There's a funny thing about moving. No matter how quickly you dig yourself into your new life, how fast you unpack, how soon you hang up the art, it still really takes about a year to settle in.
I have moved an almost obscene amount of times in my life. I haven't had enough coffee yet today to do a proper count of it but I'm guessing it's around 15, not counting moving houses in the same city. Averaged out that means that I've moved cities (and sometimes countries) ever 2 plus a few months years of my life. It also means that I'm pretty good at it.
I know that having, say, a pumpkin carving party in your yard a few months after moving in is a great way to meet anyone with kids in your neighborhood. I know that hanging pictures on the walls right away, even if it means moving them later, makes a place feel more like home. I know about choosing furniture that will fit in different styles and sizes of houses (sectional couches are not good for serial movers, as we learned during the Dallas to Oregon Move of '93)
I'm ballsy about asking around about pediatricians and hair salons and I can force my way through my shyness to go out and meet people. I'm good at moving. There was a time that I loved moving. New place, new house, new friends, new things to do. I still don't hate it, even though each move means more people left behind to miss. But even after all those moves, it's still true that it takes almost that whole year to really feel like you have moved.
Just about one year ago, we came up to New York to check it out. We already knew we were moving, some of us (me) more reluctant than others about it, but that was the first test. We stayed in a studio apartment, not too far from where we live now. We figured out where grocery stores were and which parks were close by, what exorbitant price was being charged for a box of graham crackers. Will went off to a day of lectures and tours at Columbia and I wandered around the city with the kids, trying to decide if I could really do this.
So it shouldn't be that surprising that in the past few weeks I finally feel settled. I wouldn't choose to stay longer, I am still ready to move on from this exciting but stressful experience we've had here, but I can see that a second year would be easier than the first. Now that we have routines and friends and can walk up out of a subway station and generally (not always, but most of the time) know which was is uptown and which way is downtown. We have seen all the seasons here now. I know that winter is grey grey grey. That spring is slightly less grey and then suddenly pink and yellow around the edges where trees and flowers bloom in the medians and in little pockets of garden. I know that in summer the sidewalks have to be hosed down so that they don't stink in the heat, that the pavement has a way of raising the temperature like you wouldn't believe, that there are so many things to do every sunny, hot, day that you could never fit them in in a lifetime of living here. And fall, long and lovely fall, is the nicest season of all, as it is everywhere really.
I feel settled. And it's almost time to go. And then I will have to start again, somewhere else. A year from now I'll feel settled there.
Spending just a year anywhere is like that I think. For the first ten months, you're just on a long vacation. You are a visitor. And then suddenly you aren't. You yell at a cab and bang your hand on the hood when they pull out into the crosswalk, or people walking around with maps in their hand recognize you as someone they can ask for directions, and surprisingly, you can give it. Suddenly you aren't a visitor. It's a strange thing. And it's almost time to start it all over again.