On Living Close to Family

mind the gap

The Three Sisters

Without trying to, I’ve lived close to at least one side of my family for my whole life.  When I was choosing colleges, while I contemplated far flung schools with catalog-created fantasies (strolling through crumbling stone archways at Oxford, living in a Gothic Southern mansion at Duke), I ended up at Berkeley, the school where my dad had attended and continued to live less than two hours away from.

This meant that when I got the flu my sophomore spring, my dad hung up the phone after I called and showed up at my doorstep that afternoon, bearing cleaning supplies to take care of my sick-filled apartment and chicken noodle soup to heal by belly and soul.  When I moved to San Francisco after college, my dad was there to take me sailing and out to a nice dinner after I got rejected from job after job.  When an adverse reaction to medication caused me to faint and hit my head, my dad moved in with my roommates and I for three days, playing cards with me and watching my pupils for sign of a brain bleed.  An IKEA couch that needed assembling?  Moving from one apartment to another?  Help was only a phone call away.

I live on the East Coast now, and have been similarly spoiled to be close to my mom’s side of the family, who were born and raised in Brooklyn.  My aunt has become my go-to source for intellectual stimulation and emotional comfort, popping over from suburban Scarsdale to discuss men, politics, entertainment, and life over cheap Mediterranean food.  My mom, who fled the cold of New York for Atlanta, hops on the two-hour flight several times a year, to make sure I have enough culture in my life (Broadway plays are always a must-do on the weekend agenda) and color in my clothing (“it’s so much more flattering than all that black you wear, sweetie!”).

It snuck on me as the unconsidered yet blaringly obvious fact of my move to London:  this is the first time I will be living on my own, an ocean away from my family, my points of stability and unconditional love and comfort and constancy.  I’ll have my boyfriend---my partner in all of this---but the support and interactions that come with a romantic relationship differ so greatly from those offered by family.  Yet it makes me ponder something I’ve never before factored into my thoughts or decision making (sorry, Mom and Dad!):  the value of living close to family.  I’ve chosen the cities in which I’ve lived based on their worldliness, their amazing restaurants, their walkability, their job opportunities.  While the dynamics of family relationships have morphed as I've grown older (although having my dad show up with chicken soup when I'm sick will make my heart tingle even when I'm 50), the relationships themselves have been omnipresent.  Family, so consistently, blatantly there, has unintentionally slipped to the backburner for being there in physical form.

I don’t know where Zack and I are going to move when his graduate program ends in two years.  I don’t know how much at that point family will factor into our decisions after having experienced the other end---the being far after being so close.  Do you try to live near your family?  Or try to live far away, or not factor in it at all?  I’d love to hear your take.