Friday, June 5, 2015

When I set out to (re)name this little space, we were in the beginning stages of moving to Brooklyn. I knew the kind of 'feel' I wanted the name to have, the image I wanted it to portray, how it would sound when I said it, that it would represent our family values in some way - it would say in a subtle way, 'This is who we are!' I even knew it should be four words because I'm a symmetry freak. It took me months of pondering to arrive at The Long Way Home. I was on a wandering walk through our old neighborhood, pushing Ev along in front of me when I asked her if she wanted to take the long way home - and it stuck. I came up with several others that escape me now, but finally decided, much like naming my children, that this space couldn't be anything but The Long Way Home. Little did I know how ironic this name would come to be.

It's painfully obvious even to this day, but I loved living in Brooklyn. I loved our quiet little apartment on our quiet little street. I love that it always looked thrown together no matter where you put anything. I loved that our mattress was on the floor right next to Evie's and we used to fall asleep holding hands under my pillow. I loved the old hardwood floors that used to frustrate her to no end as she'd try to stack block upon block and they would fall no matter how careful she was. So she'd gather them all up and stake her claim on a different, hopefully flatter piece of floor with a determined and slightly concerned look on her face. I loved our insanely pricey rent that felt like a bargain compared to the rest of the city, mostly because we had a real kitchen. I loved listening to the city come alive each morning and watching our brick wall view turn a golden hue that only fellow Brooklyn-dwellers have seen. I loved using the word 'bodega.' I loved the corner cafe with $20 sandwiches and cereal bowls of coffee. I loved our tiny mailbox and our obnoxious door buzzer. I loved the bagels. Oh, how I loved the bagels. I loved being able to buy a slice of pizza for a dollar. I loved the way the guys at our favorite pizza place said mozzarella. I loved that our church was held in a school auditorium. I loved that we gathered in people's impossibly small apartments during the week. I loved the Manhattan view we'd get on our grocery shopping nights leaving Fairway. I loved and hated Fairway. I loved that everyone had a love/hate relationship with the city. I loved our watermelon picnics. I loved that the playground was never empty the entire time we lived there. There was always someone there for Ev to play with.

I loved the subway smell. I loved the R train, the consistently late R train. I admired that about her, I accepted it because I'm consistently late anywhere I go. I loved that we lived at the end of the line and knew we were home when we heard, 'This is the last stop on this train. Please leave the train. Thank you for riding with MTA New York City transit.' I even sort of loved feeling like steamed broccoli in the Summer heat. I loved our secret Staten Island beach spots with oily water and sand full of trash. I loved the handfuls of sea glass we'd walk away with. I loved walking miles to get anywhere. I loved the street sweeping day, car moving scramble that happened each week. I loved the sidewalk horses that Evie went nuts over. I loved New Yorkers and their constant use of the F word. I loved how people really lived in the Spring, Summer, and Fall because the Winters were so unbearable. I loved that you could go for a simple walk and never be bored. I loved how beauty could find you in the most unexpected places. I loved our view of the Verrazano and watching boats pass by on the Hudson. I loved how people celebrated their New York-iversary. I loved that people complained so much about living there, but refused to live anywhere else. As Anne Lamott says, '. . . [I loved] the feel of being part of a healthy mob, part of a pulse, part of a collective heartbeat. . . [I loved] what it felt like to be part of a huge struggle, where people were winning and losing and triumphing and being humiliated and for once it wasn't you.' I love how living there was kind of like childbirth - after a while you forget how hard it was. I loved it all. I would be a lifer. Sometimes I lay in bed and imagine walking along those Bay Ridge streets with my two kids. It's hard for me to comprehend that a place that is so much a part of me, will never be a part of both of my kids. I sometimes forget Noble wasn't there with us.

As much as I loved Brooklyn, there is a bit of my soul that is nourished by New Mexico. I love the sunsets, each one different from the all the rest, but beautiful in a way you'll never forget. I love the adobe houses with turquoise trim. I love that you get to experience all four seasons, but you really only have to experience snow when you feel like driving up the mountain. I love the freakishly bipolar Spring weather. I love the Cottonwoods. I love that the days are so consistently beautiful that you wake up never thinking about what the weather will be like. I love the Christmas luminarias. I love the old man at the farmer's market that never stops shouting, 'Fresh tortillas!' in his Spanish accent. I love that you can tell what neighborhood you're in by how many Subarus are around. I love their strange exclamations like 'Eeee!' and 'Ah-la!' I love when someone calls Evie 'mija.' I love the trees outside our window that Noble strains his neck to watch from the rocking chair. I love the bike lanes and trails scattered all over the city. I love the love that the lifers have for this city and the effort they put in to keep it quirky. I love living three blocks from the zoo and that it's basically become our backyard. I love that we're surrounded by so much beauty and mountains are always in our background. We'd never make it through our 'places to see' list if we lived here for a lifetime. I love that feeling I get when we're coming home from the East and we spot the mountain silhoettes off in the distance. I love that you can wear whatever you want here and no one will look twice. I love that you can practically wear sandals year round and most people do. I love the frequent Indian Summers in the middle of Winter. I love that it's never hard to find something interesting to do here. I even kind of love the lack of a good Chinese food place. I love that the vast majority of people embrace local, organic food. I love the ridiculous amount of breweries and that you can buy craft beer almost anywhere. I love that both of my babies' birth certificates say 'Albuquerque, New Mexico,' a place where people are advocating for a mother's right to birth the way she wants. I love that that this place will always be a part of them no matter where we go - it called us back twice after all. There must be something special here for them. Even though there is so much to love about each place we've lived, we've known that they all wouldn't be forever.

I did most of my growing up in a small Southern town, a place that always felt completely opposite of everything I was or wanted to be. We had always felt like strangers. I spent most of my childhood years dreaming about leaving and once I left, it never even occurred to me that I would return. What I hadn't anticipated during all that dreaming was marrying the boy I met in middle school, the boy who had only ever known that small town. I somehow convinced him to leave with me and we've had grand adventures since, but we've always longed for home. We just never thought that home might be the place we started from. It was always hard to go back there for visits, to drive past our old homes, to recall all my awkward stages, to realize nothing and no one there had changed, but I had. I was nothing that I used to be and somehow this place had made me, but it wasn't me anymore. It wasn't me at all. About two years ago, we were on a drive and he mentioned the idea of moving back - and I lost it. I became a sobbing, ugly-crying mess, while turning my face to the passenger window and whispering the only thing I could manage, 'I can't. I just can't go back.' A seed had been planted though and the more places we went that didn't feel like forever home, the more that seed grew. Over a year later, I mentioned to him that I might be open to the idea and left it at that. We started to occasionally talk through the issues we would face in moving back, the things we were apprehensive about, and the more we talked, the more we felt that we were being pointed in that direction. He let me pour over each detail that made it impossible for me and either offered a solution or helped me find peace with it. With every, 'I can't.' that I muttered, we would start the search for land somewhere else. We drove the roads on the outskirts of Albuquerque for months after we moved back and found only one house that was remotely what we had in mind. That door was shut right before we left for Missouri. We researched land in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, even Alaska - nothing felt like the right decision. A friend of ours in Brooklyn told us after we had moved there - 'You have to dig through a mountain of shit in this city to find the gold.' Well, our shovels are broken and our backs are tired and all we really want is to live life together.

After pouring over my motives, I realized what the biggest problem was - I was caught up in what Ram Dass calls somebodyism. 'Most of us are raised to be somebodies and what a no win game that is to buy into, because while you may turn out to be much more somebody than somebody else, a lot of other people are going to be a lot more somebody than you and you'll drive yourself crazy.' I've always prided myself on being my own person, doing what I knew was right for myself, even if popular culture or family members thought it wasn't. I've always tried to have an open mind when it came to the definition of success. I changed my major in college from nursing to art, because I wanted to. I quit college because well, why would I waste my time and money taking the same english courses and math courses that I took in high school when I came here for art? We got married at 19. . . because we wanted to. We had kids at an age that most people think is too young because we were ready. We moved to New York City because we wanted to, even though most everyone else thought it was a silly, fanciful idea and that we should be more responsible, especially since we were parents. Once I realized that one, I was afraid of what people would think and of looking like a failure and two, I was afraid of being miserable, those were the last two hurdles I needed to jump in order to arrive at the other side, accepting this journey home. One is just a matter of pride and two is just a matter of faith.

Because I know my children will ask and the details of why will fade with time, I feel the need to leave an explanation for the upheaval of our family (again). Two and half years ago I wrote this -

"I want to plan adventures with my family, but I want to do them more. I want to wake up one morning, decide that we're tired of home, and be able to pack up and just go and keep going until we feel like coming back. I want to buy an airstream and pull it across the United States, teaching our children about history and geography and nature along the way. I want to draw, and paint, and photograph what I see and the people I meet. I want to intimately know my children, and have them consider me a friend. I want to regularly stick my feet in the ocean and know what it feels like to push myself to the top of a mountain. I want to immerse myself in other cultures and learn all I can. I want my children to know the joy of reading and creating without constraints. I want them to savor their memories of a childhood filled with box forts and broom horses and bedtime stories, their parents holding hands and writing love notes, and the feeling of the hardwood floors under their feet as we danced to old records way past their bed time. I want full months of just us, experiencing life together without worrying about bills or to-do lists. I'm not looking for any epic adventures to write books about. I'm not planning on trekking into the wilderness for months or becoming gypsies, I just want to live simply and passionately, making the most of our time together."

All of that still rings true and what we've found is that where we live doesn't matter as much as the ability to truly live. We set out to make a plan, to figure out how to make this dream a reality and kept coming back to two major goals, to be debt (and mortgage) free and to work for ourselves. This move will allow both of those to happen. Along with the desire to be financially secure comes a desire to live more simply and grow our own food. In the five plus years we've been married, we've asked each other multiple times, 'If you could do anything, if you could live any way you want, what would you do?' The one thing that always came up was farming. There is something poetic about food that has always appealed to me, both the cooking of it and the sustaining ways it can be grown. The significance of meals withstands any season of life. A certain recipe can bring you back to your childhood even if it's been twenty years since you last tasted it. An out of sorts day can turn memorable as soon as you gather around the table together and share in a meal, even if it's a simple one. You can create ties to your community and let your roots sink deep into your neighborhood just by inviting people over for dinner. It can be the most important gift you can give when someone is having a hard time financially, is under the weather, or is in the trenches of learning to care for a new life. Sharing in meals together is something that I feel has lost it's importance in society over the years, but it's something I hope to deeply ingrain in my children. There's something vulnerable about opening your home to someone, allowing them to see your flaws more closely, allowing them to put things into perspective and see that you're just human like them. We all have dirty kitchens. We all have loud kids. Good food is the very foundation of a good community, and I want to be an intimate part of that.

Honestly, I'm terrified of this jump that we're making, but I'm also convinced that nothing good ever comes without a bit of fear and unknown in the mix. This will be our biggest adventure yet.


  1. So thrilled for you guys! Something about setting roots is so good. You get to be truly somewhere instead of partially lots of places. Miss you guys!



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