The old saw that you can't go home again immediately came to mind as I woke up to her very good question. When you leave a place for a generous extent of time, after you finally return, you come back to a whole new arena. And you face it with the point of view that comes from living in, and loving, another part of the world. This friend knows that; she lived in Europe for a long time. She knows what happens when you bite into the apple, when you leave home and make your new home in another place, and then return to your spot of origin.
The difference is she moved there--and came back--with her children. They share those memories of learning another language, a different form of motion, a new way of looking at the world.
Relationships are built upon shared experiences and a common context. When I chose my other home, I began to create a context that my children didn't understand and their lives became ones I couldn't touch. The same thing happened with my friends, my sisters, my mother--but I could live with that. My children? Not so much.
When I returned to Seattle, my life within this city was profoundly different from the one I had lived before I last left. People whom I worked with and liked and counted as my friends I see much less often than I did when we shared a workplace. My own workplace is my apartment; there are days when my social contacts fall within a five-block area. I spend two months of the year outside of this country. My roots in Seattle aren't ones that I reclaimed; they're tendrils, new and fragile and struggling to take hold.
Except for one part of my life here, which is not only unchanged, but stronger than ever--that's the life I share with my children. The ability to say "Let's have dinner tonight" or "Can you come over?" is invaluable to me. It's worth this long haul of reestablishing a home in a place that has become strange to me.
I look forward every year to leaving this city for a while, and at the end of my time away, I look forward to coming back. It's a weird way to live, perhaps, but this is my life. And I think of this Raymond Carver poem, which is me, without the cigarettes:
Cigarette smoke hanging on
in the living room. The ship's lights
out on the water, dimming. The stars
burning holes in the sky. Becoming ash, yes.
But it's all right, they're supposed to do that.
Those lights we call stars.
Burn for a time and then die.
Me hell-bent. Wishing
it were tomorrow already.
I remember my mother, God love her,
saying, Don't wish for tomorrow.
You're wishing your life away.
Nevertheless, I wish
for tomorrow. In all its finery.
I want sleep to come and go, smoothly.
Like passing out of the door of one car
into another. And then to wake up!
Find tomorrow in my bedroom.
I'm more tired now than I can say.
My bowl is empty. But it's my bowl, you see,
and I love it.--Raymond Carver