My haunts

This weekend we made our way back to Utah via Moscow, ID.

For the record, Moscow might be the best small town America has to offer. Good people, amazing scenery, and fantastic eating. With two major universities planted right there in the wheat fields–eight miles and one state line between them–the town is packed with diversity.

Of all the coincidences, Jason’s little brother and his wife got a job transfer up there a few months ago. They recently had their first little baby and we couldn’t resist the extra ten hour drive/two day trip to kill two birds with one stone–kiss the nephew and haunt our past all at the same time.

The past is a funny thing. We look back on our years there with intense feelings of fondness and pain. It was in Moscow that we tried so desperately to get pregnant. Those two years seemed to be the longest I’ve ever experienced, and the resulting baby brought more satisfaction and contentment than anything I can think of. We wanted to see it again from this angle.

We were prepared to be a little sad and nostalgic. The reality is simple; life will never plant us in that fertile soil again and we loved it there. Moscow offers a perfect mix of liberal and conservative lifestyles (hippies and farmers), the perfect weather conditions (so picturesque that the farm land requires no irrigation), and a town filled with mostly happy people. Who wouldn’t want to stake a claim there?

The day we spent driving our kids around to our old dives and places of employment was interesting. Yes, we were happy to visit. Yes, things were mostly as we remembered. But both my husband and I felt like a couple of ghosts, dropping into the Co-Op, spending a few hours at the town pool–everywhere we went looked great, but it was missing that old magic. We felt like interlopers.

It was like the city had gone limp on us. No pulse, no thrill, just a place filled with memories that only he and I share. All our old grad school friends have moved on, and apparently so have we.

Driving by our old duplex was the biggest shock of all. We bought the duplex as an investment; live in one side and rent out the other to help pay the mortgage.

When we bought it the place was thrashed. Jason and I spent hours sweating and slaving and painting and flipping until finally it screamed, “HOME!” Coming from a small studio appartment, the 1000 square feet was positively palatial.

We drove up to the duplex and parked the car in front. I looked around at the knee high grass and crooked house numbers. The house was as vacant as the day we’d pulled out of town in our moving van eight years ago. I slowly stepped out of the car and walked to the front door, cupping my hands to peer in that old, cheerful front window.

Oh my gosh, it was so stinking tiny.

My husband and I just stood there, staring with our mouths hanging open. The front room wasn’t even as big as our basement TV room.

I learned something this weekend. I learned that life is made up of more than streets and houses. It wasn’t just Moscow that we loved, it was living in Moscow as newlyweds, surrounded by friends stranded in our same little life boat, with no one but each other to hang on to. Take out the life lessons and the pain and the laughter and all we had to drive through was a nice piece of scenery.

We’re moving again this week, this time to Germany. As I write this, the packing company is upstairs boxing up my world with brown paper and labeling it with magic markers. Kitchen, Bathroom, Books. My children are sad to leave “the brick house,” afraid they’ll miss their rooms and their hide outs.

But this time I am not afraid. I’m not leaving my life behind here, it’s coming with me. Even if our piddly posessions sink to the bottom of the sea, we’ll all be just fine.

I’m taking my world, all five pieces of it. My husband, myself and our four little babies are all I really need to be content. And like it says on the wall in my kitchen, “Together is our favorite place to be.”



  1. This is gorgeous.

  2. Donna Shelby says:

    I’m so sad I didin’t get to see you before you left! I hope you had a nice flight over. How is everything going so far? Miss you guys!!!

  3. Annie, you are so brave! My husband and I have been married 6 years, we have two boys 4 and 10 months. We just moved from our hometown of Medford, Oregon to Anchorage, Alaska…leaving behind all of our possessions, friends and families! I couldn’t imagine moving overseas! My prayers are with your family.

  4. Nice post 🙂 especially love the last paragraph, just perfect.
    Best of luck on the move!

  5. Lindsey says:

    I couldn’t put it more perfectly. I had my own “haunt” last year when I went back to our first house in San Antonio… the 50 year old, 1234 sq. feet of living space that I painted, remodeled, had Tyler in, had memories in. It was also trashed. The lawn was dead. A white trash trailer was in the driveway. It was so sad. Which is why you said it so perfectly. If only I could have put my feelings into words as well as you do!

  6. My daughter and her husband are currently living in (the former East) Germany. They are dying for peanut butter. Better take some with you if your kids love it because it is plainly too expensive to have mailed to you!

    And Moscow is a nice town!

  7. I really needed this today, Annie. Had one of those long, eye-crossing conversations with the government relocation people that left me feeling drained and overwhelmed. You would think I’d be used to this by now, but it’s hard every time. I love you so much, and I’m sick I’ll miss you by weeks. Save that air mattress for me; looks like I’m coming to Germany some day!

  8. I so feel this. I remember our first move “away” and talking to someone I loved so much on the phone. She said, “Aren’t you nervous to leave your family?” And like a big shock, it hit me. I said, “I’m not leaving my family. I’m taking my family with me.” And it was true. And it has changed the world for us.

  9. My daughter and her husband are in law school in Moscow! I Love it there, and you described it perfectly! The Universitys, wheat fields, diversity, mix of liberal & conservative, the hippies & farmers, & the weather conditions. Also, enjoyed the life lesson you learned! Good Luck in Germany!

  10. It is so true, that when you go back and visit places you lived…It is missing the Pulse, of what it had when you were there.
    My darling home I had in Chilliwack B.C., when hubby and I drove past it last summer, was in terrible condition. I couldn’t believe my eyes……at the apparent lack of respect these people were giving my sweet little house that I took such care of.
    You are correct…….HOME often travels with you. It’s where you are Now, and who you are with.
    Safe journeys my dear and can’t wait to hear of your adventures in Germany.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but have never commented. I love your posts – but this was my favorite. Well said. Good luck in Germany. I’ll look forward to reading your adventures.

  12. Oh my gosh, I think we might have lived in Moscow at the same time. Except that I kind of ran from there and have never wanted to return. I used to do all the graphics for The Moneysaver, maybe you saw my work while we were both living in the same town.

  13. Oh my gosh!! What a little trip down memory lane. That place holds sooo many good memories. I was so envious of yours and Amys HUGE apartments while I was in teeny, tiny, student housing. Thanks for writing such a beautiful peice about a place I also hold so dear. Good luck on your new adventure and I hope you find a wonderful hair girl!! =)