Relocating because of the recession.

Snapshots of life at home.
May 20 2009 4:16 PM

Moving Truck Courtesy of the Recession

What it's like to relocate because of the downturn.

(Continued from Page 1)

Actually, Andie is giving the money to her mother, because her father doesn't know. "On some level does he know they're in trouble? I don't know. I've never talked with him about it," she says. Andie thinks of the payments as rent, but her mother hates the idea that she would ever charge one of her children to live in her house and prefers to say that 'Andie is helping them through a difficult time.' " Andie is paying for other expenses as well, like a family lunch with her grandmother in the hospital for Memorial Day, though she's not sure how long she can keep that up.

The hardest part, perhaps, is coming to terms with her parents' limitations. "I can't make them into frugal people who are good financial planners," she said. And so even as she funnels her salary their way, she watches as her parents hold on to certain upper-middle class habits. Every month, they host a big dinner for the extended family. "I think my mother would rather declare bankruptcy than compromise on that." When her mother talked to Andie's younger sister about going to public school for her senior year, "My sister bawled and said, 'How come everyone else got to go to this school we all went to? And that made my mom feel terrible and she said, 'OK, we'll figure out some way.' "

Advertisement

You can dismiss this as privileged whining, I suppose. No one is going homeless. But it seems to me that her family's crisis, however self-manufactured, presents all kinds of delicate complexity for Andie to sort through. She moved home to help her parents because she couldn't stand to see them slide down the financial chute. "If I weren't here to help, I couldn't function," she says. "It would consume my thoughts." And so she is home, and she is helping, but that means shoring up a lifestyle for her parents and her younger sister that she knows is probably unsustainable. "I don't think my parents have long-term plans, and I don't know what my future reality will be because I don't know what will happen with them." That is a lot of subsuming of one's own identity. When Andie moved, she left behind her independence and re-entered her parents' world. And yet even as she is close by and supportive, she has to hold herself apart because she can see the frailty of their choices. Not easy.

And so it was a bit of a relief to hear from another reader, Jen, who wrote with a classic story of moving in pursuit of good old opportunity. She graduated from the law school at American University in 2006, and moved from Washington, D.C., back to Cleveland, where she grew up. Her boyfriend, whom she started dating in her hometown, finished an MBA program there. But he could not find a job in their chosen city. Instead he got a job in Denver, and they moved there together last spring. Jen found a job at a law firm. "Since our move, we've become engaged, bought a house, bought a new car, and are planning an October 2009 wedding," she writes. "While we miss our families, we realized that to have a chance at the life we really wanted, we needed to find a better economic climate. … As much as I'd like to be altruistic, I also know that I need to be able to make a life for myself." That's the familiar American new-horizons spirit. It may not be the typical story of this recession. But at least it's not gone entirely.

***

Thanks for all the great e-mails, and keep them coming. Next question: Has the downturn changed a friendship that matters to you, in a profound or smaller but telling way? Or your relationship with a sibling? Send your responses to me at doublex.slate@gmail.com. E-mail may be quoted in Slate unless the writer stipulates otherwise. If you want to be quoted anonymously, please let me know.

This article also appears in Double X.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.