Many have asked why Todd and I would move from my lifelong rural community to South Minneapolis. It only takes one word to help them understand: grandchildren.
By Tracy Gulliver, Becketwood Member
“I think it’s time,” I said to Todd as I sat on the couch and watched the sun peeking through the leaves. The frogs had begun their evening serenade. The snap of twigs announced the deer had woken up and were ready for their evening run.
“Time for what?” he asked, without looking up from his woodworking book.
“To move,” I said calmly.
He jerked his head up as if he had just experienced whiplash. His book slid to the floor. “Are you sure?” he asked. “You said the only way you’d move from this house was on a gurney with a tag tied to your toe. You even wanted to draw up a prenuptial agreement!”
“I know,” I said in a calm voice that sounded strange even to my ears. “But that was nineteen years ago.” I told him what I had experienced the day before as I stood at our living room window, performing my morning ritual of prayer in the form of awe and gratitude. Words that seemed to have a voice attached to them said, ‘You can let go now.’
I looked around the room, even though I knew I was alone.
‘It’s okay. You can let go,’ the voice assured me.
I sat with the thought; walked around the house with it; carried it with me on a walk around the yard, down our driveway, and through the woods. From my innermost being, moving felt like the right thing to do. I was baffled at how right it felt. It was only after I had walked with the thought for a day that I told Todd.
He had been ready to move the day Eloise was born, but he knew how much my family and our community meant to me. The surrounding fields and woods were like pieces of a patchwork quilt I’d wrapped myself in.
“You’d be moving away from your sister,” he cautioned.
I winced. Kelly and I were sisters, next-door neighbors and best friends. Over the years our children had worn a path through the woods between our five acres and hers. The path was overgrown now, hardly passable. I felt grateful to have grown up and raised my two daughters in the same community my family settled in. I’ve been blessed with friendships from high school, church, and social groups. Together, we have woven threads into the tapestries of each other’s lives.
For years, I assumed my daughters would become part of that tapestry, raising their families in the same community, maybe even side by side. From early on, Jen talked about building her log cabin in the neighboring field. When she was twelve, she had even stomped through the knee-high rye to lay out her floorplan, but the cabin was never built.
Almost twenty years later, Jen and her family had pulled up stakes and moved to Tennessee. My younger daughter Laura had moved to Minneapolis after college. Why she was attracted to city living was beyond my comprehension. But I had accepted the fact that she and her husband Kane had decided to make Minneapolis their home.
Years earlier, a seed had been planted in my mind, but had laid dormant for years. We were long-time weekend volunteers at ARC Retreat Center, and had also lived in the community for five months. Community members and guests had introduced Todd and me to the concept of housing cooperatives.
One mentioned was Becketwood. I was lured by the fact that it sat on several acres with the Mississippi River as its next door neighbor. A tree-lined boulevard meandered its way to acres of parks within walking distance. The idea of being in an area where trees outnumbered mosquitoes was tantalizing. This seemed like an ideal place to live. I could almost see myself living there. Once I was well into retirement. When I learned it was in Minneapolis I dismissed the idea.
Then Kane and Laura announced they were expecting their first child—our grandchild, Laura pointed out. She began emailing links to “real-estate investments” in South Minneapolis. I reminded her that we knew of an excellent real-estate opportunity in our own back yard, ideal for building a house and raising their family. Neither party was interested in the other's proposal. I resigned myself to seeing the three of them once a month, at best.
Then Eloise captured our hearts. The day after she was born I perused the web for houses in South Minneapolis. I soon discovered Becketwood was only five miles from Laura and Kane. I googled Becketwood and scrutinized every reference that popped up. I surveyed the area and via Google Earth. I analyzed the community as best I could through their blog. Suddenly, Becketwood seemed like the only logical place to live. Todd and I visited, and within a week we were on the waiting list.
One month later I was hit with buyer’s remorse, though we hadn’t bought anything. I suggested we take our names off the waiting list and erase all thoughts of moving to Minneapolis or anywhere else. Each time I questioned our decision, Todd said it couldn’t hurt to keep our options open. I agreed, although not wholeheartedly.
It wasn’t long before Eloise taught us how grandchildren could turn their grandparents’ lives upside-down. Laura was ready to return to work, but daycare was not ready for Eloise. We stayed with Laura and Kane for two weeks, and I had the privilege of being Eloise’s first nanny. Todd worked remotely, so we shared the privilege of holding and feeding our infant granddaughter. I gave Todd ample opportunity to change dirty diapers.
Two weeks later the day care center had a space for Eloise, which left an empty space in our lives. We begged Laura and Kane to “allow” us to watch her one day a week. They gladly obliged. Before Eloise could crawl, I would hold her as I stood at the living room window and explain that the green shrub outside must look like a tree to her, but it was merely a bush. And though the trees on the boulevard were a gloomy grey, they would sprout leaves in the spring and cover us in a canopy. I explained the difference between deciduous trees and evergreens, though I’m not sure she grasped the concept.
In the spring and summer of Eloise’s first year, Todd and I took her on weekly walks to the parks around Lake Harriet. Each week, I tried to envision what life would look like if we moved. I wanted to experience some sense of connection with this urban oasis.
Our weekly visits to Laura and Kane’s, our real estate banter, and my search for some sense of connection continued for almost two years. When we learned that Eloise would soon have a sister, Becketwood was back on my radar.
On the days we left Laura and Kane’s, Todd and I frequently took a detour on Minnehaha Parkway and stopped to take walks on paths that paralleled the falls and the Mississippi. We roamed the Becketwood campus. All the while, I listened to the land surrounded by the city, and waited to hear that still, small voice.
In June of 2016, we went to a party with friends from ARC Retreat Center. Becketwood came up in conversation and several people encouraged us to consider moving sooner rather than later. I shared my struggle to figure out where I belonged and always came back to life-long friends, family, and the only community I'd ever known.
Gradually, the thought of being farther away from the next generation of my family felt more unsettling than the thought of moving from everything familiar. We were about to become emigrants. My ancestors had traveled across the Atlantic and half of North America to start a new life. I would be crossing a few county borders, and hopping across the Mississippi River.
“I don’t want to move tomorrow,” I added quickly. “I’ll need at least a year to mentally prepare. Not to mention updating the house.” The bulk of the updates would fall on Todd, but purging decades of mementos, clothes, and outdated doodads would be my responsibility.
The most difficult aspect of moving would be telling our friends and family. They all understood, but none of them were happy about it, which in a twisted sort of way, I appreciated. It was nice to feel wanted. They were quick to point out all the reasons we should stay. Some of the arguments were persuasive, but that still, small voice had grown stronger.
Any remaining doubts would vanish within a week.
(To be continued)