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James Ferragut, Published July 13 2013

Ferragut: Time for farewell to Fargo?

“A house means a family house. It’s a place specially meant for putting children and men in, so as to restrict their waywardness and distract them from the longing for adventure and escape they’ve had … since time began.” – Marguerite Duras


Recently I left my office in south Fargo for a meeting downtown. I took a route so familiar I could do it blindfolded. It’s a sacred path and as such, it is rarely traveled with intention. Taking this brief sojourn always leaves me conflicted about living in the city where I grew up.

I was a south side kid: Clara Barton grade school, Agassiz Junior High, the first graduating class at Fargo South. Growing up in Fargo was like living in Mayberry and “Leave It to Beaver”-land, with a dash of the “Twilight Zone” tossed in for flavor. It was the perfect baby boom childhood. I graduated in 1968. My best friends and I left the comfort and safety of Fargo for Arizona State in Tempe. Life was edgy, uncertain, culturally diverse and vibrant with the rebellion of the ’60s in the air. We became men in Arizona.

I returned to Fargo in the mid-1970s but my five best friends never did. They’ve been scattered across the country for decades. The route I took downtown that day brought me by each of their childhood houses, through our neighborhoods and by the cemetery where one of them is buried.

Living in my hometown is a mixed blessing. There are beautiful and haunting memories around every turn. But how many times can a once-precious memory be conjured without it being diluted, the result of dipping into the sacred well too many times?

Can I really feel the wonder of my youth when driving by Agassiz for the 500th time? Or by being awestruck by the beauty I saw in the golden arches of autumn trees on South Eighth Street when I came home after years in the Arizona desert?

To know my friends have carved out lives in more exotic environs than Fargo is a reminder of what I might be missing. I often think that I’ve missed the excitement, challenge and the learning curve of living someplace different from my town.

I’ve stayed in Fargo by choice. I passed on job opportunities in major markets for the very best of reasons: My parents and my wife’s parents are here. They are grandparents now. The bonds we forged are eternal and strong. Our lake cabin means more to me than life itself, not to mention friends, careers, church and the thrill of having watched Fargo grow beyond my wildest expectations.

But now my children are all, or will soon be, strewn helter-skelter across the country. My parents, God love ’em, are 86 and 92 years old, healthy and content. I would never consider leaving the Northern Plains until Father Time has fulfilled his final promise.

I’ve got Maine on my mind. I love Maine for its mountains, dense forests and cold-water lakes, the small towns and quaint villages, its 400-year history and the endless North Atlantic coastline. The conundrum: I have only so many years to do my bucket list. I have to decide.

Is it wrong to consider a move to Maine? It is a big deal; implications complicated; execution daunting; upside intriguing.

I don’t want to, as Duras said, “restrict my waywardness” and “distract my longing for adventure and escape.” It’s inevitable, I think. But what the hell do I know?


Ferragut is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion and commentary pages.