The Great Escape

It is true that people adopt homes, come to love towns and cities in which they were not birthed, or raised or formed. But for me, it has been different.
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I have begun the countdown. There are four years to go. I realize this may seem a little early to start scratching off the days on the calendar, so far ahead of The Day, The Very Big Day, just around the corner in 2015. But I cannot help it. Something is making me count. And that is okay, I think.

On November 30, 2015, I will be moving back home to New York. It will be that day, I decided last week. The Monday after Thanksgiving. In the early afternoon, maybe around 1PM. My younger child, now 13, has been informed that she will eat one post-graduation turkey in her childhood home and that will be it. She will flip the high school tassel, go off to college and return three months later to the zip code of her youth. One string bean casserole with the crunchy onions. One marshmallowed sweet potato mélange. Fini.

I have lived not in my home of choice for 12 years. It is true that people adopt homes, come to love towns and cities in which they were not birthed, or raised or formed, really. Those years are so significant, we find, years after the years. But for me, it has been different. It has felt like a Witness Protection Program. That is a good thing if you have spilled the frijoles on a Mafia don, but not so reassuring, otherwise. I have just not cottoned to the place where I live -- Texas -- from its tornado sirens and wayward possums, to the politics and the God thing. The God thing is big in the Bible Belt.

I am a New Yorker, and I have failed to acclimate. The taxi driver who scooped us up at the airport 12 years ago said it takes people five to adjust. Five to feel like you are not visiting. I feel like I am visiting, despite my efforts. I have gone to rodeos, eaten barbecue. I have endured heat that could make you forget your name, viewed the world's largest hog at the state fair. Bloom where you are planted, I have cheered myself on in my head. Embrace the adventure. Celebrate la difference. At a certain point, though, despite the hopeful outlook and spirit of acceptance, you know it will never be. You cannot wear the boots. Who are you kidding.

I have lived in Chicago and Philly and Boston and have loved their temperaments. I lived for a year in Biloxi, Mississippi, finding fascination with shrimp fishing and good old boys and issues of racism, even. Racism was interesting to me, in that place with the funny garden apartment and aerobics class next to the supermarket. I'm thinking it was interesting not only because I was a cub reporter, then. I think it was because I knew I didn't have to stay.

I've had to stay in Texas, in Dallas County, not a toe over the line, because of a residential restriction in my divorce decree. You can be free of the man, though not of the soil. But legal details have become boring, alas, so I am focusing on my upcoming move instead. All energies ahead. Compass north.

Now that I have determined the date, and the holiday menu, I can engage the process. One can never be too prepared. It is what I tell my girls. Start now, you could have rickets tomorrow. So, I have charted a sequential relocation plan addressing all real and potential issues of a cross-country move. I have perused the attic, segmenting household items into groupings: take, sell, toss. I will toss the bug spray. Bugs are like pets here; I will not need the spray on 58th Street. I have begun emptying the fridge, too, it's true, and dusting for the realtors and distributing canned goods to neighbors. I have collected paint swatches in novel hues, anticipating a need for boldness. Heeding the advice of long-distance travelers, I have changed the clocks, giving my body ample time to adjust to the later hour. The girls will be early to school. A valuable lesson in readiness, clearly. The house will hit the market in March and be sold by Freshmen Parent's Day at college, which, the children have known since toddlerhood, will occupy a latitude from Virginia on up.

Meantime, I have been careful not to amass anything that would impinge upon a seamless transition. No government appointments. No pet burials. No men. I do not want to have to choose.

When my then-husband moved out nine years ago, a friend spewed advice from her phone on 79th and York. "Do nothing to fall in love."

"Until 2015?" I asked.

"Not a second before."

It seemed doable. But as much as four years feels so close, when Manhattan streets beckon from movie screens and old pals ship bagels from Broadway, four more years alone has started to feel daunting, even if he, whoever he will be, will be waiting for me on the tarmac. Flowers in hand. Tickets to a show.

That is the plan, of course, to find true love moments after landing, and not just with my hometown, again, reaffirming the vows. I imagine the scene at night, before falling asleep, but I can't get past the plane's door. I can't get down the steps. My plan is flawed, I know. You cannot put a person in a place and time the way you can a book into a box. You cannot unwrap him from his paper, unbroken, and fill him with purpose. However hopeful and romantic the fantasy feels, it leaves me sorry I have invented it. Every time. Every night, curled up on the diagonal.

So, I consider the options, realizing that I need one. I can orchestrate a less serendipitous rendezvous, starting now, in advance. Hey you, up there, meet me now, down here, and then, wait. Wait four years, for me. I'll be there, I promise. Or, I can employ the converse and find someone down the street, giving him the opportunity to continue with me later, on the connecting flight. Or not. The last choice is to do nothing different from what I am doing now, other than to sleep straight and forget about it.

I do not know what I will do. This feels like something that will find its own course, without much direction from me. I suppose that could sound like the passive route, the take-what-presents-itself route that landed me here in the first place. But this time, I will be able to see the existence of a choice. I will be looking for it when it flies by.

For now, I clean the closets and design change-of-address cards. I count the days, until the The Day, The Very Big Day. Then, surrounded by cartons, my daughters and I will eat the string beans and the potatoes and it will arrive. Just like that. A truck will pull up in front of our house and men will spill out, setting up ramps and carrying blankets. They will wrap up the furniture and roll it out on dollies and lift boxes onto their backs and come inside for more. I will wait in the foyer, purse on my shoulder, dog on the leash.

I wonder what the emotions will be. Seventeen years is a long time, a long time to not feel something, other than relief and triumph. For now, I feel the adrenaline of a finish line within reach. I suppose the remaining yards will be measured in turkeys. I did not plan the planning, but woke one day feeling ready to pack. Like any race, success can be claimed in the kick. And I sense the kick coming. I can't say that I see the tape or hear the crowd, yet, but I feel the round of the track. I feel the stretch to home.

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