The first few days I spent in Greeley were unorienting, to use a word I’ve invented for scholarly purposes. I kept thinking, “when I get back to Brooklyn, I have to tell so and so about this or that.” Everything about the town reminded me of somewhere I’d been before, somewhere in California, in New Hampshire, in Oklahoma. It didn’t feel familiar even though I had been here just a few months back. Because my family came to help me get settled, it really seemed like a vacation complete with snoozing in the backseat of the car, pinching my brother, and buying representative trinkets, postcards, and hiking guides as we toured Estes Park. And because my home is filled with furniture I inherited from my grandmother and special family pieces given to me by my parents, the house didn’t immediately feel like mine. I haven’t lived with these objects in a place of my own. They remind me of my family, especially when I touch them. Wiping a quick gloss of wood polish across the dining room table reminded me of being a kid and sitting under that table while watching my parents in the kitchen making dinner back when we lived in an old house that had rich smells of antiqued wood, much like this house. Putting my socks into the drawers of my gramma’s dresser shot me into a reverie about how she showed me to fold socks into tiny packets and line the pink drawers with them all facing the same way so as to maximize space. Opening the desk panel of the secretary that belonged to my mother revealed the word “love” etched into the wood. I did that when I was quite young. Because it was what I felt for her, I thought my mom would like it, but no…that led to a lesson on vandalism. Packing the china and crystal into the china cabinet reminded me of the dining room in my grandparents’ house, its blue carpet and how itchy it made the back of my legs when I played on the floor. These objects have long stories, and their retrieval signifies the beginning of my story here in this new old old town.
I wonder how differently things would feel if I had kept all the things I’ve lived with during my time in New York.
The uprooting process of taking myself out of Brooklyn required leaving familiar objects behind, such as a couch upon which I’ve sat to watch many films, share many conversations with my various roommates over the years, and that provided a bed where many friends have slept. Not having this couch in my living room is surprisingly affecting, though it isn’t the object itself I miss. It’s the sensation of comfort that old worn down, floppy, ragged, dingy sofa provided my body at the end of a long day or when I had a cold.
Now I have space and quiet (aside from the plentiful cicadas and wonderful sounds of the train depot a few blocks away) and these two elements lead to mind/body clarity and comfort. It’s a new kind of comfort, the sort that corresponds with having a truly desirable job, a sense of accomplishment for having finished graduate study, and knowing that I’ve gotten to the beginning of the place I’ve always wanted to be. But, as I spoke with other new hires yesterday, I realized that none of us are actually comfortable yet. We have so much to learn about our new community. We have to make choices about how and where to spend our time. We have new students to meet next week, and we hope they are as engaging and bright as everyone says they are. We feel like we’re standing in diver’s pose, gripping with our toes, searching for the fulcrum’s balance. And despite the excitement of newness, all of us miss our old sofas.