Saturday, December 6, 2008

Homesick for the Holidays

First, some Home For the Holidays (one of my favorites to watch around Thanksgiving):

I'm really enjoying being in our new home for the holidays. I'm a little bummed the holiday season snuck up so fast because I keep thinking I need more time to savor it. But I look around my house, with my newly decorated Christmas tree, the menorah waiting in the window for the first night of Hanukkah, and the stack of pine branches with which I hope to do something creative (If I wanted to fix them into a garland to twirl around my porch banister, would I need to soak them to make them soft first? What's the procedure for such a project?), and I am totally in the spirit.

It is good to be home, here.

That said, there is a still, small piece of me which aches just a bit. Last year I think it was snowing by this time, which distracted me from missing the rain of winter that I have known so well for a number of years. I miss the rain without any anticipation of snow. There is not the lush green of winter, benefiting from the constant rain, that I came to love in the northwest. Instead I look outside and see barren trees that have lost their leaves and grass that is beginning to turn a bit brown. Here when it rains in the winter, it is an icy hint that it is the season of snow. A long wait from fall to winter seems dreadful. I had read a week before Thanksgiving that we'd have snow showers on Thanksgiving, but as the day approached it was clear that wasn't going to happen. I'll admit I was rather disappointed that it didn't. It made me miss the rain that can feed the earth until the earth is ripe and green all winter long. If it's not going to snow, I find myself impatient with the sleeping earth, the dead leaves, the cold, dry days.

I miss the evergreens too. I love the fall here, with all the colors. There is truly nothing in the world like it. It is magnificent! But I find myself mournful for tall, thick truly ever-green trees with moss covered trunks that make the green tree from bottom to top. My office back in the northwest had a window that faced the edge of a small forested area. I remember the deer and the quiet, still sound of a barely noticeable breeze and the water falling down upon the earth in beautiful drops. And most especially, I remember those giant trees that reminded me each day what a very small part I am of the greater whole. It was a brilliant illustration that life is continual and unstoppable, and in balance in ways not always so obvious.

We were gifted with a beautiful, handsome tree this year. It is huge! Just huge! Tall and plush, and I just love it. We couldn't afford the gas but drove a half hour to get it anyway because G's brother told us he was working all week, every evening at the tree lot in his town, and we wanted to surprise the kids by showing up to get our tree at the lot. We fit it in one evening at the end of my work day, and the kids were tired and very cranky during the long drive. I just kept telling them to hang in there because we were going to a "very special tree lot." When we arrived, G's brother was not at the lot and G called her brother who said he was not in fact working that evening, but didn't offer to take a five minute drive from his home to see us anyway. This was the third or fourth time we've gone to see this part of our family in recent months-- kids crying and even sobbing along the way-- to no avail. I knew in my heart that I couldn't do this to the kids again, and that we don't have the money or time to invest in this kind of fruitless effort in the future. I knew in my heart that this would be our last attempt. I was sad about this, but we made a merry adventure out of finding the perfect tree, and I took lots of photos. As the kind men working at the lot were netting our tree so it could fit on top of our car, I asked them what farm the trees came from. "Actually," one of the kind men told me, "We get these shipped in from Novia Scotia!" I asked him how long ago our tree must have been cut, and he guessed it had been a couple of weeks.

I miss cutting down my tree from the land belonging to a member of the congregation who used the opportunity to thin the trees out a bit for the health of the land. Here, one of our congregation members has a farm with evergreen trees, but I haven't been invited to cut one down and I don't know of any local Christmas tree farms. There just aren't that many evergreens out here. No wonder the trees at tree lots are coming in from Canada. Heck, in the northwest it was hard to find a tree lot. I am now realizing that may have been because so many folks have local sources. So now I have a beautiful tree that I love and that was such a sweet gift to have been given, but I feel badly because it has a big old carbon footprint, and I doubt it will last more than a couple of days after Christmas because it isn't fresh in the least. It was a bittersweet evening that made me long for the place I had called home for years.

I miss the smell of rain. I even miss mud! I miss the fruit. I miss blackberries growing everywhere, yes, even though they were out of control. I miss Thai food. Really good Thai food. Here if you order a Thai spring roll, you get a vegetarian egg roll. I miss fresh spring rolls and peanut dipping sauce. I miss Chinese food that isn't greasy and thick west coast style pizza. I miss restaurants that serve Tabbouleh that really tastes like Tabbouleh, and mmm...I miss Costas Greek food in Seattle. I miss getting vegetarian "sushi" at the grocery store just down the street from me, for a treat every once in a while when we were too poor to eat out but too tired to make dinner...made fresh every day!

I miss food co-ops that weren't just people getting together to order in bulk, but also a place to shop...even at seven o'clock in the evening when you run out of milk. I even miss shopping in tiny, local stores where I used to complain about selection. I miss it being easy to buy organic food. I miss the college in the woods and the progressive, earthy types, even some of the college students who used to drive me a little batty. I miss the kid from the college who lived in the treehouse above the bakery. I miss neighbors keeping chickens in their yards. I miss Seattle's bus system (and even after we left Seattle, I miss the reliable even if infrequent bus system of the city we moved to). Sometimes buses here just never show up.

I miss the culture of the people. I miss the natural acceptance, warmth, and empathy, that while imperfect, was a good start. I most especially miss the relaxed atmosphere and the collaborative attitudes. I miss the slow, thoughtful pace, and the rhythm of the year. I miss people saying hello to each other and being free with compliments. Heck, I miss the way people got up in each other's business if it meant they could help out.

I miss random things like the Discount School Supply store, and I miss places where we built memories over the years, like the restaurant we stopped at on the way home from the hospital when M was just a newborn or the place we'd always go to celebrate anniversaries.

I might even miss having a huge backyard that we could never maintain (oh, how I love not having a yard to maintain here, hooray!). There were five evergreen trees and a handful of other trees including some fruit-bearing trees. I miss long conversations I would have out there, sitting on the stones watching my dogs play together while I chatted with neighbors or on the phone. I miss my dog Bluey being alive. He was hit by a car here last Valentine's day after his leash somehow came unclipped from his harness and he took off running. I hate even going into that section of town now. I find myself holding my breath through the drive whenever we go out there.

And then there is family. I didn't have any family back in the pacific northwest, though G's brother and his family live there (and I miss them too). But being out here, so close to all of G's family, while a blessing, makes me miss mine. And that makes me miss my hometown too, and perhaps that region of the United States in general as well. I miss snow that would come down like crazy, build up nice and deep, but melt a few days later. I miss snowy days when it was still sunny out. I miss knowing good places to go hiking, and I am sad I haven't really taken my kids hiking yet. I miss camping. Oh, how I miss camping. Real camping too, not just car camping. I miss the way spring smelled out there. I miss the sandwich I had made to order at the Pickle Barrel and the "Big Spud" dish I used to order at Avo's. I miss miso soup, and I miss local coffee shops. I miss Mexican food that you can only get in New Mexico, and I'd even go for a number of treasures in Colorado. I just miss good Mexican food. I miss the dry brown earth, the bright colorful paints, and the adobe of New Mexico, and I miss the flowers and the bike trails in Colorado. I miss bike lanes. I miss the mountains. I miss the smell of dusty roads. I miss sledding without getting cut on ice, and the fluffy snow that makes that possible. I miss the organized, even if loosely, glbt community. I miss used book stores and art supply stores. I miss my parent's yard and their neighborhood. I miss knowing my way to almost everything. I miss downtowns where there really is a "there" there. I miss my mom's art and her artist friends. I miss long summer nights, with a late sunset and warm, dry air.

I know I can't live really close to my family, but sometimes it feels we are really far. I miss a lot of things on behalf of my children, who aren't having in their early childhood experiences like playing sports with "sporty grandpa" and doing art hour with "Leelou." Nor hiking with their aunts and uncles. Nor camping by a river with advice as to where we should go from experienced campers in the family or among friends. Somehow that just doesn't feel like a complete early childhood to me. It just doesn't feel right. Today on the phone M said to my mom that we made cookies for Christmas (meaning, for when we decorated our tree). My mom misheard and thought he said we were visiting for Christmas. I of course jumped in and cleared it up, but it was a reminder of how I wish we could visit just for a short while. Boohoo!

Of course I could make a long post about all the things I love here. I'd start with the ocean and swimming in the summer, and move on from there with gladness. So I am not really complaining. Just feeling a little bittersweet and nostalgic. I've experienced a lot of change in this last year. I guess it catches up with me in little waves every now and then.


hopalong said...

So now I have a tree with a big old carbon footprint, and I doubt it will last more than a couple of days after Christmas because it isn't fresh in the least.

To make the best of it (environmentally speaking), you should see if you can have the tree "recycled" into wood chippings for use in gardens. I know the Botanic Gardens in Brooklyn do this (and it always made me sad to see trees laying on the sidewalks of Park Slope after Christmas, waiting to be taken to the dumpster when they could have gone to the BBG just a couple blocks away).

Masasa said...

Supposedly our city's pick up service for trees goes to the recycling program.

Sara said...

Every region has its own special things. Your tree may have a larger footprint, but there's probably something else in the year that you can get with less travel.

Masasa said...

I totally agree, Sara. There are amazing dogwoods here! I love them. Plus, the season changes, especially during fall, they just don't get any more incredible in terms of all the foliage. Definitely not complaining about where I live. Even as I wrote this post, in my head I was saying to myself, "Yeah, but when you eventually leave this place, you'll miss..." And I've only lived here for a little over a year, so I bet that feeling will only increase. But I do still miss that other stuff.