(I’m interviewing people I meet as I tour across the country) Padma Viswanathan moved to Fayetteville in the summer of 2006. Before Fayetteveille she lived in Tuscon where she did an MFA in creative writing and before that she lived in San Francisco with my ex-girlfriend. I stayed with Padma and her husband Geoff Brock when I was in town for a reading at the University of Arkansas.
I moved to Fayetteville in the summer of 2006 because my husband got a job here in the creative writing department teaching poetry and literary translation. We already had our son Ravi. He was one-and-a-half when we moved here. Our daughter Mira was born here in September 2007.
Our son was born in Tucson. My mom came to help. She came earlier than we wanted, and stayed longer than we intended, and in those weeks she cooked amazing Indian meals and did all our laundry and made everything very pleasant during a very difficult time. At the end of that time when we were totally in her thrall she offered to retire from her job and come live with us for a couple of months. After a couple of months she said, “Do you want me to convince your dad to retire as well?” and I said sure and Geoff said yes yes yes make them come. So we rented a little apartment for them because we didn’t have a house big enough for them to live with us.
When we moved to Fayetteville we bought a house big enough that they could have the second floor. It’s possible in Fayetteville for someone in our income bracket to buy a house large enough that your parents can have two bedrooms. They stay with us eight months of the year, exactly during the academic cycle. Last year, when my book came out, they stayed on in May to let me do a couple weeks of trips.
They have a condo still in Edmonton where I grew up and they go back there for six weeks around Christmas to see all their doctors and for my mother’s mother. I grew up with my mother’s mother in the house. We’re kind of replicating what I had when I grew up.
Geoff’s parents also moved here. Before we moved to Tucson Geoff’s dad was already retired and didn’t really have a permanent place of residence. When we moved to Tucson he came to visit and ended up buying a condo there on the other side of town. And then, when we moved to Fayetteville, he had remarried and was again drifting around. They bought a house in Fayetteville less than a mile from us.
Geoff’s mom had also met someone and they decided they wanted to consolidate their households. Her boyfriend was in Indiana and she was in Dallas looking after her own aged mom who by then had gone into a home. They looked at a few different places and realized that Fayetteville offers a lot. So they also decided to buy a house here.
My mother has setup a play group in our home. Two mornings a week three other parents arrive, each with two children. Eight children with their parents or grandparents assemble and my mom has designed very specific activities based on montessori principles. She did a montessori certification just out of interest and really wanted our kids to have regular friends that they do structured activities with.
I miss the big cities less and less. We travel a lot so we get to spend time in metropolises. I’m also aware that my friends in big cities who have kids, their lives change too. It would be nice to have more access to funky coffee shops. The playgrounds in San Francisco are actually amazing and we miss our friends in those places. But with travel and that’s the best we can do. Maybe I don’t let myself think about it too much.
I never would have left Montreal if it wasn’t for Geoff. Geoff loved san francisco but it was not realistic for people like us to own a home, let alone a big enough place for my parents to live with us. In lifestyle terms to be working artists this is a great place for us. I have an office. Our home is spacious and comfortable. We can do this without having to scramble madly all the time to make money. And Fayetteville being a smaller center lets us have that. And it’s nice to be away from the sort of clutter of gossip and agents. I have really great friends who are writers and I like to talk to them about the business of writing but I don’t necessarily want to be running into that on a daily basis. Our friends here aren’t writers and so you’re away from the business of writing and you can focus on the writing itself in a way that I find refreshing.
Picture of Dickson Street Bookshop by Jason Hudson.