Coming Home

Last night, Nick went with me to hear Elizabeth Strout read. We went to dinner at the Italian place my family used to get takeout from when I was a kid, and without realizing it, I ordered the pasta dish I always used to eat. In that same chocolate pregnancy book I keep writing about, one of the most fascinating parts was the connection between hormone changes in pregnancy and emotional desires. I’m especially intrigued by the connection between hormones and nostalgia/homing/wanting to connect with one’s family.  I’m already a fairly nostalgic and place-focued (obsessed) person, but I do feel those feelings intensifying. Especially when I took my first bite of rigatoni with peas and sausage and thought of all those summer nights when I sat on the Portofino patio with my mom, or when my dad came home from the train with a bag of takeout in tow.

The reading itself was funny. The woman doing the interviewing was bossy and insistent, and while Strout kept (kindly, I thought) quieting this woman’s instincts to tell us all what the book Strout had written really meant, I spent most of the interview thinking about the groups of women around me. Nick and I were some of the youngest people in attendance. Most of the women had let their hair grey (yes!), and most were in pairs or groups. Friends, book clubs, women who’d known each other for a long time. Many, presumably, through children and pregnancies and broken marriages, and hopeful joy. The woman one row in front of me was talking about the tasting she and her husband were going to for their daughter’s wedding. I thought of my mom and the fun we had wedding planning (and for a moment even felt bad that our engagement was so short and the fun wasn’t drawn out any longer), and most of all longed for a group of women in my life.

Now that Nick and I are buying a house, I’m starting to feel more settled (despite having lived 15 of my 31 years of life in Fairfield County). Like, this place might really become home. We could go to readings and be regulars at a restaurant and have a group of friends and a doctor we’ve known for years and a favorite ice cream place and start to feel like “wow, what a small world!” when we run into our friend’s boss’s sister’s wife.

Right now, my freshmen are learning about the hero’s cycle. They’re talking about the journey inward, reading memoirs, watching Joseph Campbell interviews, and getting ready to learn bout mythology and read The Odyssey. The group that’s reading This Boy’s Life talked yesterday about how Wolff changing his name from Toby to Jack back to Toby is a going and a returning. I guess I’m tempted to do the same. Think of pregnancy as a return, the beginning of a new cycle, and so it makes sense that I’d be overcome with such a desire to connect to my beginning. I mean this only in the “journey inward” sense, not the “I’m heroic because I got pregnant and am now I’m hoping to do everything within my power to have a healthy child.” And, of course, there’s that abyss in the hero’s journey, which I can’t help think could be something like labor.

At the end of this post, alarm clock ringing in the background, the clothes I meant to wear to work today still in the washer, I’m struck by one final thing: I picked the name of my blog partly because the word “run” is in the line from the Mary Oliver poem (“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long, Black Branches,”) but also because the poem, about daring to risk exposing yourself to the complexity of beauty in this world is also about coming home to the life you were meant to live.

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