I've moved -- a lot. In my 37 years, I've lived in 15 cities in 10 states. Most of the moves took place when I was a student l or when I held an office job--this provided me (for better or, sometimes, worse) a natural networking and friend-making resource. My last two moves, however, occurred when I did not have a classroom or an office as a social outlet--all I had was me and my sparkling, clever charm.
Our first summer in Arkansas, I used the pool (and the women there) as a breeding ground for new friendships. It'd go a little something like this: after the 15 minute migration from car to pool (toting one child, corralling another, schlepping towels and a gagillion water toys), I'd find a chair (not to put me in but to put stuff on, sigh) and slather all three of us from scalp-to-toe with sunscreen. We'd finally enter the shallow end. I'd look around, surveying the pool goers to find someone with whom I could drum up a conversation.
"Oh", I'd think to myself, "she looks nice...I'll ask how old her kids are." That was one of my favorite opening lines. A cute bathing suit also served as a great conversation starter. If things went well, we'd chat and I'd feel so happy that I connected with a potential friend. Near the end of our chat, I'd begin to wonder if I should ask for her number. Then, I'd suck up my courage and ask. If we did exchange numbers, I'd wonder. Did she give me her number because she felt sorry for me (because I was new to town, clearly with no friends)? Or did she see past my desperation and peer through the SPF 50 and Jackie-O sunglasses to see a potential soul-mate?
Would she call? Did she think I was funny? Would she call? Did she like talking to me? Would we be friends????
(Wait a second. This reminds me of something. Hmmmm....Oh Yeah. My twenties. And Dating. Ugh. Geesh.)
After my chlorinated pool friend-finding missions, Hubby would ask how our day went. If I'd met a potential new pal, I'd excitedly recount our interaction. I'll tell him about something interesting she said, how well the kids played (however briefly), and then about something ridiculously funny I'd said. And I'd wrap with, "I hope she calls...."
Fortunately, she usually did.
It takes time to get to know a person and their various shades and levels; idiosyncrasies and a true understanding unveil slowly, over the course of years. Grasping a lay of the land, learning whom I adore, who can put up with my quirks, who I can trust, who will be the start-with-a-playdate-and-segue-into-a-dinner-date friend...well, it all takes time.
And all that time, and dating strategies, invested over 10 states and 15 cities? So worth my effort. Sure, sometimes I wish for the implicit comfort of the daily, yearly, decade-long familiarity of one town and generations of friends. But instead, I get to celebrate the many dear friends, laughs, cries, joyful memories and tearful goodbyes that punctuate my nomad journey. Moving shaped and informed me. I feel like I'm a unique amalgamation of every region I've lived and each friendship I've experienced. Even my accent reflects a special blend of south, north, mid-west and even a bit of east coast. (Interestingly, my northern friends think I sound southern...and my southern pals think I honk like a Yankee.)
Hanging certain pieces of art (whether they be watercolors by Abby or some fantabulous Spanish street artist, discovered outside of Madrid's Museo del Prado) denote home. Home is, of course, my house. The physical structure is important to me. But as I mature, and move from city to city, home has become much more. I find home in various faces, cities and restaurants. In a familiar-sounding swoosh of wind through leafy boughs. Sometimes home is still in my mother's arms, head on her shoulder, gratefully allowing all my angst, worry or celebration to spill out of my pores into hers. Sometimes I find home in my husband's thoughtful, analytical response to one of my pressing, emotional probes. At times, home is crisp, bleach-scented sheets and the luminous glow of my bedside lamp. Others, I'm most at home with the heavy weight of one of children spooned into my lap. My friends, their stories and energy, make each stop on my homeward destination true and full. My home transcends four walls. I am so grateful that home follows, and dwells, wherever I am.