Thursday, May 19, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

Depending on who you ask, I moved to Tucson either in October 2010, or December 2010.

P likes to claim it's the latter. His argument has some merit, but no facts to support it. I first came to Tucson on October 17th for what was supposed to be a two week visit. Before I'd even made the trip south, however, I'd stretched my vacation out another week. It was easy to do; I was unemployed, and a friend had just rescheduled her wedding reception (they'd married in August, in the Cook Islands, hence the later date on the reception), so it wasn't like I had a ton of commitments that I needed to attend to. Two and a half weeks in the lovely Arizona sunshine came and went, and three days before I was supposed to leave, I burst into tears in the middle of Big 5 Sporting Goods (... it was not one of my finer moments). P, who is normally patient and wonderful and kind, seems to lose those traits when faced with a crying girl, because he awkwardly patted my shoulder and told me it would be okay, and then suggested I see if I could reschedule my trip home. Thankfully I was flying Southwest (who I adore for their customer service, but not much more), and it cost me absolutely nothing to push my flight home back another week.

And another, and another.

Finally, it was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and I really did have to go back to Seattle. P drove me to Phoenix and put me on my plane, and was lucky to not have to deal with any crying, thanks to the anti-anxiety pills I'd popped like they were candy. Not-so-great tasting candy that kept my heart at a normal rate as I was zooming through the skies in a tin can. Oh flying, how I loathe thee.


That night, when I was safely back in snowy Seattle (my flight had almost been canceled - SeaTac is ill-equipped to deal with snow in any amount), I called him and we discussed, again, what we had been talking about the last few weeks; P was going to visit his brother in Russia in December and wouldn't be back until after the new year, the wedding reception had been rescheduled for the end of January, and after all that, in early February, I would move to Tucson.

For two days, I was fine. And then, after Thanksgiving dinner, I called him, crying, and he asked how quickly I could get there. Six days, I told him, was Southwest's advance booking date for regular priced airfare. An hour later, a reservation confirmation email was forwarded to my inbox, and P called me and told me to come home.

My family was apathetic, but my best friend, A, was livid. "A best friend does not leave her best friend alone with her husband," she told me - and she wonders why I questioned her getting married. For three days she followed me around as I was sorting my belongings into three piles (take, keep in storage, give away), begging, pleading, and bribing me to stay. When those didn't work, she moved on to vague, silly threats, and got mad at me when I laughed at them. But on December 2nd, she picked me up with the three suitcases full of things I was taking, and drove me to the airport, and I went home.

This longer-and-more-detailed-than-necessary story was the preamble for what I wanted to say all along: I have been in Tucson for nearly seven months, and I still don't feel like this is my home. I have a job here (a good job, a 9-5 Monday-Friday type job, an hour-long lunch, pays me well job), I have an Arizona license, I'm registered to vote, I go to Mass at St. Thomas every Sunday, I do my grocery shopping at the Fry's a mile away from where I live, and on weekends I persuade P into perusing the farmer's markets with me. We go on Sunday drives and visit our friends in Phoenix once a month, take overnight vacations in silly towns with cheap hotels, and drive up to the top of Mt. Lemmon on clear nights to see the city spread out below us like a blanket of lights.

I do all these things, and every day I wake up and think, "Soon I'll have to go back home."

Because the mountains I can see outside my window at work are tan and reddish-brown, not icy blue and snow-capped. Because the sky is a clear, bright blue, and I can count the number of rainy days in the last seven months on one hand. Because I need a sweater when it's 75* outside. Because there's no ocean to go stand on the shore of, no river to wade into, no puddles to spash around in. Because my house is filled with someone else's stuff.

Maybe, if I had moved somewhere with a comparable climate to Washington, I would feel at home by now. Maybe if I wasn't reminded every single day that I wasn't home, it would be easier. But seven months is not a long time - certainly not long enough to change 25 years worth of thinking.

Maybe one day, I'll start thinking of Tucson as home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things I Wouldn't Trade Away

Yesterday, I realized that living with my boyfriend is, in a lot of ways, like living with children.

You see, children need constant attention. You have to get used to putting aside whatever you're working on to fetch some item for them that resides on a high shelf, resigning yourself to never again have a peaceful moment in the shower, and to turning the heat down on the stove while you're cooking to inform the older child that attempting to smother his sister with a pillow will result in  a very, very long time-out. Every task you attempt during their waking hours takes three times as long as it would were they not there, and forget about promising yourself you'll get things done after they do to sleep - after getting them ready for bed, reading stories and singing lullabies, you have just enough time to make a half-hearted attempt at cleaning up before you collapse, exhausted, onto the couch.

Now, my boyfriend, P, doesn't need me to collect things from high shelves for him (a rather good thing, considering my diminutive height). My showers are less than peaceful, but in a a much more pleasant way than a naked two year old demanding she have her hair washed, as well. My cooking is frequently interrupted, however. But this is what made me realize all this: at 5:30, just as I was leaving work and going to pick P up (ah, the joys of a one car household), he called me to say his sister had stopped by the office on her way home and, as she lives just a few blocks from us, would give him a ride home. So I went straight home, and by the time P got home an hour later, I'd made dinner completely, started a load of laundry, re-made the bed (P had attempted to do it that morning, but not to my liking), vacuumed, swept the kitchen floor, and was in the middle of slicing three pounds of strawberries when he walked in the door.

Had I picked him up, I might have been done making dinner in an hour. Maybe. We had summer stir-fry (veggies and rice only, eaten cold), and because I refuse to use frozen or canned vegetables, it means a lot of slicing, and standing over the stove to make sure nothing gets too mushy or seared. With P home, that would have taken at least 45 minutes - I know this because, though I love to make it, I don't very often just because it takes so long. It's not that I mind him interrupting me - it's usually requests for hugs, kisses, or more frequently, to come look at a battleship he found online (I'm sure this will be a post for another day) - it's just that I'd like to be able to get everything done quickly so I don't have to put things off for the weekend. Because come Saturday, he'll look at me and pout and ask if we can please just go to this baseball game, or that movie, or this hiking trail, and I'll stick to my original plan of mopping, laundry, and scrubbing the entire house with bleach for all of five minutes before I give in.

This is not to say that he doesn't attempt to help me with household chores, because he does. I am just hesitant to let him help. I'm aware that this will make me sound picky or even mean, but he just doesn't do things right, and by that I mean, he does them perfectly fine, but not the way I want. Take making the bed, for instance: P pulls the covers all the way down, puts the pillows against the headboard, and flings the covers back up over them. An acceptable way to make the bed, sure, but not to me. His method for putting away the things that have accumulated on the desk over the week involves making many piles all over the floor, leaving them there for an unspecified amount of time (could be hours, could be days, might be weeks if I let him get away with it) and the shuffling them all into one big pile and sticking it somewhere he hopes I won't see. And he wonders why he can never find anything. I do allow him to do the dishes, though it takes him far longer than it would take me, and I end up moving everything anyway, because he can't quite seem to figure out which pot goes in which cabinet.

Tonight, P is at a test site for work, so I have no messes to clean up, no beds to make, and no elaborate, healthy meals to cook. Instead, I get to open a can of diet cherry Coke, make some Kraft mac&cheese, and chill out to the Diamondbacks game ... but it just confirms that even though things take a little more time and effort when P is around, I'd much rather have him here.