Note: As explained in this post, in honor of me and my wife’s first year of marriage, I’m going to spend the second year posting monthly reflections of the same month a year earlier. This is the eleventh installment.
When June began, we were still in job-market limbo, trying to figure out next steps as my teaching contract was expiring and your summer festival schedule was looking thinner than in previous years. And then, just a few days into the month, I received an offer for a very good non-academic position, starting the day after my teaching contract ended. Overnight, we shifted from rising panic about finding paying work in the near-term, to frantically combing Craigslist for housing near my new workplace. The day after wrapping up classes, I threw an air mattress, a box of clothes, and a few small kitchen items in the back of our suv, and crashed on the floor of our new home a couple of hours later before getting up to walk to the train right away in the morning.
The rest of the month went by in a blur. Every morning during the week, I awoke alone in the empty bedroom of our “new” home, walked to the train, and came back to an empty house. Some nights I would call you and talk while walking around our new neighborhood, trying to get my bearings and process that this was now “home.” Other nights I would pace the house, going in and out of empty rooms, trying to talk through where some items of furniture might go, whether we should try to sell or give away some things before the move. Friday nights found me putting my laptop in the car and heading south, back to spend the weekend with you and pack up some more things to load in on Sunday, heading back north again.
One Friday evening — the second or third weekend trip back south, as I recall — I was driving south on the interstate in the familiar amber twilight of a Willamette Valley summer evening, looking at the hills glowing to the west, watching the countryside shift from the concrete towers and asphalt avenues of the city to rolling wheaten fields, the hills unfolding green and lush on the fringes, and felt a pang of regret. Although we were not really moving that far away (and would be back many times over the next year), we would be leaving our city, the place where we met and first began dating, where we supported each other through the difficult process of completing multiple graduate degrees each, the homes we had shared together… the sights and smells and sounds that had provided the background for our lives together thus far.
I should have been prepared for the feelings that came over me, I suppose; we’d spent the previous few years watching other friends finish degrees and move on, staying in touch by phone and Skype and Facebook and occasional emails, sometimes traveling to see them, sometimes getting together when they returned to visit those of us still in Oregon. I’d been thinking about it for years, often assuming that our first move would throw us eastward to land in an entirely new place; it hadn’t seemed realistic to me that we would make a relatively small move, just over a hundred miles, still close to many of the friends and places we loved, but far enough away to change our daily rhythm and scenery. I had wanted to move on from where we were at, mentally and emotionally, always concerned that the next 10 weeks would go by without a renewal of a contract, not knowing what summer income might be available; and here we were, finally about to start making that move.
But I wasn’t ready for the perfect, golden summer evenings on restaurant patios and in friendly back yards to drift into the past; not ready for chance encounters with a friend at a nearby coffee shop on a chilly day to become something I looked back on, rather than anticipated; not ready, even, to leave the spacious back yard and peaceful neighborhood of our then-current home for the small dirt patch of our new duplex rental, the back door lit by signs from retail stores just across the back fence. We were entering a transitional period, I knew, and those are always hard in more ways than one. Some can embrace change like that, wrapping up the reminders of their old life carefully and putting them on a shelf to reminisce over years later; others fear it and fight it like a cornered dog. I’ve always found myself falling somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, wanting to hold on fast to the people and the places and the moments that helped me grow and nourished my imagination, wary of the future, yet knowing change opens unexpected avenues. I’d learned enough over the last decade to know that the fiercest of friends are never lost to you, are never farther away than your own mind, and that wherever we settled down next, there would eventually be new friends and places and sights and smells that would sustain us.
The miles rolled by that night, and I was soon home — home being where you were, packing up to make the move with me and establish “us” again in a new place. And I realized all over again how incredibly lucky I am to share this adventure called life with you, no matter what was ahead.
Love you, HP!
I love, love, love how your prose is so simple but direct and lovely. Thanks for sharing these reflections with us!
Josh M said:
I can haz prose style? 😉 Seriously, high praise indeed, considering the source!