Real estate


I moved 21 times before high school

Andrea Tsurumi for The Boston Globe

My husband married me despite fearing I would always be a tumbleweed. I moved 21 times before high school. No, my father wasn’t in the military; IBM moved us every six months, and he started his own company a few times. Meanwhile, I was constantly the new kid in class. First grade in Ohio and Michigan. Third grade in two different corners of Pennsylvania. Seventh grade in Algeria and Spain. One best friend after another.

No wonder Mark was concerned I would have trouble settling down.

It was a 1,200-square-foot pale-yellow Cape in Lexington that I finally called home. On a corner lot shaded with towering oak trees, it had curb appeal — as my mother-in-law, a real estate agent, told us. We closed on the purchase and spent the first night on the floor in sleeping bags.


I planted a tiny vegetable garden behind the house. Shade challenged, the yield was one puny green tomato that sat on my windowsill long after the frost came.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

I decorated a nursery, sewing valances, crib bumper covers, and a rocking chair cushion with matching red, blue, and yellow hot air balloons. I rocked, patted my tummy, and contemplated the future.

Mark planted a maple sapling in the front yard. He carried our firstborn around it, telling her this was her tree. A second daughter arrived two years later. The house sheltered us through hurricanes, trick-or-treating, blizzards, bouts of flu, and a blur of birthday parties.

Mark installed a split-rail fence around the backyard to give the kids a safe play area away from the busy street. Every year the girls smiled for the obligatory first-day-of-school pictures on the front stoop. Piano, cello, and briefly saxophone tones filled the air. Soccer cleats tracked mud across the kitchen floor. Eventually the fence came down; there was no containing the kids anymore.

As the years passed, the neighborhood morphed around us. One by one homes came up for sale to be promptly knocked down and carted away in dump trucks. Giant trees were felled. The mansions cast long shadows on the little Capes. Still the girls and I cringed when Mark put a “PLEASE DON’T BUY THE TEARDOWNS” sign in our yard. The battle is now lost. The few remaining modest homes look out of place.


Our little girls have blossomed into young women, through college and with jobs of their own. The house livens when they visit, but more often the get-togethers are at our favorite lakeside camping or mountain skiing spots.

It’s been 27 years since Mark and I spread our sleeping bags on the floor. We now have an urge to move to the city. The lure of walking to vibrant cafes, restaurants, and shops beckons. We long to be regulars at our local tavern. Time to move on.

Emptying the closets of favorite games and taking down the kids’ artwork from the basement walls is bittersweet. Time to rid ourselves of excess baggage.

As a young girl, I remember the thrill of moving into my new bedroom (again and again), organizing my belongings, and checking out the neighborhood. Time to explore and reinvent ourselves.

That tumbleweed? I love that I put down roots — deep ones, but it’s time to tumble again.

Jean Duffy, a Lexington resident (for a little longer anyway), is working on her first nonfiction novel. Send comments to and a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.