Last Sunday Rob and I flew back to California from North Carolina. We landed at SFO and it was rainy and grey and really chilly, especially after spending four days in the already muggy spring that comes so early to Charlotte. I wrapped my jacket tighter around my body--the one I bought last summer as a get excited, you're moving to the Bay Area present. It's olive green and has an army vibe with gold details that look great with my otherwise neutral wardrobe. I never managed to get overly excited about moving to the Bay Area, but the jacket helped.
We were both so tired from several days packed full of food and friends, so when we landed we were kind of dazed. We wanted dinner and to go to bed, so after our Uber dropped us off at home we put our bags in the living room and I called the Chinese place down the street. I used to joke that you don't live somewhere until you have your takeout place down the street figured out, and I thought about that as I placed our very usual order of General Tso's chicken and rice noodles, and the guy on the other end of the phone responded with recognition.
There are tiny moments that creep in when you move somewhere new, and slowly but surely they start to create a feeling of home. The California ones are fewer and farther between, but driving down El Camino Real on a rainy night to pick up Chinese food is certainly one of them. It reminded me of those quiet rituals that felt so new at first but now define the cities we used to live in--walking around Lake Harriet on a snowy day, drinking almond milk lattes at Spyhouse while I wrote essays for the blog and thank-you cards after my bridal shower. I used to walk over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art from the coffee shop and crunch through the snow, getting a little emotional over the wide steps leading up to the columns.
Then there was light rail from South End to Uptown and 7th Street Market for lunch, walking to Atherton Market or watching The Bachelor in my friend Paige's apartment. Sunday doggie playdates in the backyard and Vietnamese takeout, s'mores on the grill, and cortaditos from Smelly Cat. One of the first times I really felt like I lived in Charlotte involved, believe it or not, Chinese takeout on a rainy day--it was a weekend and we had no plans so I walked down the street from our South End apartment to the place we had started to get used to, and I walked home with a brown bag full of General Tso's chicken and rice noodles, wearing the waterproof boots that used to keep me warm in Minneapolis.
But you've heard this all before:
Maybe one day the things that will make me feel at home will be different. Perhaps they'll turn into California things: palm trees and sandy beaches with wild waves crashing, or the crowded streets of San Francisco and the way grapevines look in the early evening light. The drive to Half Moon Bay to visit my aunt is already becoming more and more familiar every time we do it, but I still think it's safe to say that no matter where I am, I can always count on a rainy day and an order of noodles to bring me back where we are, where we've been, and where we one day might end up staying.