I secretly love being stranded without a car.
Our family moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles on December 31, 2013. While our plane was landing that night at 9:00 pm, I rang in the New Year in my mind with all our friends, at home, in Pittsburgh, where it was midnight. In L.A. it was still 2013. In L.A. things are different.
It’s hard to remember the cold right now in August, but in Pittsburgh the winters were super long and snowy. Temperatures were routinely below freezing for weeks at a time and I got used to keeping the kids happy all day long without leaving the house. All the moms I knew complained about being housebound and I always chimed in for solidarity, but my whining was half hearted. There was something so fun and cozy in knowing that we HAD to stay home. Our last full winter there, the boys were 3 and 9 months. We’d cook and clean and play games and read books, we’d never change out of our jammies. Of course, not every day was fun. There were plenty of times I would practically tear my hair out in frustration or spend the day yearning for one good adult conversation. But there were more good days than bad. We had a beautiful red wood-burning stove in our basement and on the weekends we’d all cuddle on the couch and watch Monsters, Inc. and eat popcorn by its comforting glow and crackle. There are plenty of awful things about bad weather, like scary icy roads and the germs festering in every public place. There’s snow to shovel and the amazing amount of clothing and boots it takes to get a baby and a toddler from point A to point B. There’s the feeling that the sun will never shine again.
The weather in Los Angeles is irrefutably gorgeous. It’s wonderfully dry and warm and you never have to say to your kids, “Well, we can only go if it doesn’t rain”. And I love that we can hike and play and walk and ride every single day. But there’s a weird little amount of guilt that comes with that too. Like if I don’t take every advantage of every second and get out every morning, every afternoon, I’m just wasting it all. Just being lazy. And I know that’s silly. But although it’s fun to go out with kids, it can be a pretty big production. Snacks, helmets, diapers, wipes, water, bubbles, phone, wallet, hats, sunscreen, shoes, cash, gas-do we have it all, did everyone go pee? Sometimes it takes me an hour just to get out of the door.
So when my husband tells me he needs the car all day and asks can we fend for ourselves? I say ok with a little sigh. But I can already feel myself relaxing. As long as it’s not every day, it’s such a restful feeling to stay home. When we don’t have a car the guilt of any possible laziness is erased and we’re free to have jammie snuggles all morning, play Candy Land, walk slowly slowly slowly down to CVS and get a packet of M&Ms, look for lizards. I know I could do that stuff any time, but something about having so few options makes it easier to relax and savor those special days with my little boys.
We’ve only been here a handful of months and my feelings about our new lives are always changing. But I know my boys won’t always want me to look at every big leaf they find or read them endless stories about grumpy steam engines or watch while they wildly leap off of a four inch curb. So for now I’ll look forward to the next time my husband has an early meeting at work and needs the car.