The Grand Experiment, Month One

Posted: 8 February 2011 in Love.
Tags: , ,

I’d never bought a one-way plane ticket before.  I’ve always loved going away, but it was a given that I’d be coming back.

Five weeks have now elapsed since Ken and I stepped off the JetBlue plane at SRQ Airport in Sarasota and I don’t know that the idea has totally sunk in yet:  we are now Home.

Except it doesn’t feel like Home, not yet.

“Why not?” Ken wanted to know when I expressed the sentiment over dinner last night.

Silly, inane, embarrassing reasons popped to mind.  Off the top of my head, because it was dinnertime, I thought about how I was cooking every night now, as opposed to the two nights a week (tops!) we ate at home back in New York, and how I had to prepare our dinner on an electric stove, which no, I will never ever get accustomed to.  (Given the choice, who in their right mind would choose an electric stove over a gas one?)

Then I thought about how after dinner I’d clean up the kitchen and then either watch some television or read a book, and how back in New York I had constantly wished I had just one free night to do exactly that, yet now that it wasn’t a matter of choice but imposed by tight finances and lack of friends close by, this once dreamed-of alternative was far less appealing.

Next I thought how I still haven’t found a dry cleaner or an affordable nail salon and how every time I go somewhere, I have to get in a car and I feel unsure of how to get there, and as much as I thrill over a sense of discovery when I’m traveling (as Ken will point out when I tell him this), apparently I don’t enjoy it in the place I actually live.

These petty concerns don’t get anywhere near the core of my unanchoredness, of course.  And as Ken pulled me into his lap, I was at least as confused as he was.

“Do you feel at Home here?” I asked, in all sincerity.

“As long as I’m with you,” he said, “I’ll always feel like I’m Home.”

Count on Ken to say such a thing.   Hey, I’m supposed to be the romantic in this relationship and I agree with him, theoretically, but at ground level it’s more complicated than that.

So what’s missing?  What would make our new place, our new town, feel more like Home?

As Ken pointed out, we are still surrounded by all our own things:  our furniture, our books and photos, our dishes, our various mementos brought home from our travels.  We still wake up together each morning, in the same bed we’ve shared for a decade.

We both knew, though, that this wasn’t about our material possessions, though I’m ashamed to admit I do find some comfort in them.

What, then?

Until five weeks ago, I lived in New York my entire life.  I consider the city itself my Home, yet when I really think about specific residences–and there have been many–only two have truly felt like Home to me.

The first one was the apartment complex in Queens where I spent my grade school years in the early- to mid-’70s–my formative years, you might say.  To this day, when passing by the complex on the Long Island Expressway, my stomach hollows out with an inexplicable recognition and, yes, longing.  I remember our huge apartment with the oil painting of the Grand Canal hanging above our couch and our 18th story terrace where, along with the rest of the borough, we cheered that day in 1969 when the Amazin’ Mets won the Word Series.  I remember the way to the pizza nosh where we used to get not only quintessential New York pizza but also frozen chocolate-covered bananas, the Sam Goody where my brother and I would go each Friday to buy hit 45s, the small public library where I borrowed books like Charlotte’s Web and cultivated my love of literature.  I feel like a part of me, an essential part, is still there.

My other Home is the one I just left.  The first apartment that Ken and I would call “ours.”  (The year previous, Ken had moved into “my” apartment.)  We found it on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon.  We were already on our way home for the day, I was coming down with bronchitis and coughing my head off, but one of the real estate agents we’d met earlier that afternoon called and said he thought he had a place we’d love.

Love it we did.  The building in Forest Hills was only two years old and the apartment was virtually brand new.  A two-bedroom, two-bath duplex with an unusual layout, floor-to-ceiling windows, great kitchen and, best of all, a patio where in the summers-to-come we would barbecue and have friends over.

We broke our lease and moved in within the week.  According to Ken’s Filipino tradition, we “blessed” our new home by first bringing in a bag of rice.  And blessed that apartment was.  We lived there five years, through prosperous times and desperate times, though bliss and trouble.  I loved that apartment–we loved that apartment.  I enjoyed nothing more than cozying up on the couch in our admittedly small living room, me with a glass of wine and Ken with a pint of ice cream, to watch a movie on television.  Home was as simple as that.

As I write this on my laptop, my same ole laptop, in our new living room with windows that look out onto the beach, I can see the surfers bobbing on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, hoping to capitalize on the windy day.  An enormous pelican wafts by the window.  The temperature is cool for Florida, but very warm by New York February standards, and anyway, the sun is brilliant–as it has been most days since we arrived.  What’s not to love?

We made this move for solid reasons.  We wanted a major lifestyle change, one which would allow for more flexibility which in turn would allow more time to pursue our real passions.  We wanted a more relaxed atmosphere, a lower cost of living and we wanted to flee winter.  Sarasota has provided all these things thus far and so our Grand Experiment is going as planned.

It’s all new, though.  From telecommuting for work, to driving a car to Whole Foods, to the primitive cable service, to not knowing anyone.   Admittedly, nothing insurmountable, nothing time and habit won’t remedy.  We’ve only been here a little over a month; we’ve only finished unpacking a few weeks ago.  I realize it is likely that the more familiar everything becomes, the more like Home it will begin to feel.

More than familiarity, though, Home is about history.  The key is to stop dwelling in nostalgia and to start creating the memories that will embrace me each time I walk through the door.  A sense of Home emanates from the heart, as it has often been pointed out in songs and Hallmark cards.

And naturally Ken is right.  As long as I am with him, I will always be Home.   I suppose I just take longer than he does to let go of what was and look forward to what will be.

  1. khalsaken says:

    Jude, I was touched by this post. And I can only tell you this: “home is where the heart is.”

  2. marusso1030 says:

    Jude, your post is touching, honest and inspiring–thank you for sharing your fears and hopes in such a poetic way…Continue to keep your heart open–the nostalgia will ease with time–Maria

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