My two youngest sons have flown south for Thanksgiving, and I've been excited about this homecoming since before Labor Day.
The boys are here! The boys are here! I whisper to myself, all atwitter.
That's me channeling Paul Revere, though the call to action, of course, differs. Instead of loading my musket, I've packed the pantry and refrigerator with their favorite goodies.
Yes, they get on my nerves when they leave damp towels on the bathroom floor or forget sneakers in the middle of the living room, but I'm more than ready to overlook such annoyances for these few blessed days. This week I’ve been smug as a hen with her chicks tucked safely under her wings.
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Unlike many of my friends, I’m lucky that my large family — siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces — continues to live in my hometown. My three oldest kids (and more important, my grandchildren) live a short walk or drive away. However, my two youngest took jobs outside of Miami when they graduated college, introducing me to a strange sense of deprivation.
Most everybody who can come home for Thanksgiving does. Something about this holiday makes us yearn for family, for the warmth of our childhood hearth, maybe even, in a crazy way, for that loose cannon cousin who is such an embarrassment. Also, it's a non-religious holiday, as American as pumpkin pie, and not nearly as commercial as Christmas — though greedy retailers (shame, shame, shame) have muscled in by opening stores when we should all be sleeping off the sweet potato casserole on the sofa next to Aunt Maria.
Usually coming home means lots of travel: clogged roads and busy airports. That’s because we Americans are a mobile people who traditionally haven't thought twice about pulling up stakes. It's part of national mythology, our transiency.
So I was quite surprised to read a piece that defied this notion. The percentage of Americans who moved fell to an all-time low in 2016, continuing a trend that demographers have been tracking for decades. In fact, the idea of staying in place has accelerated in the past 15 years.
Here are the figures: Around 1950, about 20 percent of Americans changed homes in a given year. By the 1980s, 18 percent did and by the 2000, it was under 15 percent. In the latest one-year period, it had sunk to 11.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Experts have all kinds of theories to explain this change. The economic crisis. High home prices. Low home prices. Technology that facilitates telecommuting. The spread of work, health and financial opportunities. In other words, no one reason seems to explain the trend with any certainty.
However, those in the know say we, as a society, were already moving toward “increased rootedness” before tech, before the Great Recession, before home prices rollercoasted. Could it be then that familiarity and a sense of belonging have grown in importance? Have we reached a point where our needs, financial, social and otherwise, can be met by staying close to home? Has proximity to family become as appealing as a better-paying job?
Who knows. Reasons for staying — or moving — are as varied as post-election analysis, but with my boys home for the holidays I want to think that the pull of tribe remains strong enough to lure my babies near, if not permanently at least as often as permitted.