Tim and I are busily chatting on our personal webpage, sharing anecdotes about our coworkers and local elections and recipes. We sustain contact throughout the day, touching base whenever we have a moment. On days when I’m not working, he’s my companion, only a few keystrokes away.
He comes home late tonight, the first time I’ll see him in more than eight weeks. On Friday, movers are coming to haul large furniture and boxes to our new apartment, and Tim will be here for the move. This has been a hard stretch of time without him, and I can’t even find words to tell you how excited I am that he will be here for a few days.
We’ve talked a lot lately about what “home” means, and going through the process to select a place to live has pushed us to consider our changing needs as individuals and as a couple. Our current apartment has always felt like a vacation condo in an exciting but wholly unknown city. We didn’t need full functionality of a house while we were exploring the city.
But things change, like jobs and kids’ circumstances, and our plans to find a permanent place to move to next were scuttled. Tim’s job took him to New York, and while my daughter lives in Eugene, when she visits, I can’t manage lifting her wheelchair into this apartment by myself. So we found a smaller place that’s on flat ground and we’re moving to our new home this weekend.
15 hours, Tim tells me, until I see him again.
The new place, while smaller, gives us some advantages we never had before; it’s less than 10 minutes from my workplace, 15 minutes from a place I volunteer, and walking distance to two grocery stores. Up the street a few blocks there’s a coffeehouse, a little farther there’s a community center with a pool. A few blocks in a different direction, there’s another community center with a library, a bike path that wanders for miles, and a Dairy Queen. We’ve never lived within walking distance to any of those kinds of places before, although we have always dreamed of it. I have a sweet basket on my bike for all the library books I never got to take home.
Wandering around the neighborhood the other day, I stumbled across a dairy. On summer Sundays, they open their ice cream parlor for a few hours. I think I’ll be taking Tim there when he moves back.
The idea of “home” has been a challenge for me. The university town felt like home, but circumstances became untenable and I had to leave. St. Charles never felt like home, despite my growing up there, meeting Tim there, raising my children there. In Oregon, I have known moments of feeling like I belonged, like I wasn’t the odd duck in a sea of swans. I’m afraid to call it true belonging, for fear that it might be taken away as suddenly as other moments of rightness have been. I’m afraid to jinx it.
A few days ago, Sophia and I were in the car and the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips came on. She said “Aw, remember when we were moving out here? and that was the first song we heard on the radio?” In spite of his ridiculous name, I like this song, and his 18 others that sound just like it. I turned it up, remembering the day we pulled out of the driveway in St. Charles and headed west into the brutal late-summer heat. I cried most of that seven-day drive partly in relief that the last few months of work of sorting and packing and storing our belongings in the POD were finished. But there was also great excitement and anticipation, joy that we were headed into our new life, away from the stifling conformity, from the concrete suppression of nature.
As we roll down this unfamiliar road, as the Phillips song goes, just know you’re not alone. It’s always been Tim and me, moving through this life together, at times at odds, but more and more lately, we’re united, even in distance. And that is the biggest surprise that I’ve had since moving here; not that the rain is truly endless or that everyone in Portland is friendly or that the grass stays green even in January. The biggest surprise has been the growth and maturing of my marriage through and because of the tremendous upheaval of our lives. I didn’t know this could happen in a marriage that had so much stacked against it, from family opposition to crippling stress. After holding on by the skin of our teeth for so long, I didn’t know that it could get better. I didn’t know how much better it could get.
Tim has, as so many songs and poems have said, become my home; the place of strength and sanctuary, of joy and contentment. I know I’m not alone — ever.
He’s midway over the country now, set to arrive in PDX just before midnight. Tomorrow I’ll go to work and he’ll haul some boxes to the new place. In a few months, he’ll come back here to live for good, no more consulting gigs across the country. We’ll settle into this tiny two-bedroom and ride our bikes on the weekend to the library and the coffeehouse and settle into a life we’ve gobbled together from the remnants of the best parts of our lives. And we’re going to make this place our home.