What is it about a physical place that gets under your skin in such a way that you miss it once you're gone? For me it was everything. The history. The topography. The weather. The people.
The place was Duxbury, MA, two towns north of Plymouth along Cape Cod Bay. The home of Miles Standish was a mile from where we had lived. There were miles of ocean front in the town. There was a mile long bridge, which up until its required rehabilitation in the 90s, if my history serves me correctly, was the longest and oldest free standing wooden bridge in the world. There was a beautiful beach. There was a respect for ecology and conservation. There were open spaces to hike and explore. There was a quaint down town with a beaucolic ice cream shop, and pizza shop where you could find many kids and families hanging out at night.
The town was relatively small — only 15,000 — and very liberal as much of Massachusetts is. The town did have one draw back; it was terribly homogenous. Terribly. But for me there were many like minded folk, with a great concern for eduction, and civil liberties, and watching out for our kids.
It was the first town I have ever lived in where I felt instantly accepted, and as my wife and few close friends joke with me, being accepted is terribly important to me.
Maybe it was being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Maybe it was being part of smaller-town experience — the smallest town I had lived in as an adult. Maybe it was the confluence of the physical aspects of the town in concert with meeting a group of adults whose children were all in my oldest son's preschool class, and with whom I felt an instant connection. And this wasn't just a single family, this was five different families.
I had an email correspondence with one of the folks today. I was thrilled to hear from her, but as soon as I was done returning an email to her, and off in the car to pick up my oldest from first grade, I became very sad. I missed her. I missed the other families. I missed the town. The smell of salt water in the air. The sound of church bells in the fog on certain days. The silliness of five families feeling safe enough to allow their children to run amok in someone's back yard as we all socialized.
But I'm in the role that most men impose upon their partners — I'm following my wife and her career. She's providing us an increadible life, and increadible opportunities to live in other parts of the US.
And living in Duxbury had its drawbacks. I had to work in Boston. We had to have the kids in child care 9 hours a day. Commuting to Boston was akin to the third circle of hell. On a good day the one way trip was thirty five minutes, and that was NOT by adhering to the speed limit. A bad day was a few minutes shy of two hours. The only way we made it work was through my freelancing, which allowed me to leave my client sites by 3:30 PM, insuring I would always arrive on time for day care, because as anyone who puts their children in day care knows, you can be late for anything BUT you can NOT be late for day care.
Life here in California has been a lot less stressful. The weather is much, much better. The geographical spectacles far superceed anything on the East Coast. But the East Coast also has that weathered nature that I, as a native Easterner really miss.
If I embraced the East Asian philosphies I profess to believe more deeply in than the Judeo-Christian ethos, then I'd live in the moment. I would shed this missing of things stuff and embrace the knowledge that everything is fleeting, that nothing is permanent, that everything comes to an end. That is what I would do, but I have neither embraced those philosophies fully, nor have I been able to allow them to shape my current thoughts. I'm betwixt and between the East and West, both philosophically and physically, and for my own sanity I need to find a way out of this.
And the most direct way out is to begin to work harder at living in the moment, to realize that home is here, right now, exactly where I am.