Today I am headed west, across the country with a packed car. I am moving. And I am kind of, sort of, really nervous. And excited. And nervous. I still have my bobblehead Alan to keep me company but I no longer have my road tripping buddy Stella, as I did two years ago. This is not just a road trip, though. Because when I reach my destination, I am not turning around to come back, back home, wherever that may actually be. I’m not coming back east. I am making a home for myself in Portland and I’m not even sure how I feel about that. I think I want to nest. But am I nester? I haven’t put my John Hancock on a lease since 2006. That was seven (seven!) years ago. I am tired of bouncing around. I am tired of having all of the beautiful things that remind me of my travels all boxed up in a closet. Beautiful lamps from Turkey, a painting from a well-known modern painter in Vietnam, Buddha statues that I am obsessed with, a table hand-carved in Malawi. I’m generally not too attached to ‘stuff’, but this kind of stuff I’d really love to make a home for. I have photos that I keep putting into a folder in my computer, earmarked for printing. When I have a place to hang them, I will print them.
I am on my way to Portland, Oregon to find a new home with my best friends Emily & John. Yes, you have heard about them plenty on this blog: here, here, and here when Emily & I road tripped through California together, here when Emily tried to help me name my nephew, and here and here when I surprised Emily by flying halfway around the world and John helped me coordinate it. Oh yeah, and here when I visited them last Thanksgiving. It’s funny… when we graduated five years ago we said we would never live far apart for too long. I just never thought that I’d end up in Portland in order to change that! It is also a smart business move. Emily and I are working together on Amsha, and it will be soooo much easier to be in the same city. There is also an outdoor market we intend to sell at in Portland, and I am looking forward to the opportunity.
As excited as I am to be back with best friends, it’s also bittersweet. I have this adorable thing now called a nephew. And as someone who is not necessarily a kid person, I assure you- he’s really, really cute. He’s always up for dancing and playing outside (are we related or what?!). Right before I left, he finally started to get the hang of my name… Lala. Okay so I might have asked him on Facetime the other day what my name was and he might have said “Daddy,” but I’d say 75% of the time, he gets it right. We have become pals. He loves to play in Amsha jewelry and try to ‘help’ me when I’m working. I started to teach him the gestures to Skinnamarink and he gets a big grin on his face when I start to sing it. I love the kid. And of course he spawns from my sister and brother-in-law, and I like them most days too. And now we are living just about as far apart as we can within the continental US. It will be hard.
Two weeks ago, I spent my weekend at the beach, surrounded by family and loved ones. It was magnificent. I swam, I read, I rode bikes, I cooked with my brother-in-law’s grandmother, I played with my nephew, I played after-dinner games with the gang, and just soaked it all in. On Monday afternoon, I took one last trip to the beach by myself, over to the Isle of Palms. Crossing over the connector bridge to get there, smelling the sweet salty, yet somewhat pungent marshy air, and feeling the warm breeze that is slightly choking due to the humidity, I still get butterflies in my stomach. Every time. Driving over the connector, I have the windows down and am singing along to one of my favorite songs: Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again. The lyrics talk about “Moving On” but eventually lead back to “One day I know I’ll feel home again.” I look out over the inlet and anxiously await the incline. Before then, the beach is not visible, but once on top of the short crest, the sweeping view of the ocean is suddenly right in front of your face. I tear up. I can’t help it. South Carolina really is home. And despite the familiarity of it, this little slice of life still gives me butterflies. I try to keep it together but I’m just so happy to be here and so sad to know I’m leaving soon.
Once over the crest, I am on the island and the stoplight is red. As I slow down, oblivious to anything else and feeling overwhelmed with mixed emotions, I hear, “Hey baby, what’s your name?” I look over to an SUV of fratty boys, push my sunglasses down my nose to peer over them and yell over the kids’ music, “How old are you?” The guy says he’s 20. “Sorry buddy,” I tell him, “You’re too young for me.” His friend up front in the driver’s seat puffs up and boasts, “I’m 21!” I can only repeat: “Yeah, definitely too young. Sorry.” The kid in the backseat tries to yell over to me that his “last girlfriend was 42!” Whoa, I hope he’s not putting me in that category. I have no response to that except laughter. The light turns green, I push my sunglasses back up and can’t help but laugh. Three days shy of my 29th birthday and I’m getting hit on by underage guys. I momentarily forget about being sad to leave the beach, and savor the fact that maybe 29 isn’t old. I took a dip in the warm Atlantic ocean and appreciated how lucky I am to have a place like this to call home. South Carolina really is what our state slogan suggests: Smiling faces, beautiful places.
No matter what, there’s always Skype, there’s always expensive plane rides back, and there’s always home. I can always come home. But for now, there is Portland, and I will be there in a week!