The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Moving day for the (former) neighbors

Partially disassembled play set awaits space on moving van(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 11/1/2013)

The moving van is gone, and with it our neighbors of the past five years. Nice kids, those. I don’t use that term pejoratively, but from my elevated chronological perspective, anyone with a four-year-old and a two-year-old is a kids.

Actual age is, sometimes, difficult to determine by looking. A friend who has been hanging around since the mid-1970s reminded me the other day he’s 57. I didn’t think he was that old. I knew it, on some level, but I didn’t think it. I’m older than that, except when I’m walking around, hiking up Pole Steeple, or motorcycle riding.

The kids next door are, relatively, just starting out. They were raised here, married, got an apartment, then bought the house next door and rescued a dog. I remember well the day that white rocket bounded out of the family buggy like a missile ricocheting off invisible walls.

“Marley!” I exclaimed, then had to explain Marley was the dog in “Marley and Me,” a book by John Grogan. Anyone who loves dogs and has not read it should rectify the situation at the earliest opportunity. I loaned Rob and Lindsay the book, the name stuck, and Marley proceeded to live up to his namesake.

Marley’s signature characteristic is his propensity for finding sticks, from foot-long, inch-thick pieces to four-inch thick logs, and hauling them around, begging someone to play tug-a-war. A couple morning’s ago, he was at the base of the long-needle pine, trying to get at a squirrel taken refuge in its branches. He’d jump at the tree, bark, and then bend to the task of gnawing the root. If he couldn’t get to the squirrel, he seemed bound to bring the squirrel to him.

For the past five years, Marley and Grady – the Golden Retriever who shares our home – have played together, bounded by our overlapping invisible fences. At first, the snarling would frighten us some, but we got used to rushing outside only to discover the two boys wrestling and laughing. We soon stopped rushing outside.

So this is their first real move, across state lines. Standing talking, the trauma was noticeable. It made me think of my first move with a start-out family. I had enlisted in the Navy in Maine, attended several schools, and landed in Jacksonville, Fla. But when you’re barely 18, the wonders of all those places, regardless their purpose in personal history, overrode any feeling of moving. Anyway, each place between Maine and Florida was a mere resting place, where roots hadn’t time to take.

Then I married a wonderful young woman who seemed not to mind, most of the time, putting up with me. Soon military orders sent us west, and I and the pregnant lass left friends and a life behind and drove a two-seat sports car to California. Several moves, several lives and several families of friends later, we retired, moved to Maine, then to Adams County, Pa. At a couple of those stops, I moved multiple times – three in Norfolk, Va. three in Adams County. One of the two Maine moves, we actually moved the whole house – no easy task for a wood-frame, 20-by-32 cottage, but at least we didn’t have to pack our belongings. I now reside at Abode Number 12.

I read somewhere the average young person starting out a working life will change jobs and move six times before retirement.

That doesn’t help much, though, as I look out my window at the stilted tree house and swings lying disassembled on the back lawn, waiting to be placed in the big orange 18-wheeler, and think about how to explain to our three-year-old grandson when next he visits that Mason and the play set have moved away.

As Rob pointed out, we’ve still got Facebook, but it won’t quite be the same.


  1. Good memories, good friends. You encapsulated my life.

  2. People have a difficult time fathoming my family’s lot–we have lived in the same county for six generations.

    • Although living in, so far, abode #12 has given me opportunity to visit lots of places and cultures and makes many friends, it also has forced me to leave behind many friends and made me jealous, sometimes, of people who have lived their lives immersed in a familiar history.

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