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Now’s the time I finally get to the title for this little series.

A Sort of Homecoming:

In 2005/6, I made it the Bay Area three times: for a November trip six months after my move back to Kentucky, for RSA 2006 in February, and then again last May. Each time, I felt very much like I was going back home, even if I was in SF proper only for a day or two and even if I stayed in hotels. My friends were still in the same places (and only one had a child by May 2006). My favorite restaurants and shops were in the same places. The freeway hadn’t yet suffered a partial collapse. Time was my only constraint to seeing and doing all the things I used to see and do and love.

By this year’s trip, more kids had entered the circle, including my own. That changed everything. I stayed with friends in Oakland because they had the space and have a child-friendly house. (As an aside, more gracious or helpful hosts could never be found.) After one complicated and limited trip into SF via BART and MUNI, I realized that it’s hard to skip around town when the trains are standing room only and your baby needs an afternoon nap each day. And as I am nursing and a bit sleep deprived, there was no way I was going to be able to hit Mad Dog in the Fog for a long night of pub quiz on this trip, much as I’d love to revisit my glory days of winning free drinks doing the same.

So instead of revisiting my old life on this trip, I more accurately sampled what might have been had I stayed. Despite loving my old neighborhood, with most of our friends in the East Bay, Matt and I clearly would have moved sometime after Simon came along. We equally clearly would have spent much more time eating in and much less dining out. This has already happened in Louisville, but it’s less obvious here, where daily life does not have me walking by restaurants and bars filled with hundreds of childless couples my age. Here in Louisville you drive to most restaurants and most couples my age are home with their kids, too.

Had I stayed, I’d also be raising my child alongside Thomas, Kalyna, Alise, and two babies who are on the way. That knowledge is much more bittersweet. We have new friends in Louisville and old friends we are getting to know all over. And we are thankful for these new and renewed connections. But there is little in life that’s as warm and inviting as settling in for a long chat with people you have known for decades-people who knew you when you worked for the crazy dot-com, when you had no interest in kids, and when you had time to play Pub Quiz or get a private karaoke room in Japantown. I love imagining Simon going with us to LA to see Susan, Jim and Diana on a regular basis. I love picturing play dates with the local crew. It would be divine to be around for all the birthdays, first lost teeth, first days in school. I’m sorry Simon won’t be picking up any Chinese from his friends.

I don’t for a minute, however it might sound, regret moving back to Kentucky. If I were the person I was last week, that new-ish mom in Oakland pushing a Bugaboo down College Avenue (and believe me, if I lived in the Bay Area I’d have that Bugaboo), I know I’d be mooing over being so far from my family while Simon grows up and we all grow older. I do, however, regret that the downside of getting to live all over the US and having dear friends at each point along the way is having so many more people to miss. Every decision in life involves trade-offs, but those that put proximity to beloved friends in the minus column are surely the hardest.

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