About this time last year, I sold my townhouse, packed my car, and drove across the country into a new life. Texas to New Jersey, with a few stops in between.
Did I make the right decision? Absolutely yes. No regrets here. I decided to relocate because it was the right time for me. Still physically active and healthy at age 75, I wanted to take this huge step while able to orchestrate the move and create an active new life. More importantly, I relocated near one son whose family includes a young child. After many years working full-time, far away from immediate family, I now have the honor and pleasure of being a nearby grandmother to a lively (now) 5-year-old granddaughter. I missed a lot during those working years, which I’m making up for now.
My working life moved me to several states. All of them until now included owning a house. I now live in a
55-plus community, and — surprising to me — I do not miss owning a house at all.
I have everything I need to live comfortably in 850 square feet. I even have a garden plot to satisfy the master gardener in me, and I am proud to say I include my grandchild, Grace, in my planting endeavors. I have no worries about repairs, bugs, or yard maintenance. It’s a small neighborhood with congenial neighbors, many of whom have lived here since the community was built six years ago. When driving through local neighborhoods with homes for sale, any whisper of buying evaporates quickly. Still, it surprises me that I feel this way.
One of the hallmarks of central New Jersey is the well-educated population diversity – African American, East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and European – sprinkled throughout neighborhoods. It is not unusual to hear various languages spoken at adjoining restaurant tables, on the train to New York, or at the gym. What this translates to is a high caliber of diverse restaurants and grocery items.
New Jersey is also famous for diners and Wawa convenience stores that feature some of the best food ever. In local lingo, a “tomato pie” is equivalent to a pizza, a “pork roll” qualifies as a sandwich, a “hoagie” beats Subway any day, and “steak” refers to “cheesesteak.”
Living so close to my son has brought me into the current century electronically. He has fixed my network, programmed the streaming channels, and taught me how to use my iPhone. I feel that I’ve emerged from darkness into light.
My Subaru and I have explored widely. After so many years driving in Texas, New England travel seems remarkably economical. In a single day this summer, I crossed five states. This region is full of rural areas, wooded reserves, and spectacular gardens, with varied terrains that include everything from mountains and a long Atlantic coastline to congested cities and rural river towns. The scenery changes as rapidly as the state lines Colonial markers note places where the American story began — far earlier than the Alamo.
Over the past year, I’ve reconstructed my health network and updated “final papers” with a local elder law group. It’s good to check these chores off the list. They aren’t the fun part of moving.
Every relocation place has interesting groups and organizations to discover. Integrating into a community and making new friends is as important as any other relocation effort, and “affinity groups” are the best way to start. I joined the Master Gardeners of Mercer County.
Every Monday morning, I spend a few hours with a committed circle of friends in the gardens surrounding the New Jersey governor’s mansion. So far, I haven’t spotted Governor Phil Murphy, but I’m sure he appreciates how nice the grounds look.
In case Texas readers wonder — yes, New Jersey property taxes are higher than Texas. But the sales tax is nearly two points lower, the roads are well-paved, and the public schools are excellent. My granddaughter is in an all-day kindergarten program, which is taxpayer-covered and a tremendous benefit for working families.
Yes — the winters are longer and colder in New England. For me, it’s a reasonable trade for long, 100-plus-degree summers and drab fall color. No place is perfect, but there is no sense of personal sacrifice in moving.
I love being here, but I also enjoyed living in Texas.
The only lingering sadness is missing my Dallas friends. Having spent 25 years in Texas, I came to know and love the state well — its ethos, quirks, politics, gardens, and people. Texas is a unique place that exists in reality and in the soul. Texans wrap themselves in their Lone Star flag like no other state does. It takes a long time to make close friends — years of working together on community projects and sharing wine with conversation.
I don’t have this in New Jersey — not yet, anyway. But I’m working on that.