I've lived in Boston for nearly ten years now. It would appear that in that time, I've lost the art of chit-chat.
Oh, I can still hold my own making small talk at a party or on a first date or at a job interview or something. But I've become used to not talking to The Public. You see, in Oregon, you talk to everyone. The person who takes your order at Dairy Queen may end up knowing as much about your private life as your hairdresser. The teller at the bank probably knows what you gave your kids for Christmas. The checker at the grocery store might want to know where you got that cute new shirt.
Perhaps I exaggerate. But only a little. People in service industries talk to you in Oregon. I'm sure for some of them, it's part of their training to be chatty with the customers. But in many cases, I think it's just the nature of Oregonians.
It's not the nature of Bostonians. I remember when I first moved here and I tried to engage the woman ringing up my groceries in conversation. She looked at me like I was crazy. I tried again and again and again. I'd say I tried for a good few years. Every once in a while, I'd happen upon a naturally talkative soul, or another displaced northwesterner. For the most part, I was not outright rebuffed, but gently deterred. For a few years after I stopped trying to chat everyone up, I complied with the social norm but secretly felt hurt, as though it were something about me, not about the unwritten rules of society. Bus driver didn't say good morning? Must have been my orange hat or the look in my eyes.
After a few years of that fruitless stewing, I came to a point of acceptance, and, shortly after, genuine appreciation for the lack of banter. Why would I want the ticket seller at the theater box office to know what I ate for lunch? Some days, I didn't feel like talking, and on those days, with many people I encountered, I didn't have to. It was liberating.
On this particular trip back to Oregon, I found that I was hostile towards The Public for the first few days. I was defensive. When people tried to make small talk with me, my first thought was, "Why is this person talking to me? What does this person want from me?" Then I remembered that this is the Oregon Way. I tried to follow suit. But I've totally lost the touch. It seemed like everything I said was wrong. I thought what I was saying was right, but based on the "Are you a simpleton?" looks I got in reply, I must have been wrong. Saying "Good" in response to, "How are you doing?" was evidently too impersonal, but saying, "Well, I feel like I might be getting a cold, and I just can't decide if I should stay in Boston or move back to Oregon, there are just so many forces at play . . . " was TMI. I could not find the balance.
Sometimes I think that if Maddie and Riley grow up on the east coast, they will in some ways be little foreigners to me. People out here play lacrosse and go to private school and don't chat. People where I'm from play water polo and wear socks with their sandals and say hi to strangers on the street. After ten years, though, I've become more east coast than I sometimes realize or want to admit.
Every trip to Oregon brings up emotions related to going home, thoughts of moving back. As the twins get older, the idea becomes more urgent. They are old enough now to start making real memories of Oregon, to understand that it's a different place from home. If we are going to move back to Oregon, I want to do it before the twins start Kindergarten. Granted, that gives me 2.5 years, but the logistics involved in a cross-country move—selling a house, finding a job, finding a new house, saying goodbye, etc.—would need to be underway a year or so before the actual move.
I'm not sure what I want to do, where I want to be, what is best for us. But I thought about it more this time than I usually do. And I'll be thinking about it a whole lot more now that we're back.
Make that "now that I'm back." Maddie and Riley are at my mom's house, being cared for by their Moo (my mom), their Plain Ba (my dad), and their Otro (Other) Ba (my stepdad).
I got home last night, to a dark, cold house. I was unpacked and settled back in within an hour. I made myself some tea, then looked for the twins in the playroom. Right. Not there. I called to check on them. They were fine. I hung up and stood in my living room with my tea. It occurred to me that I needed some dinner, so I went to Whole Foods and got some basic groceries, plus a wonderful, overpriced salad from their salad bar. Then I went to the Toys R Us next door and got a few things to send to the babies.
At home, I ate my salad and watched three episodes of House. I dreamed all night of the twins and tried to check on them when I got up at 2:00 a.m. to pee.
I feel like I thought I would feel, like something is missing. Because something is missing. I miss Maddie and Riley. It was nice to sleep until 7:30 (oh! the luxury!) and I'm excited to go to the movies pretty much every night this week. But I'm looking forward to Sunday when my mom and dad will bring them home.
I talked to my mom today, and she told me that Riley had been upset about something this morning. In classic Maddie fashion, his sister had gone to comfort him. What did she report to my mom? "Moo, he need his Mama." And I need you guys, too. See you Sunday.
We had an amazing time in Oregon. More on it this week as I get settled back in and resume regular posting. I went totally dark while I was out west, barely checking e-mail and obviously not posting at all. It was a nice break. I read four books! And all were good! Awesome.