This time one year ago, Husband, Ethan and I had just waved goodbye to our friends and family on the East coast, dealt with the logistics of traveling by plane with a toddler and two intensely freaked out felines, and were living in a hotel in Burbank. It's so strange that the cats being searched for explosives in a closet at Dulles airport, and complimentary continental breakfasts feel like they were just yesterday.
But it's been a year. And I make our breakfast in our house now, and sadly, both of those cats are dead.
A year ago, we were stuck in a limbo where packing up your entire world and moving 3000 miles away still feels like a vacation. Floating in the hotel pool, exploring the area that we knew we'd be living in, but didn't quite get what that meant, and taking a lot of deep breaths when the reality of the situation set it. I remember the mantra "It's an adventure. It's an adventure. It's an adventure." which I repeated to myself over & over as I fell asleep at night, listening to the hotel air-conditioner hum.
It was a year of taking risks and re-identifying myself. When I moved to D.C., my best friend Karen awaited me with her entire circle of friends opening their arms to me. Here? There was no friend who had come before me and done the leg-work of carving out a social circle that I could happily fall into. It was all on me. At that park, I essentially threw myself at other moms if I saw them more than once on the playground. I over-shared about our situation in Ethan's Music Together class, and said, "hey, we should do a play date sometime!" to any mom who slowed down in my presence long enough to make eye contact (if she didn't seem like a loon). I realized early on that I couldn't wait for people to make the first move. It was painful at times to have a conversation with a mom, think we hit it off, exchange information and then never hear from her again. In the world of what is essentially mommy-dating, it sucked to find out that she was "not that into me".
But I persevered over the course of this year and amazingly, we have friends. Friends in our neighborhood, friends from the park, friends from Ethan's school, and even friends-of-friends who are now our friends.
Watching Ethan grow over the course of this past year has been a revelation. How is living in Southern California shaping him differently than living in the metro DC area would? I am eternally grateful that as long as we could spend time playing in the toy aisle at Target, he seemed not to be too distressed that he hadn't seen Chloe, or Lilly, or Lily or any of his other friends in weeks. To this day, when we see a Nissan of any make, he will say, "look, mommy, a Chloe car," (the kid is a freak for who drives what--or whose mom drives what), but he never asks to actually see Chloe in person. Now, he asks for Lucy, Evie, Noni, or Penny. Or any of the friends he's met at school.
What do I miss about DC? I miss the quiet softness of the first snow and the hushed rumble and orange circling lights of the plows going by the house in the dead of night. I miss driving by monuments just to get somewhere--having such amazing icons as a part of our daily existence was something I'll always treasure. I miss the cotton-candy beauty of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in April. I miss the wine bar down the street from our house, Tallulah, and the amazingly fun mom's-nights-out with my play group friends. I miss lying on my back at Gravelly Point and waiting for the next plane to land at Reagan National, feeling the engine vibrating in my stomach and believing, for a moment, that if I sat up, I'd conk my head on the underside of the plane. I miss the Thomas Train table at the Barnes and Nobel where Ethan and I would have a snack and play for hours. So many things. And the people. Oh, the people we left behind who I love so dearly. That doesn't get easier. All other things fade a bit around the edges, but the feeling of missing loved ones far away? That never stops, or lessens with time.
But what about here? What do I love about this past year in LA? This morning, I sat on the beach in Malibu, Husband and Ethan alternately covering each others' feet with sand, and watched a giant pod of dolphins leaping and, I kid not, body-surfing in the waves. It's hard to beat that for breath-taking. Add to that the drive through Malibu Canyon to get to the beach, the winding road through the sharp, jagged rocked canyon, and you've got pretty much the most awe-inspiring combination of earth and ocean I've ever experienced. Behind our house, there is a canyon that, while it pretty much kills me to get up (I like to blame it on pushing the 17-pound jogging stroller and the 25-pound toddler in it, but seriously, I'm not kidding anyone), is exhilarating and gorgeous and life-affirming in it's own weird way (if you can overlook the cloud of smog you can see hanging somewhere over Pasadena). I love that we could walk to Ethan's Music Together class and we can walk to the bookstore, even if it doesn't have a Thomas Train table. I love Ethan's pre-school and the people who care for him there and that he comes home talking about Devon and Nicholas and Miles and Alex and all these kids who are new in his life. Kids he never would have met had we stayed in DC.
Also? I love the friends we've made here. I think about some of the amazing women I've met here, who've opened their lives and social circles to me and my family and I think, "can I imagine a life in which I'd never met them?" And I can't. I'm so grateful for the chance to have met these people.
This year has taught me a lot. How to take a deep breath and jump off that cliff, trusting that either something soft will break my fall or something strong will hold me up. How to live in the moment and find the positive in frightening situations. Most importantly, it's taught me that "home" is not a particular place on a map, but is where Husband and Ethan are. As long as I am with them, I am home.