— Dave Matthews Band
Recently, Cassidy and I entertained the idea of moving back to the San Francisco area. I think we were on the same page with a lot of the pros and cons of Western Mass vs. San Francisco. It’s funny that with 20 pros to stay here and really only 1-2 pros to move there, we still considered SF in the running. And yet, those were some big pros. And I do believe we’ll revisit the idea again sometime. It may be an every couple of years idea. Hey, it may be yearly. Or it might be 5-10 years from now. What I know now with certainty is that we’d ideally like to be rich enough for a house on both coasts. And if that never happens though I believe it will, but if it doesn’t, I know we’ll eventually want a life without winter. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
Once we realized the decision to stay here was semi-permanent, we both breathed a sigh of relief. I was surprised that I wasn’t more upset because although I liked the California fairy tale hanging over our heads, if it became a reality, I’d have many sleepless nights. I can’t even think about packing up our house again and making arrangements for a new home. And then the money it costs to move…the anxiety…the uncertainty. And that’s the easy stuff. My biggest sigh of relief is that I really like my life here. I feel like I have a real home. I like going out and I love coming home and curling up on my spot on the couch and watching Food Network and planning our weekends around all of the fun Pioneer Valley/New England activities there are to do here. Leaving here would be like leaving a lover you’re both comfortable with and passionate about. (the perfect combo!) And it would be like leaving that great lover pretty early on in that relationship when you’re still getting to know and love them. Leaving when the dizzyingly high and giddy feelings still haven’t dissipated when you see this person. Leaving before you’ve explored all the wonders that make them what they are. And really, who would be crazy enough to do that??
So now this post turns from a life musing into a Top Ten list. Yay!!!
So now I write:
The Top Ten Reasons to Stay:
1. Friends. From co-workers to neighbors to my baby mama friends, I have hit the friends lottery in western Mass. I have sympathetic yet strong support when I’m down. I have brunching friends, pot lucking friends, shopping buddy friends (is shopping buddy friends redundant? Nah.), sleepless-from-baby friends, and even have-the-same-Tim Curry-albums-as-me friends. I had wonderful friendships in New Jersey but it was time to leave. I had outgrown the place but not the people. I knew my good NJ/NY friends would still be in my life today and they are and better than ever. And they’re only a short road trip away.
2. Northampton. The first time I came here, I took a red eye alone from San Francisco to Boston to spend a few days with Ruth and Ernie in Conway and then attend one of my best friend’s weddings in Cape Cod. Ruth was amazing to drive all the way to Boston to pick me up at the crack of dawn and then we stopped in town here for an early Sylvester’s breakfast before leaving civilization. I really only saw the street we parked on and the restaurant we ate at but it left me with good feelings. I stored them away for future use. When we moved to the east coast almost two years later, we started in Conway to have a stable place to stay until we found our footing. Ruth took me to Northampton one morning to wander and check out the town while she had a business meeting. “Three Dunkin Donuts!” I excitedly texted to Cassidy once I got there. (That was when Dunkin was still fresh and exciting to me because it wasn’t on the west coast. I have since gotten over that one.) I also made note of the two ice cream parlors, several bookstores, Starbucks, and two candy stores that I passed on the street along with a variety of colorful characters. I never dreamed we could live here and we were so lucky to find the home we live in now. It was the first place we looked at and we followed it up with some pretty scary or far places and came running back to this one. I mean, this town has its own Pride Parade. How cool is that? No matter what your sex, or the sex of your partner, public displays of affection here are widely accepted. In fact, they’re so common, I don’t even notice them unless out of towners point them out to me. This town has its own gay owned and operated store “for all your gay and lesbian shopping needs.” (their words) It’s called Pride and Joy. I also love how this is a real summer town and the tourists swarm our streets and love our restaurants and movies and stores and all the other excitement that is a mere mile from my home. I love how Starbucks is next to Dunkin. I love how the Starbucks employees all know me by now and make my drinks perfectly. I love our indoor mall, Thornes Market, and our run down but beloved community movie theater – Pleasant Street Theater. Ok, I work for the non-profit that runs Pleasant Street Theater so I couldn’t resist using my blog as a plug for them. Wow…that was long. And I barely covered even a fraction of what I love about this town!
3. Neighbors. Neighbors should really be #2 but I figure that without Northampton, we wouldn’t have these neighbors! We have great potlucks, summer block parties, and people who will help let Stormy out when we’re out all day. All of our immediate neighbors are around our age and super nice. Heck, I even get a kick out of the people across the street who chase chickens and roosters down the road. Last week we went out to dinner and ice cream with our neighbors and I came home thinking about how we had had so much fun and we could all just be ourselves and be comfortable and hold Scarlet and eat and talk and laugh.
4. Healthcare. Again, this could also be between #1 – #3 because it helped me stay healthy and bring a healthy baby into this world. I had great prenatal care and I’m in love with most of the doctors in Scarlet’s Pediatrics practice. We’ve gotten great support and advice. I have even talked in my Facebook status about how much I love my dentist. She is the coolest person to talk to, but once she starts working, she is insanely thorough and strictly business. I like that. My General Practitioner is also super nice, witty and kind of sexy. Wow. I hope he never finds out about this blog.
5. Family. Ok, this could also be between #1 – #4! It does help that we’re no longer missing Mother’s Day and Christmas and Passover and birthdays. Scarlet is getting to know her many Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents and she’s growing to love them very much. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I’d have to agree that it’s amazing to have everyone close…but not too close. We don’t all live in the same hut, luckily.
6. New Englandisms. The Red Sox = not my favorite thing to hear people go on and on about. Everything else New England has been amazing to experience. As a kid and a young adult, I always dreamed I’d one day live here. I got to experience my first fall foliage and my neighbors have told me that a moose walked my very street a few years back. I have yet to see a moose here but it’s amazing to think that the possibility is always there. I also love the Sugar Shacks that open for about a month during maple sugaring season. It’s also so green here and the pace of life is slow. Like California, business offices commonly have casual work dress. That is so cool to me! I can’t believe how different the NJ/NY professional experience is. I could never go back to that now. And there’s such a sense of community and small town mentality here. We have a fair, festival, and show to support and showcase everything you can imagine.
7. Education. Should we stay another 17 1/2 years, we live smack in the middle of the famous Five Colleges. And even though we’re barely even thinking about Nursery School yet, the schools for the under 18 crowd aren’t too shabby either. It’s also nice to know Scarlet might go to school in a culture of such tolerance and acceptance. I know that bullying and teasing go on everywhere and it’s more important to teach her to have confidence in herself and fight for what she believes in, but I used to sit on the public bus with city kids in San Francisco. They scare me.
8. My job. I have a job. They’re really hard to come by these days. And it’s a busy job. I’ve had way too many jobs where I was pretty much paid to play Solitaire. I’m not bragging but I’m a very fast worker. It’s just how I am. Most jobs I’ve had haven’t been challenging enough. This new one is insanely challenging. I look forward to seeing what else develops.
9. Rachel Maddow. There’s always the possibility that you’ll see her walking down the street. The probability is probably the same as seeing a moose walking down the street, although a moose isn’t giving commencement at Smith next month.
10. Nikki and Paulo! (If you read my other Top Ten lists, this is my cop out answer and I’m sticking to it.)
This blog entry has been brought to you by Northampton’s Chamber of Commerce.