I was born and raised in a Central Pennsylvania suburb called Mechanicsburg, which was not — to the disappointment of the jokesters who’ve asked me — founded by car mechanics.
A cosmopolitan metropolis? Not exactly. The smell of cow dung was all-too-familiar and Esprit was the brand I aspired to wear one day. Oh, one day! The ‘Burg was and is, however, a lovely place to grow up. I was blessed with a sprawling backyard, sickeningly healthy childhood and loving parents… which, as we all know, is the Achilles’ heel of any writer. Where is the deep-seated pain and abuse from which great writing flows? Couldn’t my mom at least have had the decency to lock me in the attic for an afternoon or two?
Thank goodness for eating disorders and college years depression. But more on that fun stuff later.
After graduating from a university located, oh, a whopping twenty miles from my parents’ house, I finally decided to spread my wings and fly north to join two of my high school friends who had already settled in New York City. This was, as the kids used to say, a Big Fucking Deal in my family. When I announced my plans, I saw “the look” cross Dad’s reddening face. The look that screamed: “My baby girl? Living in a city filled with HEATHENS WHO WILL STEAL HER INNOCENCE? Or, even worse, HER PURSE?”
You have to understand, my parents were born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. My older brother and sister still live there. My grandma, my aunts, my cousins… yeah, you got it… still there. Now a lovely shade of crimson, Dad started to tear me a new one — until Mom gently-but-forcefully laid her hand on his arm, as only moms know how to do, and flashed him HER look. The look that admonished: “She’s going to go whether you want her to or not. So just shut up and deal — and I’ll reward you with meatloaf later tonight.”
And that was it. He did, and she did, and I went and never looked back. City life agreed with me and, as it turns out, having me in the city agreed with my parents who enjoyed visiting me in New York, then grad school in Chicago and now Los Angeles. Oh, they especially love Los Angeles, where the pleasant warmth eases Mom’s arthritis, desire to eat dinner at 3PM and other ailments you get when you grow older.
Or, should I say, they LOVED LA — past tense — before it meant 3,000 miles and a long-ass flight separating them from their granddaughter.
Apparently, being thousands of miles away from ME is no big deal. After thirty-some years, they’re obviously over their youngest daughter. Been there, raised that, bored with that. But their first granddaughter…? That’s a different story. Previously supportive of us living in Los Angeles, my mom now always finds a way to “casually” work this little distance issue into conversation:
“We’re thinking of going to the grocery store today. TOO BAD MY GRANDDAUGHTER WILL GROW UP NOT EVEN KNOWING WHO I AM!”
Subtlety, thy name is Mom.
That’s not to say I don’t have regretful pangs every once in a while. When I found out I was pregnant, Mr. Candy and I traveled to New York to tell our friends the good news and, at my insistence, check out condos. You know, just in case.
“We’re not moving back,” Mr. Candy declared with a knowing smirk.
“But we don’t know how we’ll feel once the baby’s here!” I protested while weeping over a particularly moving episode of “Two-and-a-Half Men.” Because that’s how my pregnancy hormones and I rolled in the first trimester.
When I walked out of JFK airport and a chilly blast of below-zero winds smacked me in the face, I screamed (as my husband loves to quote): “LA FOREVER! LA FOREVER!”
I’m sorry, but weather trumps family. At least I have my priorities straight.
Meaning, we’re going to become quite the experts in Skype, WebCams and Ambien-laced milk… or whatever it is that helps knock out babies on planes. Will it be tough? Abso-fuckin-lutely. Especially on birthdays and other special occasions, such as when Baby Girl repeats her first curse word. Awwww.
But probably not nearly as tough as the day when Baby Girl tells us she’s moving to New York City and I have to gently-but-forcefully lay my hand on Mr. Candy’s arm. Let’s just hope Mom passed on that gift to me. Because I sure as hell can’t make meatloaf.