What is it that makes a place feel like home? And how does someone decide when it is time to move away from what used to feel like home, to somewhere new? Those were the questions on my mind last week, when instead of having a boating adventure, I was having a housing adventure in North Carolina.
The purpose of our whirlwind trip there was to tour the factory assembling the small systems built house we are building on a small lot we own in Rockport. After living part-time on our sailboat for the past four years, we decided to take the next step to create a more permanent connection to Rockport. The initial idea was to build a house we could use part-time and rent out when not using. However, more and more we are wondering whether it might be time to sell our home in Austin and move to Rockport permanently. This possibility is what is causing me to ponder questions about how we determine a place we can call "home."
When I was in my 20's, regardless of my living situation, "home" meant going back to my Mother's house near Dallas. Then, when I got married and started having kids, "home" was the one Stan and I created. Decisions about it were based around things like proximity to schools and workplaces. And in retirement, all of those things that bound us to a particular place, no longer do.
I have called Austin home since 1979 when I moved there to finish up my last year of journalism school at the University of Texas. It is the place I started my career, met my husband, and raised my children. At 63, I will never be able to create those kinds of memories in Rockport. And yet, after four years of living in Rockport part-time, I find I am already creating connections and developing a sense of history there. But are those connections strong enough for me to leave the place I have called home for more than 30 years? And, more importantly, can I bear to leave those friends and family members still in Austin?
There is no doubt that Rockport's pull is strong. Having access to the water to sail in is certainly one of the draws. And the easy access to nature in general - whether it is for biking around the beach park, walking down Water Street, or heading over to Port Aransas to walk on the beach.
We are also starting to build community in Rockport, finding friends who are boaters and friends in the art community. Those shared interests certainly help to forge those new friendships, as does being involved in the community by volunteering for events like the Nautical Flea Market, Coastal Tour of Homes and Oyster Fest Parade. It is just so much easier to get involved in things in a town the size of Rockport than it is in Austin, where, because of the horrendous traffic problems, most decisions are made based on how far a drive it will involve.
So, ultimately examining the ties that bind us has been an enlightening one. I don't take for granted the connections I have in Austin, even as I continue to foster new ones in Rockport. After all, it is the memories that build up over time that can make a place feel like home. And while we might discover that what we have in Austin can't be replaced, maybe we will discover that it doesn't need to be.
--- Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.
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