Sweet home

“Home is where the heart is, no matter how the heart lives”
—folk singer Sally Fingerett

Turns out my home and heart are in the same place, even if the love of my life is elsewhere.

I returned “home” to Southern California over the weekend to greet the moving van and bid adieu to my old apartment. My fiancée, Amy, will be down there through the summer, but the April 30 end of our lease made this the perfect time to transport our household up here.

After all, I can talk to Amy on the phone; my chair and TiVo box, however, aren’t part of the “In” network.

I’d only been gone a month, so I didn’t expect to have those “you can never return home again” feelings. Nostalgia usually requires more temporal distance.

Funny thing about expectations: Reality doesn’t always live up to them.

Sure, I navigated the streets and freeways as if on autopilot. I know the back streets of Riverside better than some of the main streets—and some of Main Street—in Chico.

People at the neighborhood market and café weren’t aware I’d moved, so I got the same personal welcomes. Former colleagues knew I’d moved, and my workplace visit felt like the first day back from vacation—the “Hey, you!” greetings, the travel tales and the quick catching-up chats.

And yet … I wasn’t home. I didn’t feel the same visceral connection with the community. Familiarity and fondness are two different things.

The smog was atrocious. A brown haze obscured mountains, and even foothills just a mile away. No wonder there’s so much pollution: Traffic was omnipresent. Friday afternoon, well before rush hour, avenues were clogged. Same with freeways at non-peak times Saturday and Sunday.

Even local commercials seemed foreign when I watched my trusty TV.

Seventeen years in one place have gotten trumped by 30 days in another. Familiarity goes to Riverside; fondness flows toward Chico. The greenery, the eateries, the warm and friendly vibe—my new hometown has won me over in sudden, deep ways.

Home is where the heart lives. I’m glad my heart (and the rest of me) is here.