by BRUCE STAMBAUGH
My wife and I loved where we lived. We had spent our entire adult lives among the world’s largest Amish population in Holmes County, Ohio. Why would anyone want to leave that serene setting for the Shenandoah Valley?
Since we had visited the Valley several times in the last two decades, we could have provided numerous viable answers to that question. The picturesque mountains, the agrarian culture, the abundant natural beauty and recreational options, the rich history, the lively arts and educational opportunities all would have sufficed as legitimate reasons for new retirees to live in the Shenandoah Valley.
To us, however, those were all secondary benefits. Our move to Rockingham County was inevitable for one perfect, personal reason. Like so many retiring baby boomers, we wanted to be near our grandchildren in our senior years. We wanted to be close to them in their active formative years and assist their busy household however we could.
We observed we weren’t alone in relocating for that familial reason. We discovered many others either already had moved to the area or were going to do so. Grandchildren were important to them, too. That alone affirmed our decision to move.
Ironically, my older brother and his wife did the same thing for the same reason only in reverse. One month after we left, they moved from Williamsburg, Va., to our old county in Ohio.
Before we pulled up roots, however, our daughter and her husband assured us the Valley would remain their home no matter what path their careers took. With that, we moved to Virginia last May.
However, the planning and preparations began long before that. Before the move, we delved into the possibility of living in or near Harrisonburg. We spoke with friends who had already done so. Their advice was not to wait too long. The grandchildren grow up fast.
Like so many retiring baby boomers, we wanted to be near our grandchildren in our senior years.
We researched the cost of valley living, and discovered it was a bit higher than what we had experienced in Ohio. Housing was especially a concern. Our ever-alert daughter found a house in our price range that looked promising. Our real estate agent set up an appointment.
We liked the house and the location. We quickly agreed on a price with the owners and my wife signed the papers in a parking lot on the trunk of the realtor’s car late at night. Having gone home for some required meetings, I signed electronically online, a new experience for me.
It was shockingly out of character for us. In our 46 years of marriage, my wife and I never had been spontaneous buyers. Yet here we were making the largest purchase of our lives only 48 hours after having seen the home.
Moving wasn’t an easy decision by any means, though. We thought long and hard about it. Both my wife and I were born and raised in Ohio. We spent our careers in public education there and both served with several community organizations over the years. All the rest of our immediate family lives in Ohio, including our son. He gave us his blessing to move, but it wasn’t easy to let go of all of that.
To soften the change, we decided to take our time moving to the Shenandoah Valley. As quickly as we bought the house, we didn’t move in until 18 months later. We didn’t want to merely cut and run from the people and place we loved. My wife and I worked diligently for a year and a half to prepare for the move, taking the opportunity and space we needed to adjust to this major, life-changing decision.
We met with the local mover we hired. A sincere young man, he clearly knew his business. We found the combination of his expertise and experience immensely helpful in deciding what to take and what to leave. Our Virginia home was considerably smaller than the one in Ohio. We were downsizing after all.
We also spent much effort sorting and packing clothing, furniture and household goods. We found homes for family heirlooms that wouldn’t fit in our smaller Virginia home and donated many items to a local thrift store. We also met with family members and close friends before we exited, often over meals. Relationships are worth more than any material item.
While we were preparing to move, we rented the Virginia home to a family for a few months. After they had moved out, we hired contractors to update the landscaping and the house. We wanted to put our own personal touches on the place to make it our own. The contractors were glad to have these small jobs during their usually slower winter season.
I’m glad it took us that long to transition from one place to the other. Not everyone has the luxury of a slower moving like my wife and I did. But if you can, the benefits of taking your time can make it more than worthwhile. That’s especially true if you get to regularly enjoy your grandchildren.
BRUCE STAMBAUGH is a retired educator who moved last May to Rockingham County with his wife, Neva. He is a freelance writer and writes a column for a weekly newspaper in Millersburg, Ohio. This is the first in a series of four articles about moving to the Shenandoah Valley.