where the heart is

What is it they say about not being able to go home again?

Santa Cruz is just like I remembered it. As usual, I spent the first hour making mental note of all the things that have changed since we moved two years ago – that restaurant wasn’t there! Those apartments are finally finished! That gas station is gone! My sister’s house has undergone the biggest change; they’ve spent the last couple of years renovating, and the place looks amazing. New carpet, granite counter tops, a whole new master bath. They’ve even re-done the yard. How do I feel about my baby sister owning a home when I’m still barely able to scrape together rent every month? I’ll get back to you on that one.

We walked in and for a second I thought I’d come to the wrong house – a girl I didn’t recognize came out and said hello. “I’m Marie,” she said. “I’ll be giving you a massage today.” And the heavens, they rejoiced. Is there anything better than a surprise massage? So sweet of my sister to set it up. She’s one of those people who finds networking as easy as breathing – she trades an hour at the gym (she’s a personal trainer) for a massage and everyone’s happy. Especially me.

Saturday was the Big Party. I was too scatterbrained to have party anxiety, which was probably a good thing. Normally I spend the days before a party fretting about whether we have enough food and worrying that people will be bored or that I’ll say something stupid. This is because I am unbalanced. But not last weekend! Last weekend I was so busy worrying about the flight (which went swimmingly, as it turned out) that I completely forgot to stress about the party! Clever me.

And the party went fine, despite the fact that no one devoted excessive emotional attention to it beforehand. Small children ran amok, yet nothing was broken. Old friends and not-so-old friends intermingled, and good times were had. Even my mother managed to keep the crazy to a low simmer (although she did make a point of saying “Don’t you think he has my ears?” to everyone she saw. Kate gave the best response: “No, I think you have your ears.”). The baby was passed around to everyone except my old friend Tom, whose immaculate blue shirt was simply begging for spit-up.

The contrast between my old life and my new life is striking. In Santa Cruz I have a ready-made network. Instant social life: just add water. There’s always someone to hang out with, someone to hold the baby while I check my e-mail, someone to meet me at the coffee shop for a quick latte. Here in Portland I have this cloak of anonymity. I’ve met a few moms I like a lot, but no one’s nearby and I don’t know any of them well enough to feel comfortable suggesting a coffee date. Silly, but true, and the walls in my living room are slowly but inexorably sucking up all my air.

Happy Fun Baby did great with all the attention, but by the end of the weekend he had pretty much had it with all the traveling. He screamed when we put him in the car seat, screamed when we got on the plane, screamed when we got off the plane and put him in his Snugli for the bus ride home. Once we finally got back to our house, though, he was all smiles. I think he missed being home. I did, too.