August 22, 2005 ~ Dichotomies, Arrival
From Tuesday August 2nd
The baby started kicking like mad as soon as we started our descent. I involuntarily laughed, then felt guilty. The baby was probably thinking, "What in creation is going on out there?! OW! I don't know how to pop my ears yet!"
I leaned over to my North-facing window, where Mount Adams and, beyond it, looming Mount Rainier were coming into view. I have fallen in love with the softly rolling ancient Blue Ridge Mountains and Southern Appalachians of Western North Carolina, but they still have not replaced in my heart what the definition of a "mountain" is for me. A mountain is incredibly tall, snow-peaked year round, with sharp angles and drastic height. The younger Cascade Mountains of my homeland, still active in their formative years with occasional earthquakes and eruptions, not eroded over millennia--they are what my heart still sees as true mountains. Dangerous, changing, sharp--not worn down, soft, and kind.
That morning at sunrise, I had watched out the window of a much smaller jet as the sun rose over the Appalachians, dark rolling islands in a sea of orange and pink tinted low clouds that lurked in the valleys, not yet burned off by the sun. Beautiful. And now the Cascades, in the sharp light of midday, beautiful in a wholly different way, with their majestic high peaks.
Mount Saint Helens then came into view, the gaping hole where the peak used to be, the snow on her slopes a dirty grey from the ash of recent eruptions. She has been active while I've been gone. The major 1980 eruption had happened just six months after my birth, and she has given out the occasional rumble ever since. I lived my entire life up until my nineteenth birthday in the shadow of that still-quite-active volcano.
Looking out that airplane window, I realized that there were tears in my eyes. I don't think I ever truly realize just how much I miss certain aspects of my childhood home until I am once again in their presence. Saint Helens sent me over the edge, and I wiped away tears as we came in for landing at the edge of the Columbia River. Home.
The constant dichotomous pull from my two lives, my two homes, that ache that I always keep buried, it broke through to the surface. So very glad to be back, yet also missing my newer home, my life with Morgan, Rose, and Monty. 3,000 miles is a lot farther than it sounds.
Pulling myself together, I swung my backpack onto my back and joined the slow progression of passengers out of the plane. Outside the security gate, my mother was waiting with tears of her own. As she pulled me into a hug, she mumbled something about how she didn't realize just how emotional she'd get, upon seeing me again.
The afternoon was spent in a variety of ways. Dropping off my luggage and settling in at Mom's house. Shopping for meals that I could eat at the natural foods store. Touring the old neighborhood where I had grown up, looking at the changes to the high school, the elementary school, our old house, my old friends' places. Mostly, though, we talked. And talked and talked.
Mom insisted on taking me shopping for some baby clothes, and I told her how, when we were only a few weeks pregnant, Morgan and I had no spare money at all, but we really wanted to do something to make the presence of the new baby more real than that extra little blue line on the test. So we went to Goodwill and picked three little baby outfits from the dollar bin. It's silly, I know, but those three little outfits really made all the difference in the world. Tiny newborn outfits. There really was a baby on the way. We brought them home, let the dogs sniff them, then folded them and put them on the corner of the dresser. We had baby outfits. The baby was real.
It had been a beautiful afternoon, but with the flights and the waits and all the stress of traveling, I headed down early to the quiet private space my mother had prepared for me in the basement. What a day.
And what a dangerous thing is some privacy after such a day. The jetlag and the pregnancy hormones probably compounded it, but the emotional intensity of the day finally hit me as I settled into bed. I cried into my pillow, I must admit.
Because I missed Morgan and the dogs. Because Morgan and I had never been apart for so long. Because Monty and Rose wouldn't understand where I'd gone; you can't explain "only two weeks" to a dog. Because I had missed my mom so much, and it had been three years since she'd visited me in North Carolina. Because it had been five and a half years since I'd been back to Portland and seeing it all again was overwhelming. Because Morgan hadn't been able to get the time off of work to come with me, even though he really wanted to, even though he wanted badly to see everyone. Because Morgan hasn't had the chance to have the sort of close relationship with his in-laws, my family, that I have had with my in-laws, his family.
Because we're having a baby. Because, that day, I'd shopped with mom for tiny outfits for that baby, and, thinking about those tiny outfits, it suddenly struck me, "Our baby will wear these clothes in just a few months." Our baby, coming so soon. Our baby, who will be a real, live, little person separate from me in just a few months. Our baby, who won't get to see my side of the family very often while growing up, despite how much they love this baby already, how much they want to contribute to this baby's life. Because, despite telephones and e-mails and gifts sent through the mail and an online journal to keep in touch with pictures and words and sometimes even audio recordings, despite all our technology and connection, 3,000 miles is still a very long ways away. We will try so hard, and we will visit as much as we can, but it is still so very far away. All the pictures in the world can't make up for a single kiss.