I signed Ryan up for preschool this week. The final decision came down to the two best preschools in our town, one of which Mike attended 29 years ago.
We say we moved back home. But I didn’t really move home. I moved to my husband’s home.
To be fair, I did move significantly closer to my home. I moved to a place very similar to my home in landscape (trees!) and attitude (football and hoodies are everything!). But the place where I grew up is still 400 miles away. Four hundred is better than 2,000, of course. It’s closer but not close.
It’s a surreal thing to move to your husband’s hometown nearly five years into your marriage.
When I ask for directions, I’m told to “… go like you’re going to the gym, but then keep going straight, around the corner, past the place where we ate last week, and when you come to the stop sign, make a left…” Because these people have lived here long enough to stop paying attention to street names and to know their way by instinct, by feel.
I learn new things about this town every day. Like how “Taco Tuesday” is celebrated each week in most restaurants. How dropping a neighbor’s name will get you in with the coveted pediatrician. How if you want to purchase beer at a grocery store, you can only buy it one 12-pack at a time.
I love it here. I love it, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. I struggle to navigate the freeways in the rain. I keep pulling up maps on my phone to figure out where one thing is directionally located in relation to another. I don’t have a favorite pizza place, a favorite happy hour spot. I don’t feel settled.
It was easy to move to Phoenix. Lots of people move there every day. It’s the norm to be from someplace else. It bonded strangers together. Plus, I was younger and on my own and less concerned with such things.
To be 31 years old and to have a family and to move to a place that most residents have called home for decades is disorienting.
They are surprised when I say that I’m not from the area; I just moved here from Phoenix. I can see them doing the math, wondering how I could have wandered so far at my age. So I add that I’m originally from Cleveland, and now they’re still confused but a little satisfied that at least I’m prepared for the weather. I finish with but my husband grew up here, and finally they smile and nod with what can only be described as relieved understanding.
This will be Ryan’s hometown. No matter where he ends up as an adult, he will call this place home. When asked, he will probably say he was born in Phoenix, but grew up here.
By the time he says those words, by the time he brings his out-of-town college friends to visit, I wonder if I’ll direct them to the nearest store by telling them to turn right at the gas station, head west on the freeway one exit; turn right and it’s across the street from the bank.
Either way, I’ll be sure to warn them that if they’re buying beer, they’ll only be able to purchase one 12-pack at a time.