Two years ago my husband and I moved to Los Angeles from New York. People ask me all the time why we made such a change, and sometimes I, too, find myself wondering. There seems to be so much more work for me in NY. I have a large circle of friends there, not to mention my collaborators. Mother, mother-in-law, and even mother-like friends are all on the east coast. It’s maddening how much I ache for the relationships I spent years in New York nurturing that now seem like buttons hanging tentatively off a favorite old coat. And yet, after having spent a busy and exciting month in New York, I am so grateful to be home.
Two years ago we packed everything from our apartment and two storage units into a moving van and sent it west. It took three weeks longer than we expected for the van to arrive in sunny Southern California, and by the time our boxes showed up I was so far into my pregnancy that I wasn’t allowed to lift any of them. Slowly we unpacked, making sure the nursery was set up first, and of course the baby arrived well before the house felt ready. But we did it; we made a home. Our first. We built a studio — a dream room that has a grand piano and shelves and shelves of music — which was something we never could have afforded in New York. We bought cars. We got insured. We built a deck.
This morning my daughter, now 18 months, and I spread ourselves out on a blanket in the back yard and I decided to pull some wild grasses up from the flowerbeds. She’s in a phase where she repeats everything I say, so I was teaching her words — “rock” and “dirt” and “weeds.” (She also really likes to say the word “cheese” which is part of how I know she’s actually mine.) We found a roly poly in the mud. She picked him up with her tiny fingers and dropped him on the ground. As expected, he collapsed into a ball. A few seconds later, she squealed with delight as he found his legs and scurried back off under a rock, and I thought, well, this is just it, isn’t it? A lazy hour or two with a baby and a roly poly in your own back yard on your little plot of earth. That’s the American dream. That’s home.
In my writing I find I come back to the concept of “home” over and over again. When I started writing my show The Water, I brought several questions to my collaborators. “What is it about a place that draws people back to it even after destruction? Why do people risk everything to live in areas that are inherently dangerous — coastlines, faultlines, fire-zones, hurricane zones? What makes people leave, and what makes them come back?” We’re working on answering those questions, at least for the sixteen characters in that show.
I’m learning that for me, I need a little bit of both. I need the professional thrill of the work I do in NY, and I’ll happily keep returning for opportunities that excite me. But I’m so grateful for my home, my little haven of quiet in the sunshine where my child can dig in the dirt and I can take a minute to mend the buttons on my coat.