Spring is a fickle, fickle girl. The tulips are blooming and the peas have come up and this morning we had hail and a tornado watch. A year ago today the movers delivered our furniture and I sat on the front steps marking off boxes and getting sunburned, oblivious to the fact that Tennessee was showing us a kindness in weather; today we had patio chairs delivered in a deluge and I didn’t even venture outside to sign for them. Daffodils were the first calling card spring delivered this year, glowing swaths of gold that appeared out of nowhere. Then came the Bradford Pear trees, giant white hydrangeas floating midair. The redbuds started next, violet vitality in otherwise bare woods. Then, much to my surprise, the cherry trees were covered in pink frosting. Driving into the neighborhood last April, I contracted my first case of keeping up with the neighbors at the sight of a weeping cherry in every front yard. I promptly planted my own and watched it bloom this year – a full week earlier than I expected. Returning from California, I see there are dogwoods coming into their own now, much sooner than last year…. But we are still bare branched in most places, far more so than I remember a year ago, and I’m wondering where the leaves are. Of course, I’m wondering where we are, too, so the leaves might just be a side effect.
We left Altadena early on April 5th last year, pulling out of town in on a dreary morning in a car packed with unhappy animals and no shortage of mixed emotions. We had to drive (flying with Guinea Pigs is not recommended), but it turned out that the drive was the best thing we could have done for ourselves. The abrupt nature of air travel doesn’t lend itself to life transitions, and I don’t know that I would have been as mentally balanced as I was about the move had our first steps in Tennessee as residents had been on the tarmac rather than at the Visitors Welcome Center off I65. The slow transfer of 2000 miles from ahead to behind let us ease into the idea that we were leaving the west “for real.” The landscape felt familiar through Texas, but somewhere in Oklahoma it began to change, and by the time we woke up last April 8th in Missouri, I knew that we had really left home behind. The final day of driving was the hardest and the closer we got the more knotted my stomach became, but under the knot was also a relief that we were almost done, that we’d made it, that we were starting a whole new adventure once we parked. True or not, I managed to transfer my desire to stop moving to a desire to be here; a cheap trick, but it worked.
A year later, we stepped off a plane and onto that tarmac and I felt as disoriented as though I had never driven the lonely road from there to here. I don’t know that my timing of a trip to California (our first real visit) could have been much worse than to coincide with our anniversary of moving; I spent my time there in an odd haze of feeling like I was home, and my week here since being back in an even odder haze of feeling like I am home. I’d like to make like a guinea pig and get in my chube and stay there until the confusion passes. LA felt very big to me, and busy, and dirty, all things I never really noticed until I’d lived somewhere green and small town and hey, y’all, stop in the middle of street and chat. The persistence of the green here means we don’t have dry roadsides and barren strips – our grass covers more sins. On the other hand, I saw the silhouette of palm trees against a darkening sky, the shape of downtown and the presence of the mountains and I could have cried at the LA-beauty of it all, brash and bare and kind of ugly, except that is isn’t at all.
There were moments, no doubt, when I fervently wished for the life I had left behind to be restored to me, right now, click the heels on the ruby slippers, I’m home. I miss fitting in, having friends, knowing where to go and who to call and wow, the sheer variety of choice on one street. I miss my friends terribly, and saying goodbye to them was just as painful as ever – maybe more, because now I know what it is to live without them. It was odd to know that life there has just marched on, steadily, while we’ve been here moving forward in jolts and spurts and sometimes completely sitting still. There were also moments when I thought how lucky we were to be living here, in the midst of all of this green, with the bulbs blooming and my garden planned, the neighborhood we’re beginning to feel a part of and the space to breathe. I find it easier to let life unfold here without as much strain; my feathers are ruffled less than they used to be. I enjoy getting less worked up, but I do worry if it means I’m getting soft, the Aimee equivalent of Mike driving around Pasadena like a Tennessean, slowly and with consideration for others.
I guess the sum of it is that I don’t wish we’d stayed, but I’m not 100% glad we left. A year isn’t really enough to sort through all the permutations of a complete uprooting of life; it is silly of me to have expected the heavens to open with a proclamation one way or another on April 8th, one year later. I’m still enjoying the differences, still missing the familiar. Maybe it will always be that way – I’ll always be from California in some inalterable way, though I am starting to identify with the things that drew me to Tennessee. I’m waiting until summer, I think, to have truly been here a year anyway. This spring is different from what we saw last year, and besides, we spent all of last year’s spring moving boxes and exploring Home Depot. This year I plan to soak it up, spending more time outside building a garden than indoors building a home. When summer rolls around and I can look outside and say, ah, yes, I remember this, then I’ll consider myself one year gone. Besides, isn’t the honeymoon period two years?