I’d long been an arm-chair gardener, repeatedly attempting to become the real thing with my hands in actual dirt. Heaps of garden catalogs, plans, scrambles to find sunlight.
Little came of my efforts in New York. Sunlight and space were always at a premium, and I never seemed to cross far into the reality of anything resembling an actual garden. Too busy, too hot, too cold, squirrels ate the tomatoes, rabbits ate the pansies.
An inner shift was “happening itself upon me,” although it took me some time to realize it as such. My frustrations with city life had been growing, and my reasons for staying put had mysteriously evaporated one-by-one.
I had begun having a series of recurring dreams about where I came from: woods, creeks, meadows, wildflowers, the white marble library, Palladian windows, the eternal flame on the court house lawn, rattling wooden bridges, the smell of new-mown hay.
On one long, hot, summer day, I spent a total of 10 hours sitting on interstate freeways in a series of traffic jams. I calculated how many of my life’s precious minutes and hours were spent going somewhere, coming home, or waiting in traffic.
That was it.
Surprising myself, I said aloud, “It’s time.”
As soon as I got home, I went immediately to the computer and Googled the name of the small Midwestern town where I was born. Under “Search Within Results,” I punched in the word “Realtor.”
As if by magic, a list of real-estate agents presented itself.
We’d been talking casually about a move from East Coast to “Heartland” ever since we met, but Frank swore he’d never leave the New York house. He’d always been enchanted with it, and had turned it into a quirky private retreat long before I arrived on the scene.
Almost daily, he would wave his hand to say, “Do you see this room? Do you see this house?” Then he’d close his eyes in ecstasy.
On returning home from a trip even a block long, he’d invariably raise his right forefinger majestically: “Look at this house! Who would ever want to leave this house?” It seemed an audacious move for me to even mention leaving “This House.”
But in a day, everything had changed. A pot simmering for years on the back of the wood stove had suddenly come to full boil.
Fear lurked around every corner of this idea. How many things could go terribly wrong? At our ages, how much would the upheaval cost us in terms of health and energy? Or would staying here cost us more? As always, we would have to make the decision with incomplete information. Outcome unknown.
For months, my dreams had been telling me to return. What if Thomas Wolfe was right about not being able to go home again?
As I contemplated how I’d approach Frank, I drove through the tree-shaded streets of Palisades, Piermont, and Nyack, thinking how much I loved these river villages and how I’d miss them.
Then I thought of the small town where I was born. Historic. Gracious in its own way. Quieter, with almost identical architecture.
What a strange and wonderful feeling to find myself less invested in outcomes. I could finally at my advanced age go willingly where life would take me. Well, mostly.
So if I actually decided to move forward with this immense idea, what would be the next step? The list of realtors overwhelmed me with choices.
As if in a dream-sequence in a movie, the face of a childhood friend materialized in my mind. She had lived in that town, and she knew everyone. Yes, I’d call Jaycie. She’d steer me toward the right realtor. Once I had some facts in hand, I’d lay them all out for a discussion with Frank.
Who knows how he would react? An absolute “NO! ” would end it all then and there. I couldn’t imagine any other response from him.
It never hurts to have a dream, though.