Saturday, July 4, 2015

You Can’t Go Home Again


You can’t go home again, wrote Tom Wolfe, because your home will have changed, and so will have you.

Still, you can visit what was once your home, which will only highlight all that has changed, and all that you have lost and all that you have gained. That’s what we did the first weekend after school let out for the summer.


I had been debating for days whether or not we should drive by our old house. The house had only been framed when we bought it in 2004, so the hours and muscle and money we poured into making it a home had made us extremely attached to it. I sometimes joked we could never move because it would be so odd to come back (so many people move away from Moab---and then move back) and have someone else living in our house.

I was verklempt just driving past the stop sign where our boys got off the bus in 1st grade, and was sure we were making a mistake driving to the house.

not our house

Then we turned a corner and saw this green house. Not our house, but a green house. And we all started laughing. It was like a gift---it was so clearly not our house anymore. Several neighbors recognized our car and we had a mini-reunion in the middle of the street. The new owners could not have been more gracious and gave us a tour of all their renovations and updates. And I felt elated. The house I had loved, the one I brought my babies home to and found so hard to let go, no longer existed. I’m so happy it has a brand new face and that the new owners are making it all their own.


When planning our trip, we each contributed to a short “must-do/see” list for our weekend. Mass with our much-missed community at St. Francis was easily a “must.”

St Francis

I know this will shock you (ha!), but I was always critical of our parish in Moab. Not enough youth programs, not enough Glory & Praise songs, etc. At the same time, I knew we were blessed to have found a home parish at long last. It’s where we celebrated almost a dozen Nativity plays, Nolan’s Baptism, Aidan’s First Communion as well as Sean’s. And it is where the boys met and fell in love with our dear Miss Bobbie.

We went to at least four different churches before settling upon one here in Colorado, and after attending the same one for several months, Brian leaned over one Sunday and whispered, “Just so you know, when I go, I want my service at St. Francis.” That was out of character for Brian in many ways, but it reinforced what we all still feel---that our home parish is in Moab.

2015-06-04 048

Shave Ice from Tropical Sno was also on our list, as well as dinner at the Diner, lunch at Milt’s, and breakfast at Love Muffin. Check, Check, Check.

2015-06-05 004

2015-06-05 011

I wanted a Friday afternoon at Old City Park, just like old times. Grateful to CeCe, Catherine, Marva, Liz, Kathy, and Natalie ---who came out, despite some thunder and the threat of rain. It wasn’t the same lazy afternoon, with mamas on beach towels and blankets, but it was close---it’s impossible to avoid the intensity that limited time brings. One huge highlight was Aidan getting to see his best friend, whom we all thought wasn’t going to be in town that weekend. They were too cool to hug each other, but they both had huge grins on their faces the whole time.

The weather didn’t cooperate with biking or hiking, but as great as that would’ve been, this short weekend was all about seeing people. Brian got to meet up with his friends for a beer. I got to hug Miss Tiger and have a fast chat with Sarah, and a crazy adventure at Woody’s with Christy. The boys had gaming with friends at Moab’s Library on their must-do list…but couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let them check out a pile of books! Christy met me at the library, and we solved world problems as well as our own while pretending our kids were still toddlers in the play area. Christy makes me laugh as hard as she makes me think---a rare treasure.

webmoab collage 2015_edited-2

So grateful to our friends, Kathy and Tom, who hosted us at Hotel Lacy. Loved sitting on their patio talking about old times and new times with them and the Wallings, while we all pretended not to notice the boys sneaking so many marshmallows that they were all gone by the time we went to make s’mores!

As anyone who has moved knows, not all friendships survive the lack of proximity. When you are no longer part of the minutia of each other’s lives, it can be hard to get past the generic: “How are things?” “Things are good.”

It made me appreciate Instagram---I loved being able to ask a friend about the race she’s training for, or when others knew little things that aren’t important enough to mention but that, ultimately, are the things that matter most to us.

And then there are the magical friendships where you just pick up where you left off and it feels like, surely you’ll see each other again tomorrow. The friendships formed while raising your babies and toddlers are as intense as the ones from college---when we were raising ourselves!

201506Moab (125 of 38)

On the six-hour drive home we stopped at Chipotle and guess whose writing was on my cup? My old friend (even if she doesn’t know it) Barbara Kingsolver---writing about the importance of community.

2015-06-04 042

She writes that scholars who research social well-being have found that the happiest people aren’t the very poor or the very rich, but “the ones with the most community.” (Interestingly, Mexico, Ireland, and Puerto-Rico are named as the places with the strongest sense of community).

Back in Golden, I was happy to see Duke and our house, but, as a friend here pointed out, I was comparing 10 years worth of community to the 10-months worth that we have built here.

There are numerous reasons why we left Moab, and just as many why I’m glad we are here, but I do wonder if we’ll make the same ties.

I’m working full-time now, and am grateful for the smart and funny people I get to work with daily. But those connections will never compare to the ones made while you are both trying to nurse your babies at a park.

I’m part of a book club here and we live on a cul de sac with great neighbors…but I’m working full-time now, so where will the time come to connect in the same way?

Our kids are older now. So, while I’ll get to know their friends, I can’t imagine I’ll know their friends’ parents in the way that you automatically do when your kids are little---when your friendships dictate who their friends are.

At times I feel too old and tired to make good friends again. I have enough already, and too little time to be the friend I want to be to my old friends. At other times, I feel like the manic bear in YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! If only I could shrink the world. My close friends are spread out, not just in Moab but in different states. My old friend in New Zealand calls and I feel that relief---I can tell her a story and not have to fill in all the background or the cast of characters. She’ll get it. New connections require more effort, time, and energy than I have.


And then I remember the words of women wiser than me. Karen Maezen Miller would tell me, “You have all the time in the world.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh advised us to remain “empty, open, choiceless as a beach.” And young Jess Lively says, “Our purpose is to serve others in the present moment wherever we happen to be.”

I’m not quite sure what to do with those words at this point, but I know in my heart that they are true.

And that you can go home again---so long as home is not a place.

In the end (and the beginning), Moab is no longer our home.

But it will always be our Holy Land.

2015-06-07 027

Monday, June 1, 2015

What I Learned in May 2015

Forgive some obviousness and repetitiveness. I am always learning the same things over and over.

1. The only thing better than being a work-from-home parent is having a work-from-home spouse.

Brian took some vacation days to help the boys kick off summer. Do you know what a difference it makes to know your children are with their dad? To be able to go to work early---without making breakfast or packing lunches? To not wonder if you left wet clothes in the washer or whether you should have defrosted something for dinner.

It makes me realize that not only did I have it good all those years I worked from home---so did he!

2. Life is too short to save the good stuff. 

I finally opened the case holding the marble chess set Brian gave me many years ago. Our magnetic travel set can actually be a travel set now. And---shocker---beauty attracts! It's been played with almost daily since I set it up.

3.  Our senses are a gift, a link to the present moment. 

This is probably the most obvious one on the list, but has honestly been the biggest "a-ha" for me this spring. When life gets busy, I struggle with feeling like I'm on a conveyor belt and life is happening to me. This has less to do with busy-ness, and more to do with being too much in my own head. 

And the way out of that funk is almost always paying attention. And my own senses have been a key to that this spring. Our boys are growing fast, our calendar is full, but we can stop and listen, and smell and taste and touch and see! Who knew what magic we already possessed?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On my nightstand: Short Stories

My friends Angie,  Lara, and I have been offering each other a different challenge each month this year. I love the challenges! They usually involve something I want to do, but wouldn’t make time for without the external obligation I feel to my friends (classic obliger mode, according to Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies).

I chose our May challenge: to read one short story every day in May.

Lara is a ferocious reader and has done various reading challenges in the past (reading 52 books in one year, reading #24in48, and the instigator of our Book Bingo FB group). I’m usually wary of any reading challenge, as my inner rebel comes out. I like to read whatever and whenever I want, but like Book Bingo, this one allowed me to choose my titles. In the end, I settled for reading 31 short stories in May---as some days I didn’t find time and then caught up on the weekends.

Here's what I read, in the order I read them, with the top 10 in bold:

1. "A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri
2. "Reflections of Luanne" by Marjorie Holmes
3. "My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age" by Grace Paley
4.  "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor & “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
5. "Advanced Beginners" by Melissa Banks
6. "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" by Jhumpa Lahiri
7. "Sexy" by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
9. "A Real Durwan" by Jhumpa Lahiri
10. "I Knew You'd be Lovely" by Alethea Black
11. "Mrs. Sen's" by Jhumpa Lahiri
12. "The Third and Final Continent" by Jhumpa Lahiri
13. "This Blessed House" by Jhumpa Lahiri
14. "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" by Jhumpa Lahiri
15. "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" by Melissa Banks
16. "Wants" by Grace Paley
17. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
18. "Poison" by Roald Dahl
19. "The Office" by Alice Munroe
20. "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin
21. "Immigrant Story" by Grace Paley
22. "Conversations with My Father" by Grace Paley
23. "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute" by Grace Paley
24. “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel
25. “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros
26. “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton
27. "Sixteen" by Maureen Daly
28. "Homage To Switzerland" by Ernest Hemingway
29. “The Happiest I’ve Been” by John Updike
30. “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olson
31. “The Roads Round Pisa” by Isak Dinesen, and her “The Deluge at Norderney”

This year’s Book Bingo requires an anthology of short stories all by the same author, which is why I finally read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It didn’t disappoint, despite a decade's worth of hype. I have to admit, only a few of the other titles are new to me. I reread a few that I used to teach (Eleven and Poison), and a few from my mother's high school lit book, one of the most meaningful gifts she ever gave me.

Before I knew the word typography, I was fascinated by it in my mother's anthology from Siena High School.

Most were old favorites, but these were new to me: Hemingway’s "Homage to Switzerland.” Alice Munroe’s “The Office,"“I Knew You’d Be Lovely” by Alethea Black, and two of Grace Paley’s stories about her father.

Some think rereading is a crime since there are more great books than time to read them all. I find that silly. Reading is not a race or a conquest. Nabokov supposedly said the best reading is rereading, and I firmly side with him. A few weren't as good as I remembered them ("Roman Fever"); some were even better ("Revelation").

I hadn’t read “Sonny’s Blues” in years, but it took me back to the awe I felt reading it at 17, in Dr. Harold’s Literary Analysis class during my first semester at Loyola. I remembered bringing it home the following weekend for my mother to read, and her reaction: “You can actually see the music.” 

At 17 I was clueless about many things, but I did know that this was magic---that Baldwin could make marks on paper and years after that, the people he imagined could show up in my own mind just by my looking at those same marks on paper. And when the writing is good, as it is with Baldwin, those people become part of my story too, people I carry with me.

Reading is magic.

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...