In 1970 when I moved to Memphis with my parents and three siblings, little did I know that I would still be living here 50 years later. Considering at the time that I was only fourteen years old and at that point in my life had lived in two different states and three different cities, longevity of residence in one place was not typical. And yet, this past week marks 50 years since we moved here.
So, were we a family of vagabonds? No far from that, my father was a Presbyterian minister and often when his work was complete at one church, he would be called to another one. In fact, he was called to be the first minister at two newly established churches during his 40-year career.
Before we moved to Memphis, the longest time my dad had spent at a single church was six years. Adding six years to my age of 14 would put me in the middle of my college years which who knew where I might be attending. College might be in another town which could lead to a first job in another different town. But future events would exert a hold on me and here I would stay.
Memphis was the largest town I lived in growing up and the largest town my parents ever lived in their whole lives. My three siblings all moved away from Memphis before the end of that first decade here and have each lived in much larger towns. Even my three children have all lived in larger towns during their college and graduate school years. But turns out, Memphis offered all the things I needed, and more.
Getting that first driver’s license is a really special day for a devoted car-lover. Less than two years after moving to Memphis, I was trading in a motorcycle license for an automobile license—the only one I have ever gotten and the one I still have today since I have never lived in another state.
Even better, less than two years later I was buying my first car, an American Motors Gremlin. This was a purchase made possible because here is where I got my first job in high school (besides throwing newspapers or cutting lawns); selling ladies shoes at a local department store. This particular store and job would factor again into my future not long after.
When it came time to choose a college, there were several factors that influenced my decision to stay in Memphis. I had a good paying job that I could continue to keep, I had a car note to make, and I had a local girlfriend. My parents had wanted all four of their kids to attend a Presbyterian college (which we did) and Memphis just happened to have one—Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College)—a liberal arts college with a beautiful campus.
My first semester, I lived at home and commuted to school, but it just didn’t have the feel of college. At the beginning of my second semester, I moved on campus and that made all the difference. In addition to being on campus 24/7 for no matter what happened day or night, it gave me my first taste of living away from home.
Staying in town for college but living on campus also came with some perks. It allowed me to continue going to my dad’s church and keep my job. Once my mom started working in the library on campus, she would take me out to lunch on Fridays and then I would give her my dirty laundry to wash over the weekend for pick-up after church and lunch on Sunday. One could say I was a bit spoiled.
Before I graduated, I also met my future wife (my relationship with my in-town girlfriend did not last past my sophomore year). It was while I was working at that local department store in my senior year that she came in to buy some shoes. In hindsight, had I gone to college out of town or stopped working during college, it is likely I never would have met her. I previously wrote a post about How We Met if you are interested in reading about a case of absolutely being in the exact right place at the right time.
Following college graduation, I started graduate school here in town, based on the advice of one my favorite college professors. I had debated going to the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville to get an advanced degree in organic chemistry (ironically the degree my brother actually obtained), but it was analytical chemistry and the opportunity to work with laboratory instrumentation that swayed me to go to the UT Center for Health Sciences here in Memphis.
Starting in that summer and throughout the fall, the relationship with my future wife blossomed and by December of that year, we became engaged.
We were married the following December and since she was a life-long Memphian, obviously the wedding was in Memphis at the same church where her parents were also married (and it just so happened to be the same church were our daughter was married over 30 years later).
Once I had completed my graduate course work but before I had finished my research, I obtained my first job in my field working at the VA hospital in town as a toxicologist. Now with two incomes (my wife was a city schoolteacher), we were able to buy our first house and start our family.
My wife actually found my next job while reading the newspaper in our backyard one Sunday morning. When she read the job description for an analytical chemist at a local pharmaceutical company, I told her that was exactly what I wanted to do. I have previously written a series of posts on how through serendipity or divine guidance, I ended up in My Career for those interested in the details.
For those that just want the CliffsNotes version, I spent my entire career staying in Memphis while at the same time, working for three different large pharmaceutical companies.
After I retired in 2017, my work tie of living in Memphis was severed and the opportunity arose for us to move out of town without me having to start a new job. But before that milestone date, something else happened. The second of what would become our five grandchildren was born in Memphis. Suddenly the thought of moving out of town would mean losing the close relationship we have developed with our in-town granddaughter. And with another grandchild, her sibling on the way here in Memphis, the reason for staying will have doubled.
Now that I have been a Memphian for fifty years, I guess the one remaining question is will we ever move? The answer to that obviously won’t be known until sometime in the future. But I am confident whether you believe it to be serendipity or divine guidance, we will live wherever we are meant to be.