Usually when someone talks of life changing in an instant, they’re referring to a tragedy or a miracle. Sometimes, though, regular old life can do that. One minute your routine is well trod and familiar and the next it’s new down to the tacks. Everything is strange here. My car doesn’t belong in this parking lot. The grocery store is arranged all backward. The radio stations begin with ‘K’ instead of ‘W,’ Vera Bradley — whoever she is — designed everyone’s purses and no one gives a flip about Arnold Schwarzenegger. A couple dozen people I didn’t know two weeks ago greet me every morning and no one is familiar. I get lost driving to work. Still, in a powerful way, I know we’re home.
Almost. “Home” for this month has been a corporate hotel, painted in Vanilla with accents of Milk. It’s a big complex, buildings of tissue and glue, communal trash drop, lousy internet service. Stuffed with mid-level execs transferring from one branch to another, military personnel waiting orders, recent college grads driving cars they can’t afford and at which they’ll look back and laugh someday. (Seriously. What 22-year-old needs a Cadillac Escalade?) Our apartment is larger than our house in San Diego and feels half its size.
As homely as it is, it’s important. Anna turned five here. Allan and I started new jobs. We’ve spent our first weeks as a family WITH TWO BATHROOMS. I’ve figured out how to cook eggs on a cookie sheet and we’ve eaten enough frozen pizza to choke any Italian. I’ve discovered just how much there is to think about when nothing runs on autopilot; it’s surprisingly disruptive to all of a sudden realize you have no foil, or aspirin, or tape. But Anna and Allan go swimming every night and there’s a huge pond with turtles and one large bass who bullies the littler fish so he can get all the bread we toss far into the middle of the big pond.
We’ll remember this forgettable place.
It’s interesting how freeing it can feel when your only real responsibilities are to yourselves. Our families give us a pass when we’re slow to return calls and I’ll take an extra week with Anna’s birthday thank-yous and not feel guilty. We haven’t yet joined in here, don’t yet have yoga classes to get to or playdates to schedule. We will, and soon, and I am looking so forward to all of that (it is lonely, living up in the air) but it’s also, I don’t know, simple. It reminds me a bit of our apartment in Moscow, when all Allan and Anna and I had on our agendas was to get to know each other. We’d load up with enough baby gear for a weekend, walk cross the big road to the market, try to recognize food by the pictures on the labels and hope we could keep our kopeks separated from our rubles. This would take us all day, somehow. It was a time, like now, when it was just us, a time so unadorned and yet so rich, so very, very rich.