December 23, 2020 and Other Things

Or the day we actually did run away from home.

On this day last year at 12:00 noon almost to the minute, Carboy, one fat dog, two small cats and I loaded into our packed-to-the-gills Silverado and drove away from home. It felt like an escape, a Hail Mary, two adults finally making good on their childhood threats to take the pets and run away from home.

2020 was the pits for everyone on the planet. The world was a big old dumpster fire in almost every way. For me, Covid was just one more nail in the already slammed shut and fully bolted coffin lid. In the grand scheme of things, it almost didn’t make that much difference because being first responders, Carboy and I never missed a day of work, instead work hours increased. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, get tested, go back to your desk, do more work, get tested again, have the hazmat team come and clean up after your co-worker’s test comes back positive, hit your desk with Lysol and keep on going. Look out the windows, watch the protests and pray and hope that there will be a safe way out of the building and out of downtown today at end of watch, can’t even think about tomorrow or the rest of the week.

In my hometown (which was also my work town, play town, ballet class town, etc.) everything was just bad. Lockdowns meant traffic was better getting to and from work but it was small comfort considering. The glimmering light at the end of the crap tunnel was Carboy’s impending retirement. We were literally counting the days one of us (him) could escape and then help the other one (me) hold on for, you know, a long time, still it was part of the dream. Suddenly a miracle happened and our employer offered a retirement incentive. Even though Carboy was already getting ready to sign and submit his paperwork and the incentive meant waiting a few more months, it meant leaving in a much better place financially. At the same time a friend reminded us that he was not just a pal but a real estate agent. Hmmmm…

I hope that you’ve never had to deal with a scenario like this because no one should. With regularity “protestors” – and I mean that with the quotation marks, in fact, I mean that emphatically and with hand gestures with both hands if you know what I mean – were crossing barriers to take photos of us coming out of work, they would try to follow us to our vehicles and take photos of our license plates, they would try to follow us home and post the photos to social media not to be bullied or canceled or called out but as a call to violence, serious violence. We talked about this with our “friends” again, quotation marks intentional, and they didn’t believe us. The Times said something different, the news said that these were peaceful protestors and we were unholy racist bigots who deserved what we got. Okay. So let’s see, will it be very hard to leave these friends and move away? Hmmmm…

I always loved my house. Tiny, rickety and weird but it was stupidly awesome and it was our sanctuary in the city. The hood was terrible with the ghetto bird circling some part of the area almost nightly and regular acts of violence were part of the charm of the place or something like that. We had a bullet hole in an upstairs bedroom window that we never changed out because it was the original blown glass, over a hundred years old. In the last five years of living there some kind of miracle wind blew through our ghetto making it popular, very popular, highly desirable, crazy expensive. We found ourselves living in the most hipster hood in the country and the value of our home was stupid. Literally stupid. So would it be very hard to sell our home and move away? Hmmmm…

But if we left, where would we go? I always like Virginia. I did my doctorate there and enjoyed it very much. I had family that was planning on moving back to North Carolina. What to do? The country is all covered in Covid cooties so can a person even sell a home, buy a home, move with a dog, cats, half a dozen or so cars and a whole bunch of books? Yes. Yes, one can.

One realtor friend in LA, one soon to become a realtor friend in North Carolina, and one single flight for a long weekend to Charlotte. We spent one insane weekend driving all over NC, no idea where we were going or what we were doing really. The only thing we knew was that we didn’t want to move to another big city and we needed out and we needed out fast. Why fast? Have you ever seen the remake of The Stepford Wives when Joanna is fired has a breakdown and her husband takes her to Stepford so that she can recover? Mmmm, yeah. I looked like someone ran me over with an old Buick, pulled up and then ran me over with the dump truck and then some really bad things happened to me and someone propped me up and said try to look human. Carboy didn’t look much better. The last few years of work had been horribly traumatic. I had some really great things happen, some amazing days and did some of my best work but, well, then there were a lot of other things. I don’t want to throw stones or try to lay a whole bunch of blame all around, deserved as it may be, let’s just say, it was bad. Real bad. I loved my job, I loved my work. I will always be proud of the contribution that Carboy and I made, it was real and no one will ever take that from us but it was time for us to go. I was almost broken. Almost. Would I be able to walk away from my job, just walk away from it and leave it all behind? Hmmmm…

We listed our house. We didn’t have to wait long for the staggering long line of hipsters wanting to move to the hippest hood in California (it’s hard to say that with a straight face). We masked, sprayed down with Lysol, didn’t touch a darn thing and got on a plane for North Carolina. Friday, we drove all over farm land, it was beautiful but nothing. Saturday, we drove all suburbs in-between banks for forests, interesting but nothing. Sunday, we drove to the podunks. Holy crap, a sprawling brick colonial with rolling lawns and a forest for a backyard. Trees, mountains, lakes, the air was freakishly clean and it was so weirdly quiet… weird. We made an offer and by the time we were boarding the plane to return to Los Angeles, we were buying a house.

Which sort of brings us to December 23, 2020. I’ll admit, there were a few tears as I said good bye to my house of almost twenty years. We had good times there, no, we had great times there, epic times with family and friends. The backyard would rock with laughter of car guys welding, hammering, just hanging out. Thanksgiving and Christmas parties filled with music and food made in the tiniest kitchen in America. Pizza picnics on the floor of the living room and always a pet sunning themselves in a window. On this day, we locked the door in Highland Park, California for the last time, put the cats into a crate in the backseat, buckled Fred into his car harness, said a prayer and hit the road. We hadn’t actually closed escrow in NC so we drove out of Los Angeles without a home, just the five of us. And as we crossed the desert, I leaned my forehead against the truck window and watched a wild fire race toward us on the freeway. California was on fire again but this time we put it behind us and kept on driving.

Slow Beginnings

We have just completed the first week of the new year. Are you still hanging in there? I hope so! Carboy had surgery on January 2nd. Yes! On the very second day of the new year, can you believe it!?! He’s fine, thank you, it was and wasn’t a bit deal in that every time you go under anesthesia it is a BIG deal but he’s not badly ill or anything and he is already close to fine. But that meant that my 2nd and 3rd day of the new year was spent in the hospital (I have to say that the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is quite nice and filled with kind and caring people). And the rest of my first week of 2019 has been waiting on Carboy’s every need. And to be honest, I quite enjoy taking care of the big guy and making sure that he is on the mend and resting so that he can heal well. So don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, I’m just thinking about how this year has had to have a soft beginning as we move gently into the year with a lot of thought to healing and wellness. I often think about new beginnings as needing to be strong, pushing forward and taking no prisoners but circumstances this year required me to rethink that plan. Heavy rain this week also meant a warm drink and a fluffy blanket on the sofa in front of the fireplace. Warmth and comfort is called for on days filled with the sound of rain outside. There is a lot to be said for easing into something new, going gently and thoughtfully. Healing is a good place to begin.

~All will be well~