Sunday, July 12, 2015

You can't leave home again

But I'd trade all those cancelled tickets for a single return fare
To a station with a loved one waiting there.

Naturally, since I whinged about dot beads not selling well for me, dot bead sales have been hotter than Sugar Land in July.

I could barely give them away for $2 per bead and yesterday a set of 3 dot pairs went for $35.

I started to feel guilty, but then I reminded myself that I have seen 3 pairs by other artists go for north of $70, on many occasions.

And the icing on this particular cake was that the buyer joined my Facebook group and bought 5 more items, including 2 Warring States Dynasty style beads, traditional dot pattern beads that have sold dismally for me historically, for the most part.

I'm happy again. I got this, I own this.

Happy is a good thing after our North Carolina junket.

We flew to Raleigh on the 4th of July, a Saturday. We arrived early enough to look at some model homes - except the information center had closed at 3 pm, approximately 10 minutes before we pulled up. The model homes were mostly closed for the holiday too. We did visit one model, by a builder we'd never heard of and drove around a bit.

Neil didn't like the style of homes, they were wood rather than brick, with very pointy roofs, and the lots were small.

So we went to get some ice cream and found a gelato place open. After that we tramped around the UNC campus in Chapel Hill, which was a lot of buildings and not enough green space, although there was a cute little arboretum, and the weather, while hot, was not ridiculous.

We checked into our hotel, lucked into finding an open restaurant where we had an above average dinner, and then we went up to the top of the hotel parking structure (among a couple of hundred others with the same bright idea). We saw at least 5 separate fireworks shows, all in the distance in every direction.

So, we belatedly realized that on the following day, Sunday, most model homes probably would not be open until afternoon. We were headed to Charlotte that night anyway, so I suggested we drive in the morning and arrive after noon. Since we can never seem to get going early on vacation, it just made sense.

We'd been to Charlotte a year earlier, and had started looking around in the north, based on a casual conversation I'd had on Facebook with one of my customers, who said Cornelius was nice. We'd immediately stumbled into a community called Robbin's Park, being developed by a builder called Classica. We'd both liked the quality and one model in particular.

We'd spent the rest of our first visit to Charlotte visiting all the places Classica was building, working our way from north to south.

This time we started in the south and worked our way north. We started with two communities we'd visited previously. Both had been developed to a degree, but there were still plenty of lots left. Then we visited 3 new locations, called reserves, with a small number of homes and no amenities (pools, community centers, walking trails, etc.) Along the way, we kept up our ice cream tradition with Carvel. Eventually we wound up back on the north side of town, where we had a noisy but tasty pub dinner while America played Japan in the World Cup.

In the morning, we headed to Robbin's Park, which now is about 90 percent built out, and like many things in life, did not hold up to our romanticized memories or at least to mine. I didn't love the model home I'd loved the year before. There were a few nice lots left, including 4 or so that were being used for drainage during construction and might not even be for sale for another year.

All things being equal, even Neil would say we aren't in a position to take action yet anyway. He's not sure when he will retire - it might be as soon as this year or not for a couple more years, thought he thinks a year is the most likely timeframe. I remain skeptical, but I also remain silent about it.

The best news as far as Neil was concerned was the intelligence that in the next year Classica would almost definitely begin developing 60-some homes on a new piece of land that a developer had acquired. It would not be a planned community like Robbin's park, just houses on a subdivided piece of land. From the plat it appeared that there were some nice lots backing up on a wooded preserve.

Now we get to the interesting part of the story. The whole thing suddenly became overwhelming to me. The idea of moving someplace essentially unfamiliar, a place where we know no one, a place that is a thousand miles further away from our children, sunk in, in a way it hadn't so far. I dissolved. We sat at Carolina Cones, eating 4 of their 43 flavors of ice cream and my eyes would not stop leaking.

And that's pretty much how it went for the rest of the day.

Neil kept pointing out how our whole relationship had been built upon our joint desire to leave Texas one day. I said, things change. There is a grandchild now. There will probably be more grandchildren in time. My parents are dead now. Houston is as hot and flat as ever but family trumps weather and topography.

I also said, I'm not ruling anything out, I'm not saying I'll never move, but at this 10 seconds of the universe unfolding, I can't see it. I can't see myself being as happy there. We'd be so dependent on each other. I don't make friends easily. I didn't see one house that I loved as much as I love our house.

A heated and air-conditioned studio has always been a dangling carrot for a move, for me. For 7 years now I have worked in the garage. It's not ideal, but I've adjusted and I can continue to cope. I don't even know if I will still be making beads in a year, 2 years, 3 years. Chances are good that I will, but chances also are good that if I'm lonely and sad living in North Carolina, my muse may get ticked enough to start phoning it in.

I'm not the same girl who packed her stereo, all her vinyl and a wardrobe of T-shirts and blue jeans in her '65 Plymouth Fury and drove from New York to Texas. I was 23 years old. I didn't have a child, a mortgage, furniture, not even a cat (never mind a husband and 3 cats).

Monday night found us back in Raleigh. We drove around a bit more, visited some developments that Neil had found online. We got to see one model home, arriving 10 minuted before closing time this time. We weren't impressed with the builder or the lots or the future highway easement. We tried to salvage the day with a wood-fired pizza dinner. I was still weepy, Neil was disappointed in me, and we still had all of Tuesday ahead to look at more options for places to move.

Several things conspired to compound my misery. I was reading Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks, a novel about the first World War. I'd seen the BBC dramatization (twice). It's a terribly sad story, despite its redeeming message of hope and a comparatively happy ending. That was one thing.

The other thing, one that I haven't been able to talk to Neil about because I think he will dismiss it, is my history or connection with North Carolina. For 3 years after my marriage ended I was in a relationship with a man I met online, who lived in Raleigh and had done so all his life. He was a lawyer and a kind person, a highly intelligent man who adored me, but he suffered from that biochemical imbalance known as depression. He was fine, more or less, for most of the time we were together, or at least so he led me to believe.

Nonetheless, almost from the start, romantic as it was to have someone be so head over heels about me, reassuring as it was to have someone with whom I could talk about literally anything and everything, I had misgiving. It was the distance that sustained the longevity of our relationship. He was safely in Raleigh and I was safely in Jersey Village and while we talked all the time about Robin finding a job in Texas and moving, I never really believed it would happen.

In talk, in theory, we agreed that North Carolina was a nicer place to live than Texas, but I wasn't going to move my kids or take them away from their father, and I sure as hell wasn't going to leave them. The first time I visited Robin, a few months after he came to meet me in Texas, I flew to Raleigh and we turned around and drove to Tennessee, where we stayed in a cabin with a hot tub and hiked in the Smokies. On another visit, my kids came with me and we drove to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a dance competition.

I think there may have only been one visit where I went to see him in Raleigh and we stayed in Raleigh for the length of my trip. I felt very depressed while I was there. I missed my kids badly. We went out to dinner with his sister and her husband, nice people, and I thought I was covering up how sad I felt. But later Robin told me that his sister remarked on how depressed I seemed. Her words were something like, she would need to take more Prozac if she spend much time around me.

That might have been the last time I visited Robin in Raleigh, but I vividly remember that I was in a crisis. We did a lot of walking because I felt better if I was outdoors and kept moving. It had nothing to do with Raleigh itself. It was just a fragile time in my life. My divorce was final and past appeal. I wasn't grieving for the marriage or the man, I was grieving for the loss of some happy family dream, and I suspect I knew Robin wasn't my future but I wasn't ready to admit it yet, to hurt him, to be completely alone.

All of that really has nothing to do with today. Robin and I remained close for 8 years, including 5 years after I declared the romance over. Many things happened. I met Marty, I lost Marty. Robin met Sue, Robin lost Sue. Robin had a benign mass in his brain. Surgery did not affect his intellect but it took a lot out of him. He came to a point where he lost his will to live. He cut off all contact with me.

Some time later I friended his sister on Facebook. She told me he was living in a group home and had cut off contact with his family too, including his own kids. He spent his days taking the bus to the library and reading. She told me that she sent him a little spending money every week and that her husband had run into Robin, who had claimed he was happy.

There were other things, some I'd known, some I hadn't. I knew he'd run up a mountain of credit card debt and was making minimum payments, even at the time we were a couple, although I only found out near the end of that time. I didn't know that he'd stopped renewing his law license (while continuing to practice) and that he hadn't filed an income tax return since I'd known him and that he now owed the government another mountain of money.

It is what it is. I miss him, but it's been 9 years or maybe 10 since he ghosted out of my life. I'll be grateful to him for being such a good friend at the time I most needed him and staying until I was well and truly ready to let him go.

On our last day in Raleigh, Neil commented that I seemed to be feeling better. And it was true, because I was going home the next day. Neil even offered to blow off the retirement living scouting and just do a fun activity for our last day, but I thought we should see it through. We went and looked at more houses built on pretty wooded lots and Neil worried about the trees being so close to the house should a bad storm come along. Mental note: view of woods at a distance good, living among trees not so much.

We wound up back in the very first subdivision we'd visited and this time the welcome center and all the models were open. We did talk to a builder we were impressed with and saw some lots on a deliciously named Bennet Mountain Road. The community had several future phases planned, so hypothetically in a year or two or three, there would still be possibilities for building a house.

The best news for me was that the same planned community developer is building in the Texas Hill Country too. I'm hoping when then weather cools, around mid-October, Neil and I can check out those places and maybe find something appealing. It would still be hot in the summer but we'd be off the Gulf Coast with it's hurricane threat and by definition the topography would be at least somewhat hilly.

And now we're home. Back to the red earth of Sugar Land. The future is safely back in the future and I won't think about it today. I'll think about it tomorrow.

After all, tomorrow is another day.

"It's been a long time since I've seen the high plains of Expectation
And I'm way past the lowlands and the deserts of Failure and Doubt
And the last time I passed through Satisfaction
I didn't recognize a single soul there.
Now I'm leaving Normal and I'm heading for Who Knows Where

Excuse me mister, is that seat taken,
Can I put my bag over here?
You know this trip will go a whole lot smoother
If you take your hand from there
No, I'm not from around here
And my name's not Little Darlin'
Why is there one in every crowd
And why do I attract them?

Funny how the smell of a Greyhound bus
Now smells like a fresh start to me
And how the sounds of the steel belts on the blacktop
Is now the sounds of breaking free
But I'd trade all those cancelled tickets for a single return fare
To a station with a loved one waiting there

I've finally learned that there's good and bad
And that a girl can do some choosing
Of that I'm glad cause this hardened face
Won't take any more bruising

Yeah, and the next time I fall into another's arms
There's one thing of which I'll be certain
That he can bare the weight of the love I give
Without considering it a burden

It's been a long time since I've seen the high plains of Expectation
And I'm way past the lowlands and the deserts of Failure and Doubt
And the last time I passed through Satisfaction
I felt like a stranger there
Now I'm leaving Normal and I'm heading for Who Knows Where

Now I'm leaving Normal wherever I'm heading,
Well, I don't care."

(Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz