Life in a Midwestern town

All evidence suggests that we are back in St. Louis. After a brief stop in Indianapolis -- where we were entertained all too briefly by the musical and dance stylings of my youngest nieces -- we made it back to the little blue house of love on Tuesday evening. And we were immediately struck with a case of the "now what?s" It's incredibly strange re-entering your home when it's been occupied by a renter for eight months. It smells of different people. The vibe is different. And furniture that had been arranged to someone else's priorities was immediately rearranged to my own comfortable memories.

Since my return, I've been feeling in limbo. Sometimes being in our little house seems so normal that I wonder if we ever really left. Sometimes I feel like we don't belong here anymore. And I have been ridiculously, insanely tired, seized by a complete exhaustion that could, of course, be a normal phase of my treatment for fibromyalgia. Or it could be, I suppose, the fall out from switching lives, from the emotional upheaval of our last few days in Ann Arbor.

It's been fantastic to see our friends again. Yesterday, we had dinner with a particularly favorite group of people and it was soul-healing to be around them. From the minute sweet Rachel bounded -- literally bounded -- across the parking lot to hug me to the familiar smiles I've missed to so much, it all felt really good. I've said it before and I'll say it again, among the things St. Louis seems to do best is the people.

Friday Chris and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We've been married. For five years. In a row! What an amazing accomplishment that is.

Today is a beautiful, lazy Sunday. The windows are open, the birds are chirping. I alternate between cleaning and organizing for a while, then sinking into my overstuffed armchair to read or surf the 'net. Our house is full of light and the laminate floors we installed before leaving really class up the joint.

It would be easy to close our eyes and pretend we've never left here, except for the fact that we are, under the surface, greatly changed people for having spent an academic year with the Knight-Wallace Fellowship. I may look the same, but we stuffed about five years of lifetime experiences into those eight months and I met people who challenged me, changed my mind. I miss them. A lot.

It's hard to explain to anyone who wasn't there, what it's like to move somewhere new and have to form some sort of family and friendship out of 30-odd strangers. And it's hard to be back here where no one really knows our friends from That Life, so even though anecdotes or memories are constantly coming to mind, I stop short, realizing that the people I'm with here don't know the places or the people to which I'm referring.

It's probably time to get up off the chair again. There are still, nearly a week after our return, loose ends to put away, things we've acquired or simply can't remember where to put them. There's a fridge to fill and baseboards to scrub.

And then there's the cats who seem to have forgiven us for the trip down here. They seem to have forgotten it entirely. In fact, they seem to have forgotten everything entirely, curled as they are in the exact same spots they favored before we left St. Louis.

I read once that cats are attached to places and not to people, that they adapt more easily to familiar surroundings than they do to familiar people in strange surroundings.

As a human, it seems a particular curse to be attached to both, people and places. A curse, and also the greatest blessing of all.