We have been home almost two weeks now, and I think we are just beginning to feel the delayed adjustment pains. Both kids have been challenging, the 2yo fussy like he’s sick but he doesn’t appear to be actually sick. The 4yo sensitive like only a daughter of mine could be, and reverting to 2yo style screaming fits– except so much more sad and personal. She needles me and needles me and needles me until I finally get mad and blow my top, and then she wails with wounded fury. She said the other day, “When you talk so mean to me, I think you don’t love me.” And although the whole of it is obviously a composed plea for my attention, focus and care, that end point of rejection is painfully uninvented.
For my own part, the back pain that started a few months ago has reared it’s ugly head again. It’s hard to patiently lift up your 4yo who wants to be carried to quell her Lost Home anxiety when your back is already screaming it’s own song. My Man keeps saying, “Just rest it” and I give him a big ole middle finger.
I have started working already, earlier than we’d planned, but only one day/week. We are strapped for cash in this after law school, before taking the Bar limbo. I was filling out the paperwork for Medicaid yesterday and it asked for level of schooling completed for both adults. Mine was 12th grade, which looked about right on a form for government assistance, but when I wrote out “law degree” for My Man, it seemed a bit silly. But how is anyone supposed to make this gap between school loans and steady income when graduation culminates in two months of intensive study for The Biggest Test of All? At any rate, my job here is the most basic sort, working the till and milkshake machine at our local taco joint. I realized the first day that the work was strangely similar to what I am used to– cleaning and service. But, the ability to carry through with each task is a pleasure. None of the customers (so far) hang on my leg and cry.
My emotional homecoming has been unexpectedly complicated. I’m not sure I can even suss it out yet. It feels good to be back, but I feel I am a bit ruined for the weather here. Talking about weather sounds like a joke, but it’s in fact most definitely not. This place is incredible– beautiful mountains, thriving wilderness, old fashioned small town community, the best salmon in the world. But it all comes at a very direct price. 100-160 inches of rain per year. That’s an average of more than ten feet. And cold rain, an average June temperature of 50 degrees. Farenheit.
The bad weather largely accounts for those good things I mentioned though. The mountains are so striking because they are young and raw, so recently exposed by glaciers that are still only ten miles away. It’s that same enormous pack of ice that makes the river so cold, which in turn makes the salmon so extra-ly luscious with fat. The wilderness is intact because the town is small, and the town is small because the weather is so shit. Between the weather and the remoteness, you have to be devoted to this place to live here, which makes for a very special community.
Every place has trade offs. New Orleans was balmy and lovely for many months of the year, but I had a friend who’s neighbor was shot in his own front yard while his kids watched because he was trying to help someone who’s car was being stolen. I feel like I could take any number of cold rainy days to avoid that creeping fear in the back of my throat.
I am having an awkward time synthesizing these two realities. New Orleans felt real and normal (by the end anyway) and I worried that it had changed me, changed my expectations for normal, that I would feel lost and adrift after the move. Of course the minute we got back to Cordova, the town we had lived in for seven years, the house we had lived in for almost five, it also felt absolutely real and normal. Everything was just the same and I fit right back in as if I had never left. But my brain is simply not big enough to synthesize those two disparate realities. Only one of them can be right, making the other a ghostly dream.
It’s going to take some time to pick it all apart.
In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my new old Homeplace.