Well, more like a young woman. To be completely honest, this woman probably no longer fit the precise dictionary definition of “young” but referring to herself as such made her feel better about her dwindling prospects. It’s trite, yes, but don’t they say you are only as young as you feel? She felt young.
Once upon a time there was a female of indeterminate age who lived in a little house by the sea…
Okay, so it was more akin to a sludge-filled harbour than a sea but it was connected to the ocean, surrounded by land on three sides, and made up of salt water. If that can’t be classified as “the sea” then, frankly, I don’t know what can.
Once upon a time there was a female of indeterminate age who lived in a little white house located up the hill from a sometimes-sewage-infested harbour.
Despite the constant dampness and the odour drifting up from the north Atlantic, the female loved the wee space. It was the first real home she had created on her own. She didn’t own it, oh no, but she could pretend. There was no one around to lecture about dusting or heckle while she struggled with phyllo dough at three in the morning. The house was perched in its own yard so there were no neighbours to complain she didn’t do her share of the mowing. Her dog could bark and her cat could sprawl on the deck unaccosted.
In a way, the city in which her home dwelt also felt as if it belonged to her. Throughout her life this female had re-located a myriad of times. Until this place, the choice of destination had never been in her hands. Parents, circumstance, relationships, and employment had been dictators of her past habitats, from one end of the country to another. However, for the first time, when she had moved to this city, this province, she had been in control. She had looked at a map, narrowed her options, and made a selection based on her criteria. It had nothing to do with economic need or anyone else’s plans. When she made the move, it had been because she desired it and nothing more.
This place was her own – her chosen home. Imperfectly perfect.
And then one day, much to her chagrin, it wasn’t.
As much as she had tried to plug them, circumstance continued to poke holes through the floor boards of her home, seeping its way into the carpet until it could no longer be ignored. The stain grew and grew and finally, denial was no longer an option. It was too late to attempt to clean the mess. The only option was to move once more.
With a sigh, the female packed her belongings into cardboard boxes. She said goodbye to her friends, her job, her home that had felt like her own, and a life that had been too good to last. Once the decision had been made, it felt inevitable. The way she had counted the weeks, the months, the years, she had spent in this place of her choosing, made her wonder if she had always known she wouldn’t get to stay.
Too busy making plans, connecting with friends, hiring a new person to move into her office, finding new people to make her home into their own, the female didn’t dwell on the past. She focused on her lists. She scrubbed the oven she had never quite gotten around to cleaning. She wrote emails and responded to online ads. She packed the truck and waved as her husband and her dog left her home for the new place.
A place she could not yet conceive.
When it came time to leave, when she had said her last goodbye, the female bundled her cat close, grateful she wasn’t alone. If she hadn’t had time to dwell before, oh, how she made up for it now.
In so many ways it felt like failure. Living so far away, in a place none of her family had previously ventured, felt like an act of daring. In her chosen home, she had changed into a person she could just about like. Now she was a scolded child, ducking her head. Her home was reverting to the past. Would her personality revert as well?
Cat tucked under her arm, the female stepped on the airplane. She wished she could say she didn’t look back. It would be a lie. She looked and she looked and she looked.
She looked back with tears in her eyes as the plane moved down the runway. They were the first tears she had allowed and they were impossible to quench.
She looked back as the airplane landed in the new place, feeling lost and insecure.
She looked back as she greeted her husband and her dog, both still tired from their long journey.
She looked back as she began her new job, met up with old friends, explored a new city; it was impossible not to compare.
Even as she found new things to enjoy, new things to call her own, and even as she was forced to admit the decision to move had been sound, she looked back.
Months passed, seasons changed, the female kept looking back. This habit became part of her. In every introduction, she made sure to bring up her chosen home. In her mind, this new place would never be part of her identity.
It was temporary, she told herself. A resting place while the carriage changes horses. Perfectly imperfect. Not a chosen home.
As time progressed, as it is wont to do, the female of indeterminate age grew tired. Looking back had not made her feel one bit better about her situation. With the approach of winter, the longing for what was lost sharpened and did not make the snap of static in the air any easier to bear. She knew something had to change.
The largest reason she had been reluctant to return was due to fear. Fear of falling into past trends, of retreating into the younger female she had been. Perhaps by looking back, by refusing to let go, this dread had turned into reality. It now seemed possible that if she continued to long for what she no longer had, she might lose it all.
But how to let go? How to move forward with optimism without disparaging the past? How to see the new place as a step ahead and not a step back?
These were the questions she needed to answer.
To be continued…