much as I don't really want to go where we will likely be going, I want even less to raise my babies here.

I was born and raised in this city, and it makes me sad to say this, because I can remember a time when I thought I'd love to go away and then come back to raise a family.

I sure will miss the food though.

katherine said...

Just today, we were getting ready for our weekly Target run. I said, "You know, we go to Target every weekend. Let's go walk on the beach instead!" Hope your decisions come easy! ;)

Christy said...

I feel like I just committed a drive-by rant! I apologize. I think the latest mayor thing and increased property taxes just got my panties in a wad. I'm the above "anonymous" poster. Oh, I'm not hating on Memphis really, I guess disappointed would be a better word. I grew up in midtown, I have just found out from living in numerous cities that the "good" things about Memphis can be found in cool little niches all over the country, just w/out the baggage.

Shannon said...

this post made me incredibly sad. i know people have got to do what they got to do, but i would miss you all terribly.

Melanie said...

Maybe it's because I'm from Mississippi (right over the line) but I'm always a bit puzzled by assertions that Memphis is getting so much worse. When it comes to the cultural events, the artsy scene, the growing community investment in the public schools, and just the general air of moving forward...I get the sense that things are looking up.

Yes, the political stuff is outlandish, but was the previous leadership and political scene that much more stellar and scandal-free? (Honest question-I don't know what it was like before). I *do* know that there are also lots of young, politically minded people with fresh ideas and outlooks that are pushing forward here.

I had the experience of waking up to an intruder IN my bedroom, so I definitely feel you on the crime scene. I still feel really safe here, though. Of course, I also felt safe living in the heart of DC and would jump at the chance to pack up the fam spend a few years there.