7225424826_cbd4b5b0e0Westward ho? Roz contemplates Silicon Valley. (Image by Patrick Rasenberg via Flickr)

My son and his wife are thinking of moving to California. Although Tom and Amy were born and raised here on the East Coast, the move makes sense. He’s a computer genius. She’s a tech marketing PR genius. They graduated from Johns Hopkins two years ago and are doing great work in Baltimore.

But Silicon Valley, inevitably, beckons. 

They’re not thrilled about how far they’d be from their East Coast families. “But when we have kids, you’ll move there too, right?” Tom asks me.  

I was an at-home mom. I love kids, and I’m great with them. And I really love babies.    

But I also love my life in the Philadelphia suburbs.       

Growing up in Detroit, I couldn’t wait to move to the East Coast. That’s where I knew I belonged. I saw myself living and writing in Manhattan. In a penthouse. With a kick-ass view of Central Park. And although I’ve had to make a few adjustments to that dream over the years, I‘m perfectly happy living near Philadelphia, visiting Manhattan often, and blogging for Womens Voices, the Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

At Tom’s age, though, I had my own California dream. After four years at the University of Chicago (Unofficial Motto: “Where Fun Goes To Die“), I was more than ready for sunshine and good times. I moved to Palo Alto and got a job in an ice cream parlor. I loved the fabulous weather, the relaxed vibe, and the friendly, easygoing people. But relentlessly pleasant, feel-good California just didn’t feel like home to me.    

Within a year, I was enrolled at Boston University Law School, happy to trade scooping ice cream for studying law. I‘ve lived on the East Coast ever since.      

California? Been there. Done that. Not for me. 

But grandchildren can be game-changers.

“Welcome to the world’s best club,” a friend commented on Facebook when my pal Liz posted a photo of herself, beaming, her brand-new granddaughter in her arms. One by one, my friends are becoming grandparents. It’s a club I’m longing to join.   

With any luck, I will. I’m even luckier that Tom wants me to be there for his kids. In fact, he could be counting on it.       

I could become a Flying Grandma! The kind who lives across the country but reliably turns up for vacations, birthdays, piano recitals, soccer matches, and major Jewish holidays.

Or I could relocate. 

My own grandparents lived nearby when I was a kid, and I have great memories, not just of special occasions but of routine pleasures. Watching Queen for a Day on the sofa with Grandma Sadie, or noshing on homemade gefilte fish in her kosher kitchen. Playing checkers with Grandpa. Grandma Libby, with spectacular patience, playing “War” with me for hours, games that, mysteriously, I always won.  

My (as yet hypothetical) California grandchildren will have a stable home and loving parents. I’m sure they’ll get along just fine without my being there day-to-day, to play with them, snuggle with them, sing them goofy songs, and read them If I Ran the Circus.     

But why should they have to?    

It could be worse. The kids could be moving to Salt Lake City. Or Ohio. Even for the world’s most adorable grandbaby, I’m not sure I could relocate to Akron.   

California is a great place. But I’m a walker. I love sidewalks. And bookstores. And the theater. I cherish my MoMA membership. And my edgy, urban friends. Not to mention my wonderful sister (and fellow transplanted Midwesterner), who lives here too. (And with whom I share the world’s cutest Yorkiepoo.) 

At 58, I finally know exactly who I am. A writer who lives and works in suburban Philadelphia and makes frequent trips to New York. How tough could it be to expand that definition to include frequent cross-country trips to enjoy my grandchildren? 

“I know you,“ a friend said. “When you fly out to visit that first grandchild, you won’t want to get back on the plane.”

She could be right. 

“Have a kid,” I tell my son. “We‘ll see what happens.”   

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  • jody August 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Well put. A question I often ask myself. Only my year old grandson lives in Illinois . As a former Californian who adopted Maine as her home 20 years ago I have never really believed in the existence of the middle part of the country. But being a visiting grandma is hard…the world is just too big…….

  • Kelly July 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

    NOOO! Philadelphia needs you!!!

  • Roz Warren July 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to post such thoughtful and encouraging responses. Especially those of you who have such positive things to say about California life. WomensVoices readers are everywhere!

  • Susanna Gaertner July 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    This native Nykr is VERY happy in a suburb of Santa Cruz which, while wacky, has year-round perfect weather, fabulous food, great indie movie theaters, wonderful concerts up at UCSC, a world class Arboretum…and is within easy driving distance of both Silicon Valley and San Francisco, which, as others have pointed out, does have its share of cultural enticements.
    Now in my mid-60’s, I would not return to Manhattan except to visit.

  • Karen July 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Having transplanted myself from what is now Silicon Valley ( grew up before the term suburb was what my town was called) to Manhattan and then to a CT suburb to raise a family, I really relate to what Roz wrote. Living near Manhattan but enjoying the space to garden and use my wheels is a great combo. But those Silicon Valley towns have downtowns where you can live and walk on sidewalks to independent bookstore, a train that takes you to “the city” (San Francisco) for museums, theatre, ballet, etc. So don’t despair if you decide to relocate. Your sister can be the Flying Great Aunt while you start a new chapter on the left coast.

  • ellen sue spicer-jacobson July 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Being physically close to your grandchildren is a great gift.
    And as you note, there are worse places than California!
    My 3 grown up kids are on the West Coast & I wish I could move there, but my husband is a die-hard Philadelphian.I have moved 29 times. One more would make it an even 30!

  • Liat July 21, 2013 at 12:32 am

    We only have one child (just turned 16) but when my husband spoke of his dream of retiring to Tuscany I just laughed at him and said, we are going to where the grandkids are! I would definitely go to California (better weather and the internet is everywhere!) but wait till the kids arrive…

  • Diane Dettmann July 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Interesting dilemma, Roz! I fell in love with the Pacific at the age of 8 on my first trip to California in 1957 to visit my grandmother in Alhambra. Spent my honeymoon in 1972 in Carmel and the central coast captured my heart. In spite of the high taxes and earthquake possibilities, I’d move to California if I could. Yet for some odd reason, in spite of the snow and subzero winters, Minnesota keeps me here. I think the saying “home is where the heart is” might be true. Best wishes on your decision!

  • Ex-NYer July 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    As a native NYer now living in San Francisco, I think you might be surprised how, in the years since you were Tom’s age, “relentlessly pleasant, feel-good” less and less describes the Bay Area (the weather, however, is still perfect.)

    And as someone whose parents finally made the move to CA (where BOTH of their children live) when they were in their 80’s, I will offer the suggestion that the move may be inevitable, and will certainly be easier on you if you do it while you are still active and social and can easily make new friends.

  • Roz Warren July 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the input everybody. And I totally agree with Andy — WomensVoicesForChange is a GREAT site both to be published on and as a go-to place for good writing about everything I care about, not to mention reliable medical information. This place is unique, and a treasure. And on a totally different topic, Suzanne your point about the Big One is well taken. When the kids move, I can stop worrying about Baltimore crime and begin worrying about earthquakes. There’s ALWAYS something for a good mother to worry about.

  • Amy Smith July 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Fabulous article! Roz, did you know there is a San Francisco MoMA? I think the best comment award so far goes to Janet. “As a native Californian living in metropolitan Philadelphia I’d say I’m ready to move back and take care of your grandchildren (until I get my own).” Always knew you were a true friend of Roz!

  • Kait July 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Roz, as a Palo Alto native, I will tell you that SV is an amazing place if you are young and building a career. And right now, tech companies are hiring. BUT, and that’s an enormous but, SV is a heartbreaker for young couples who want to buy and home and build a family. Salaries are “high” here, but for the most part not high enough to sensibly support a mortgage. Prices on the peninsula and in SF start around $500K, and that’s rare. So people move to the east or north bay. Still high, and a terrible commute.

    I love it here, and could never move. But I’m in my 50s, and on my fourth house. My first home was $90K, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to build value since them. It was a completely different era.

    The bay area, while still wonderful, has also lost a lot of its bedroom community charm. This morning I got an email from a friend who works at HP. She told me she’s dreaming of the day she can retire and move to a small town. I’m with Oracle, and I feel exactly the same. Traffic is hell, crowds are everywhere, and crime is up. Denver, Atlanta, and other major cities have booming tech communities, and might be a better option for your son and his wife.

  • Nancy July 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

    My old friend Lana’s mother did just this, moved to a different area of the country to be close to Lana’s brother and his wife who were replicating. Things were initially rosy, then relations soured. The Gmom is rarely allowed to see the kids…reportedly the visits are doled out sparingly as rewards for financial help and other favors. Now Lana herself has a child, and she is a single Mom, living in the place her mother moved from. Gmom is not up to moving again, so stuck in locale where her help is not wanted, far from the place where her help would be extremely appreciated. Oy!

    Easier in your case with just one child, but just saying!

  • Andy Johnson July 20, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Roz – Enjoyed the essay but DO NOT move to California. On another topic…Whenever I sign on to Women’s Voices to read Roz’s essays, I always find other interesting things to read as well. I watched that Dustin Hoffman clip and was moved until I thought: Wait. He’s an actor. Was that real emotion or an act?

  • Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) July 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I thought techies were supposed to be location independent — able to work from anywhere. My parents lived 15 minutes away when we were raising our sons — talk about great. Besides, they have earthquakes in California and they’re overdue for the Big One. My sister moved to California from our home town of Philadelphia in 1980, married and had a child there. Whenever she visits back East, she regrets her decision to stay on the Left Coast. Maybe you could become bi-coastal—a pied-a-terre in California, especially for use in the winter!

  • Gail Neri July 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Although your piece is very personal I felt compelled to respond. As a 2nd generation native New Yorker, retired and always squeezing in as much theater, Museums, etc as possible my husband and I have sold our Brooklyn house & are relocating to Summerlin, Nevada for our retirement. We are 60. Our adult daughter is coming with us & we have other family & friends there. There are surprisingly many opportunities to enjoy ourselves there, hiking, camping, concerts, restaurants, etc., Cali. is nearby and has so much to offer. I think you won’t be disappointed to be with the ones you love. 🙂

  • Roz Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Janet — you’re on! We can plan the whole thing out next Friday when we’re at the beach.

  • Roz Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

    California Girl, I did LOVE San Francisco. (Although getting there from Menlo Park was a schlep.) THANKS for reminding me.

  • California Girl July 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Jgolden08: I hear ya!

  • California Girl July 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

    As a native Southern Californian who has lived in various states along the east coast, I understand your trepidation. Surely, having lived in Palo Alto, you enjoyed the many cultural offerings in S.F. not to mention the vibrant city life where walking is still practiced with joy? A visit to the “city by the bay” might calm your apprehensions.

  • jgolden08 July 20, 2013 at 9:11 am

    As a native Californian living in metropolitan Philadelphia I’d say I’m ready to move back and take care of your grandchildren (until I get my own)