Last week, I went back to California for the first time since we moved to Maryland in September. The Bay Area south of San Francisco remains unchanged: still beautiful with its sunlight and winter green hills; still frustrating with its traffic and congestion; still costly to live and wine and dine in. Nevertheless, as the plane prepared to land at SFO that night, swooping in close to the water with the night lights dazzling on either side, I thought, “Oh! Home at last!” And then I realized, with a start and tears blurring my eyes, that this was no longer home at all.
Moving to Maryland has been difficult at the same time it has been exciting. To come here meant to leave a lot behind. Simple things: my usual booth in my favorite restaurant; the kind face of the pharmacist, who stored all my medical records so handily in his computer; the wizened lady behind the counter at the drycleaner, who slipped me a chocolate along with her smile. The roads I knew how to drive, the distances I knew how to measure. The Safeway whose layout I had memorized after thirty years. The bank teller, the Terminix man, the guy who mowed the front yard. The mailman in his little white truck.
We have settled into our new home, but I haven’t settled into my life here yet. I hole myself up in my study to work; but getting out to do errands requires a bit of a push. Even with the GPS in my phone I frequently manage to get lost, so going out to conquer new territory always brings with it a flutter of nerves.
What do I miss most of all? My friends. Friends who are writers, friends from the gym, friends I’ve known since my first year on the West coast who were mothers of young boys like mine, friends from the dog show world. Friends I’ve sailed with. Friends I meet in bookstores. Friends for lunch. Friends for a glass of wine. Friends with whom I share laughter and tears and a mutual sense of empathy. All of them own a piece of my heart.
Relocating has brought me many things: a much closer and very precious relationship with my sister; my husband’s happiness at being near to his family; proximity to my new grandson in New York City; the warm sailing weather on the Chesapeake, so preferable to the cold winds of the San Francisco Bay; a big yard for my dogs to play in; just enough snowfall to be beautiful; and, notably, a lot less anxiety about Brad’s retirement and our finances, because Maryland is a much less expensive place than California.
But still the ache for my friends continues. Coast to coast, we Face-time, we phone, we text and email, and yes, I even go to visit. I keep my fingers crossed that they will come to see me here. But I’ve decided that part of the answer to my lament is to make new friends, and so I have volunteered at a nearby hospice, where I will meet patients and their families, in addition to staff. Nothing is better for putting your own troubles behind you than being compassionate–supporting those whose lives are tougher than your own. I hope new friendships will bloom as I traverse the waters of this new experience.
Thoreau said: “Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.” Perhaps someday I will be better able to agree with his intellectualization. Unfortunately, for right now, I just wish the earth were a little smaller. In the meanwhile, dear reader, thank you for listening. You give me the gift of knowing that I am not alone.