"We were just thinking about you!" they all exclaimed as I rounded the corner toward the green where we used to spend so much of our time. "I called and left you a message just about 20 minutes ago. We were all outside and saying how much it was just like old times, but we missed you. and here you are!"
We revisited old haunts yesterday. The Boy's orthodontist is back near where we used to live right next to the library, with it's big children's section painted like an African savanna, and the street where the farmer's market is. Every time we're at the orthodontist go they beg to visit and I'm usually in too much of a rush. It used to be a weekly ritual, visiting the library and then the farmer's market every Tuesday. It's one we miss. This time I purposely scheduled his appointment so we would have time after.
We spent the day of solstice reading and then wandering in the heat, buying strawberries and local honey, munching kettle corn from the best kettle corn stand ever, and took our time choosing which flowers to bring home. When it was time to go home there was a chorus from the back seat. "Can we visit, can we visit, can we visit?"
So, even though it was getting late we drove over to the apartment neighborhood where we used to live. It was like coming home. It's just short of a year since we moved out but yesterday, it felt like it was just yesterday, apart from how much taller all the children are. I sometimes forget just how many friends we have there.
Little girls ran screaming toward mine, hugging, embracing, asking, "Are you going to stay for a while, are you going to stay and play?" "Can she come in my house and play with me for a while."
The gang of boys, ever changing, always running, pulled the Boy into an hour or more of all out hard play, and women I used to talk to every day, firm friends still, even though we see each other so infrequently chatted and herded children and it was just like old times.
When it was almost bedtime when we reluctantly dragged ourselves out of one friends apartment to go home, only to have the Girl come running from the playground to tell me of another friend being out to play and can we stay a little bit longer?
I'm so glad we did because this friend is 4 months joyously pregnant after a miscarriage last year and was just about to scan and email me an invitation to her baby shower since she couldn't find my mailing address.
Monday I wrote about the difficulty of not having a place to come home. Tuesday I went home, to yet another place where we belong, but don't anymore. That's really the difficulty I think. We create community, we invest in relationships, we form attachments, but then we leave, and part of our heart stays in that place that we called home for a time.
But the pain of leaving is good. It means that our presence in a place had an impact, made a change, in us, in the people we met. That they are happy to see us again tells that there was more good than bad done in our time in that place. It is better to love, even though there are no guarantees, than to protect ourselves from the pain pf parting by choosing not to enter into relationships and care for and about the people around us.
When we finally, way past bedtime, said goodbye to the last friend and tucked ourselves into the car for the 15 minute drive home, to our new home, I told the kids, "You don't remember, because you were too little, but when we first moved in there we didn't have all of those friends. We didn't know anyone, and it was pretty lonely. But we kept going out, we kept talking to people and asking them to play and join us for dinner and now, even when we move away, those people are our friends and we have so many people there who know us.
I know it's hard still in our new house. You have kids to play with sometimes, but none that you would call really close friends. But if we don't quit, and keep trying, and learn more Spanish, in time we can have good friends where we live right now too."
I wonder if a good way for us to gauge the quality of our life is by how sad people are to see us go, by how much we will miss the people we see everyday, and how much they will miss us. I hope we are brave enough to keep starting over, making friends, learning new languages and social conventions. I suspect that if we embrace it it will make our lives richer, not poorer, to move from place to place. I can hope.