When you lock the doors and call it a day, `home’ lingers as a banquet of subtexts, shifting feelings, and rich shades of meanings. And sometimes, it’s the only place we find understanding.
We’ve called Colorado home for seven months now. I have a Colorado drivers license and voter registration card to prove it. It would be disingenuous of me if I sugarcoated how challenging the transition across the fruited plain has been. On one hand, of course, I’m still in the good ‘ol U.S. of A, which means there’s a high degree of expectations from the capitalistic carousel. The Targets, Wal Marts, Wendy’s, and Best Buys all snuggle hereabouts. There are front-line workers. (We all need to thank them for their sacrificial service, especially their performance during the pandemic.) And I don’t have to apply for a passport or visa. Oh, there are three Orthodox churches within a 30-minute drive of our apartment in Longmont, north of Boulder.
Change is hard. Old habits die hard. There are friends back home (how do you define ‘home’?) who remain puzzled as to why I `ghosted’ them. Sure, I talked about the possibility of moving for months prior to walking the talk, but I think they thought it was all part of my ADD-wired brain. Here’s a snapshot of the blowback that drifted over the tumbleweed:
“What’s so good about Colorado?”
“Denver, huh? It’s really cold there.”
“It definitely snows in August.”
“Everyone knows you’ll be back soon.”
“Zooming has its place, but it’s…electronic and impersonal.”
“Are you still pulling for the Nats and the Wizards? Don’t tell me you’re now a Rockies and Nuggets guy.”
“You’ll come to your senses soon.”
“Yeah, where’s your loyalty, man?”
And on and on…You get the message. But I can accept their understandably narrow viewpoints. The plain and simple fact is they don’t grasp what it’s like being Greek. Not Scots-Irish. Not German. Not mainline Protestant of any stripe, which may involve sipping communion wine from a paper cup – not that there’s anything wrong with that. As basic as basic can get, it’s in our DNA, so we need to go with the flow. Much like the residents of Athens were forced to do during the recent torrential rain. The short version of why we moved was crystalized by these 21 words from our son’s lips: “We’re having a baby girl in February. You should be here when you become yiayia and papou for the first time.”
While the mob back in DC is vocal about registering their disapproval over my disappearance in the foothills of the Rockies, there’s another friend, Lois. She’s a pal from back home who last year sold her house and moved to a senior community called Latitude Margaritaville. The gated development takes its name from singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet’s hit tune. Lois wins a prize for standing out as one of the only friends who didn’t charge me with desertion. (Not directly, at least.) Here’s what she covered in our 45-minute phoner with her. It’s such a relief, sometimes, when you put the dialogue on automatic pilot:
“Tony, I can park on the beach. I have a pass.”
“There’s a Publix grocery store nearby. I drive the golf cart. So convenient!”
“I’m going down to Tampa Bay this weekend to see the Buccaneers lose to the Bears. DA BEARS! Chicago will always be my hometown.”
“They opened this place called Buc-cees on I-95. It’s got more than 100 fuel pumps! And hundreds of soda flavors.” (When Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the colossal store’s grand opening in March, he said: “I bought my villa for around $250. It’s now worth $475.”
“I took a gun safety course. Then I bought a pink gun. I use it for target practice.”
“My cardiologist is Dr. Barton Sickinger. I admit, his name makes me a bit nervous, but he’s very good.”
While Lois prattled on like only Lois can, I braced myself for a lecture about why I jumped ship. Happily, since she moved on herself to a sea-level clime, I dodged a bullet. When I asked her to compare DC with Daytona, her reply flashed into the ether: “No match. Daytona 10, DC Zero.”
Whew! Finally, I thought, a friend from back yonder who didn’t parade their air of righteous disapproval. As we said our goodbyes, Lois had a question. “Are you looking forward to being a grandfather?” Of course, I replied. “You’ll love it. And when you decide to leave Colorado, you gotta come down here. There’s nothing there.”
Since this leaves me exasperatingly clueless, I’m offering a blanket pardon of everyone lingering in the dark shadows. All I can say is I’m Greek. If you want to peel back the layers of neurosis as to why, I suggest you consult a cultural sociologist. Then demystify it for me.