The other morning, Chris and I were sitting at the table, having a bit of coffee together before the kids woke up. I was fine. Fresh. Ready to start the day. And then Chris said, “Oh, yeah. You need to listen to this.”
He handed me his phone, on which there was a message from my mom. (My mom calls Chris’s phone to get ahold of us because he does things like answers his phone and checks his messages.)
“Hi, Maria and Chris. I ran into so-and-so downtown and he said to tell you they miss you. And I took a walk past your old house: the willow tree has gotten so big! And here is what the weather is like today.”
It wasn’t an unusual message. We get them on a semi-regular basis. Sweet, nostalgic, yet upbeat. But, for some reason, it totally threw me off my game. I couldn’t look at my husband and went to sit on my cushion and started to cry.
We’ve been in California for over a year now. I like it here. I don’t think we’ll move back to Kansas, or anywhere else, in the near future. But I still miss Kansas. More specifically, Lawrence. More specifically, our home and friends and family there. And even more specifically, the reason for the tears the other morning, I miss the me that I used to be before we moved even though I like the me now even better. My mind doesn’t do well with holding simultaneous, seemingly contradictory thoughts. It doesn’t do well with ambiguity.
I don’t regret moving. I appreciate the ways it’s helped me develop: emotionally, psychologically, intellectually. I wouldn’t go back. But, I also grieve what I gave up to move. I miss the me that didn’t know the things I know now from this move, things that have changed who I am on a deep, fundamental level.
You know what it’s like? It’s like becoming a parent. My guess is non-parents are sick of parents going on about what a big deal it is to have kids, especially because we often talk about how important and great it is, yet we look so tired, pinched up, and angry all the time. A few years ago, I had a friend who was thinking about not having a kids ask me to describe what’s so great about it. I hemmed and hawed for a while and finally said I couldn’t really explain it. (She pointed out that, since this is what I write about, I should try a little harder.)
It’s just one of those things, right? One of those life-things that doesn’t make sense. One of those cultural things we’re not really supposed to talk about. Like, that, maybe if we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t travel that road, except that’s really impossible because, once we’ve traveled it, we know there are deeps truths we didn’t know about before and we couldn’t, wouldn’t ever go back to the way things were. It happens in all kinds of circumstances: falling in love, moving away from home, becoming a parent.
The closest I ever got to saying these things out loud was with another friend who said that, before she had kids, her own mother reminded her that she didn’t have to become a mother. That there may be some advantages for her life not to. My friend said that she was hurt by this, to hear it from her own mom, specifically. Because of the implications, you know?
It was only after becoming a mother herself, understanding what the experience means by living it, did she know what her mother had meant. Her voice through this conversation, like mine, sounded a little sad, and then we stopped talking about it because one of our children ran up and interrupted: they needed us.