This Rolling Stone has Gathered much Moss

Rachel Petroff Kessler
July 19, 2012
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I’ve never spent a tremendous amount of time reflecting on the role of “place” in my life. In part, I imagine, because for a number of years place has been hard to pin down.  Upstate New York, Jerusalem, Manhattan, and central Maryland have all been home for varying lengths of time since graduating college. And while each city has held its unique charms (some, admittedly, more charming than others), saying goodbye has never been that difficult. After all, when you can Facebook, Gchat, or Skype, what’s a few hundred miles between friends?

My husband and I learned this past weekend that we have moved more times in the last five years than my uncle has moved in his lifetime. We don’t think of ourselves as unusual – it seems that most people we know have spent a year (or more) living abroad and bounced around a few different cities (or at least apartments) after college before thinking about finding a place to settle down. For us, each successive move has been more complicated – more things to move, more serious responsibilities to work around, and fewer friends willing to help spend the day schlepping our stuff in exchange for some pizza and beer.

It is true that my husband and I headed to Israel five years ago with just 2 (big) bags apiece, but at the end of the year we also shipped a couple large boxes back to the States. We ended the year with a lot more than we had started with (I’ll admit it: most of the extras were mine. And they were mostly books). This has been the case with every move, every apartment, every city: we end with more than we start with. The more time I spend packing the more likely I am to start furiously throwing things into the garbage, but I cannot escape the fact that we are acquirers. Much of this acquisition comes from necessity – moving from furnished housing into an unfurnished apartment (and from a 1 bedroom to a 2 bedroom) requires getting some furniture. And then some more. Graduating and entering the work force requires augmenting our wardrobes so that they are made up of more than jeans and sweatpants.

The result of all this stuff? I thought it would help me feel rooted, but instead I simply feel more anchored than ever before. When I say that we are building a life for ourselves in Maryland, I think what I mean is that we (and by “we” I mean my husband, who never met an item from IKEA he couldn’t assemble) are building a fortress of furniture – girding ourselves against the world with a solid wall of stuff.

I hope that this will change as our family grows – that our connection to the community will feel more rooted in people and relationships. I look forward to the time when the pain of saying goodbye outweighs the stress of packing and moving. I look forward to the day when we stay because I can’t imagine living anywhere else, instead of just imagining how nice our life could come to be here.

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Rachel Petroff Kessler is the Family Educator at Temple Isaiah in Fulton, Maryland. Originally from upstate New York, Rachel has worked as a Jewish educator in a variety of settings, including Hillel at Binghamton, Kutz: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens, and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan. Rachel graduated from HUC-JIR’s New York School of Education in April 2010 with a Masters in Religious Education and was a summer fellow at Yeshivat Hadar in 2009.

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