I have returned to sleepy College Station after ten days of city-hopping and suitcase-dwelling. I am simultaneously exhilarated, exhausted, and relieved—there’s no place like home, and this hermit is happy to be done with the suitcase and sleeping in her own bed again.
Every time I travel, it seems I am so filled up with new sensations, thoughts, and feelings that I don’t even know where to begin to write about the experience of travel. It’s amazing to me that this is true even when I’m traveling to familiar places like Detroit and Chicago, places where I have spent hundreds of hours living, loving, and exploring. I suppose it speaks to the way that places and people change, and the way that living away from a place changes me as well. Chicago in particular was bizarrely disorienting; I was frequently lost, turned around, confused. But I was also delighted by food and friends, by acts of kindness from my chosen family and strangers. I still love that city, and yet I am still adjusting to the reality of not living in it. I can’t really call Chicago my own any more. Texas has changed me, and I find the speed of life in Chicago overwhelming. Perhaps the pace of life in Texas is more in synch with my preferred pace, which is to say that it feels more patient to me.
But before Chicago, there was Detroit and my family. Oh, Detroit, how our relationship has changed since I left more than nine years ago! I can say without a touch of irony that I have deep affection for that city, a grown-up love for a city that has struggled to redefine itself in the last few decades. Life in Detroit is so good to me—a happy tribe of friends and family with whom to catch up over food and drink. A niece and a nephew who are eager for games, walks, wagon rides, field trips, picnics—pleasures of the simplest kind, really. I feel a strong obligation to be a part of these kids’ lives, to participate in my family life even though career and ambition have taken me far south for now. And so I slip into my role as auntie quickly and easily, and I let the kids wear me out because the days I get to spend with them are so precious. I am happy to hear Lydia’s tiny feet in the morning as she slips out of bed and wakes up with a few computer games and maybe a television show. (Speaking of which, can I just say that I think I am in love with Handy Manny? Can I marry him?) I am happy to be the one to feed her breakfast and to share snuggles and good mornings while everyone else dozes peacefully.
I admit that Devin, my nineteen-month-old nephew, and I are not as close as Lydia and I are. In a way, I suppose it’s easier that I often entertain and care for Lydia while someone else takes care of Devin. It seems to keep everyone happy and content. But I don’t want to play favorites, so I am happy to take Devin out in his wagon or tickle his feet when we’re sitting in a parking lot while someone is inside Trader Joe’s, buying groceries. I even changed his dirty diaper, and let’s just say he was very patient with me and my ineptness. It’s also worth noting that Devin has a more adventurous, independent nature than Lydia, so taking care of him is more about keeping him out of trouble than it is about playing directly with him. I want to honor the differences between these two kids, and I also want to be as helpful as I can to my family, so I try not to worry too much about the fact that Lydia gets so much more of my attention. Devin is just as loved and adored, and he is seriously the best snuggler. The way he throws himself at you when he wants to cuddle is absolutely adorable. Over time, I know my relationships with Lydia and Devin will change, and that’s okay. I just want to be there for them, to be a part of their lives, and to not let the geographic distance between us make me a stranger to them.
There is so much more to say about everything, but I think that’s enough for now. I am happy and tired and of course sad to say good-bye to everyone. But I’ll be back, both to Detroit and Chicago as well as this blog. To love is to return, to forgive, to try again. To love is to choose the bigger life. When we love, we are in bloom.
I love you too, Lydia.