Friday, December 22, 2006

Betwixt and between

"Birds settle on a tree for a while, then go their separate ways again. The meeting of all living beings must likewise inevitably end in their parting. This world passes away and disappoints the hopes of everlasting attachment."
-- Buddha

The other night I went up to say goodnight to Lily and she said to me, sadly but unashamed, Mama, I've been crying. I miss Brooklyn! I miss my friends. I am never going to see them again. I don't want to go back for the selling [closing]. I don't want to see Harry, he is my best friend and it hurts too much.

At times like this I worry I'm ruining my child's life. As we were leaving this fall so many of my friends told me they had moved when they were eight, and while most of them had really good experiences, it certainly appeared to have had a profound effect on all of them. Lily has only known Brooklyn for her eight years, and is an urban, New York City kid. She likes the stimulation, the buses, and the subways, and the people on the streets, and her routine, and the noise.

I so don't miss New York. I just finished reading Terrorist by John Updike and his descriptions of New Jersey and the New York City skyline and the streets of Manhattan made me very glad I don't still live there. My sense of New York from here is that it's crowded and busy and easily overwhelms me. I can't organize and filter all the input any more; maybe because I'm older I am finding the need for external forces - the environment - to help me set a more serene picture.

Lily says, don't mention New York! It will make me cry! I promise her we will go back for playdates and visits, and in fact if all goes as planned we will be back the weekend of Jan. 6-7 to visit before our closing on Jan. 8. This last, final act, selling our condo, will mean we truly do not live in Brooklyn any more, and the way housing prices are going, probably never will again. It's odd to think it, speaking as someone who lived there for 18 years, 11 years in the same apartment.

But I don't fully live in Amherst, yet, either. Today I am at that inbetween stage where I have a routine here, I'm getting to know some people, life is happening, and yet, I am lonely. Of course it doesn’t help that Christmas is two days away. The very air breathes solitude and melancholy and saying goodbyes; it's gray and you can feel the sky getting darker as early as one in the afternoon. Not sunset yet, I think when I notice it, but it's coming, just a couple more hours of light and then a black darkness like I have not seen in Brooklyn.

Last night I was driving to pick up a new friend who lives a couple of miles down a lightless street in Belchertown, and a deer jumped out about five yards in front of my car. I caught the gleam of its eyes in my headlights and saw the shadow of its body as it darted across the street. All around me was farmland and this city girl was glad she was in a sturdy car with a full tank and a working heater.

Now we are past the solstice, however, and to push the metaphor too far, I know the sun will start to brighten in other parts of our lives, too. After all, we are here. We have much behind us: making the decision, Dave's company closing unexpectedly, the yard sale, putting our place up for sale, accepting an offer, packing up our apartment, moving everything here. I pray I never have to live through a fall like that again! Now the tasks in front of us are finding work and a permanent home, and settling on school for Lily -- we all miss PS 261.

In the new year we will start seriously househunting, which will be fun because I'll see the places I've only been looking at online. I am feeling a strong tug from the west side of the river, especially Northampton, which they call the City here, as in, I am going to the City for dinner. I also want to be in the country and Dave may want something more suburban, although neither of us wants to be too far from town. Lily is begging not just to stay at her new school but to stay on the same bus line, even -- she's on bus nine.

Finding a house we love will go a long way toward settling my dis-ease, as will finding a job. As for that, people here have been really wonderful about meeting with me, most for as much as an hour to discuss my skills and interests, and I know that even more clarity and opportunity await me in January. There aren't a lot of jobs and people tend to stay in them a long time, like decades. But I trust the universe has something in store for me if I can just keep taking the correct steps.

I suppose it's typical of me to simultaneously imagine myself on a couple of isolated acres that back up on conservation land, unable to see my nextdoor neighbors, and also realize I am lonely and a bit sad about leaving my familiar routines and haunts and crowds. I don't miss the skyline but I do miss my friends, badly. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and I think all three of us are feeling like no one here really knows ours yet; we certainly don't know theirs. It's okay. I know we all will. The darkness is here but the light is coming and after New Year's we can start to get back to the new normal.

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