Here I am, returning to Watch Out for Mama after what I think is my longest ever hiatus. Two months. I'm doing this because I've returned to another place, severed from many of my responsibilities and holed up in a cool house on a beyond-hot day in a hot place.
In case you haven't guessed, I am definitely not in Montana at the moment. Although I've heard it's what passes for hot there today - 90 degrees.
I'm here in California. Subletting a furnished house in my six-year hometown while Dr. G does contract work in Fresno, reuniting with old friends, and remembering how it feels to stand under the AC vent and try to suck the coolness into my body when it's 105 degrees outside.
It is kind of surreal. Kind of like I never left. I still turn the wheel of my van around familiar corners very nearly on autopilot. Cruise the aisles of the stores and know where to find things. Pick out my strawberries and baby pattypan squash at the roadside stand and feel a little lifted by the smiles of the cute Hmong teenagers who work there.
We went to our old ward today and hugged and hugged and hugged again, dear people who saw me through the early Watch Out for Mama years when I was so unbelievably overextended and trying to convince myself and prove to the world all the time that I could handle it, really! People who watched my kids when I was working, some on a regular basis and some as backups. Who showed up when I got a new foster baby (remember little one-day Joseph?) or lost one. Visiting teaching contacts who let me sit on their sofas for hours and learn from them, or companions who called and made sure things got done when I didn't have that kind of time anymore, or who averted their eyes from my dusty corners on regular visits and then showed up when I really needed help. Sisters who taught me by their example how to serve - to choose helpers whose strengths compensated for my weaknesses, to sit by a stranger and ask her questions about herself, to go without fear on God's errands.
We have still to visit the campus where I worked. That was also hard to leave. But now there is a brick there with our family name on it - my gift to Dr. G on his graduation. And I do still work with my colleagues there. It's a joy for me to be in touch with them and to keep getting to know the staff and alumni of that school. Does my heart good, every time. This week I get to visit my old haunt in the university's downtown office to interview a new employee there. It should be fun. Just fun. Not too bittersweet, I don't think.
This town was a unique kind of training ground for me. I can't say I implement all its lessons very well sometimes. But I did learn and I am better than I was before I came here. I wonder if I will cry again when I leave. Maybe not. I have a new home and dear friends in Montana now; I won't be leaping into the unknown like I was at the end of 2009. But returning to California has reminded me how dear it is to my heart.