Monday, April 26, 2010

The Left

We got the news this weekend that our next-door neighbors in Marin, the Hutchinsons, some of our very favorite people on the planet, are moving. It's one town over, the charming Fairfax, ten minutes away, but I am devastated. As we move back into our house in June, they will be moving out.

When they moved in three years ago I heard from another neighbor that the new tenants were a family. They had two kids, ages five and three (exactly the ages of Mae and Lana). I was ecstatic. And that was before I met them. It turned out that Lee and Ann were cool, funny, generous - the whole BFF package. Ann was pregnant then with Luke, who would, it turned out, be Mihiretu's age. Their daughter is named Mae. We had the only two Maes in Marin county within a hundred yards of each other. It seemed meant to be.

We've always known that this was probably a temporary situation. They were renting the house, though they were looking to buy. For as long as they've been there, the four of us have been strategizing on how Ann and Lee could convince their landlord to sell to them. Lee sent endless emails to the owner offering to buy the house. Ben and I would lay in bed at night with our eyes closed, holding hands, envisioning them owning the house. Fucking hippies.

And, indeed, just a few weeks ago, the owner decided to sell. But he was asking two hundred thousand dollars over market and by then he had thoroughly exhausted Ann and Lee with his caginess. At the very same time they found a property they fell in love with. Huge, flat, sunny lot right next to open space with a real, honest-to-God, child-sized train running through it. I mean, come on.

Ben and I put together a plea after we heard the news, a carefully sculpted email. Don't you realize, we asked, how special it is that we live next to each other? We've had this whole long year to regret our terrible mistake of moving away from them. We asked them to consider staying.

A lot of nerve, really, making that kind of request. We've been leaving people all over the place. Five years ago we left our idyllic micro-community in Fairfax to move to San Anselmo. Then, last summer, we up and moved again, this time all the way to San Jose. And now, in June, we'll leave our friends here to move back home. All these moves were (and are) difficult for us. Heartbreaking. But I think, in the end, it's easier to be the leaver than the left. It's like breaking up. Yeah, it sucks either way but it's infinitely more sucky to be deserted then to be the one who makes the decision to go.

And so now we have a taste of our own medicine. And it is one bitter pill. It's like a mini-death. I know that we'll still be close to the Hutchinsons. But I won't be seeing Ann many times a day on our shared driveway with just a ten second news update ("Mihiretu won't nap - I'm going to kill myself and everyone else", "New pair of boots, come over later and tell me if they're good", "Let's meet at the green for dinner at five"). Or calling down to see if she has any cayenne, evaporated milk or cream of tartar and having one of her kids, an "emissary", run it up and stay to play. Watching the kids climb the hill behind our houses, searching for bunnies or wild turkey or lizards. That stuff, that impromptu give and take, won't happen. And it's killing me.

I try to be philosophical at times like these. That yes, things change, they always do but as old things leave, new things come. When God closes a door, he opens a window. All that crap. But all I can feel right now is sad. All year, I've just been wanting to get back home, to be with my friends again, especially the Hutchinsons, my extended family. And the thought of driving past their empty house or, even worse, seeing someone else's car parked in front, I can't take it.

I never knew what they meant by you can't go home again. Now I do. Yes, you can return to the place but you can't return to the time, to the era. Inevitably, it will have changed. Such a bummer. Because I'm so homesick.

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