The third or so episode of Doctor Who (new Doctor Who that started in 2005, mind), the Doctor takes Rose back home for a quick visit, change of clothes, say hello, that sort of thing. Except there’s a calculation error somewhere, and they accidentally come back a year later. So Rose has been missing for a year, her family and friends all think she’s missing or dead, while to her she’s only seen them a few weeks ago.
That’s what I feel like visiting Pittsburgh. It was summer when I left, and it’s summer now. Suddenly being in all the same places I was a year ago, my brain thinks no time has passed at all.
But has time ever passed. Everything feels mostly the same, but here and there are differences everywhere. Some are little, just enough to make the familiar feel uncanny. Like the finished hotel behind Trinity, with its parking lot surrounded with new grass. A new dishwasher or updated washing machine in a house I’ve visited a hundred times. Other changes are more natural, if naturally shocking. Like our friends’ kids being a foot taller. Our home church growing, with many new faces.
The biggest and very best changes, though, are the babies. No less than four babies have appeared in our closest friends and family. There’s no denying or explaining or second-guessing babies. Like my friend Carrie says, who’s the mom of one of said babies: there’s a whole person here that wasn’t there before! Wiggling, smiling, existing as if they always have, because they have just as much right to do so as I have.
And those four families have a different shape, as each one bends into make a different polygon with room for one more point. My brain is disoriented to rejoin their circle – don’t I know these people? Why is there another one? – But five seconds of smiles or cuddles or coos and just like that, they were always there. That’s the miracle of life: the entrance into time of a new immortal.
One of these dear ones was promised a sweater before I left town. I wanted to make sure I could make good, so I bought yarn up in Iqaluit – nothing very fancy, as I wanted his mom to be able to wash the thing – but special for having come so far. (I may have spent more on the buttons than the yarn. They were really cute buttons.) Said little sweater accompanied me in three cities, and was completed in traffic on the way home from the Pittsburgh Zoo.
I was so excited to meet him that it was silly to care about a sweater. But his mom was a sport and let him try it on for me. He’s more cheerful and energetic and happy than I could have imagined, and just right for his parents.
(Pattern: “Oscar” by Julie Partie – exactly the little old man sweater I wanted. Yarn: Bernat Satin Solids in “Admiral.” It’s amazing how much less objectionable acrylic is to work with in the Arctic; i.e. when it’s dry and not-hot.)
The hardest part of all this is how short all these visits were. Each visit with friends was so precious, and every time someone shared with me it made me feel so cared for to be allowed to connect again, to allowed to be a part of their life, even though they knew how quickly we’d be leaving again. It’s hard, but so worth it, but so hard.
I suppose this is how every expat feels who comes back for a visit, but it’s all new to us, and who knows if we’re doing it right. It just seems important to connect, and to be grateful for what we have.
And, as is always right and good, to hug these littles while we can.
Love you, Pittsburgh. See you next year.