Postcards from Phoenix: Trying and failing to own my new home

Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, September 1, 2016

It’s been over a year now since I moved from my fairytale life in Tryon to Phoenix. I wish I could say I love it here. It’s not that I don’t like the city or my life; I just don’t own it.

I have Facebook friends from all over the world. If I want to know something about New York, I ask a New Yorker. Curious about Oslo? Ask my Norwegian friend. But if you want to know about Phoenix, don’t ask me. It’s not mine.

When I babysat for my nephew once when he was a toddler, he sobbed when I dropped him off at home. We’d had such a fun day together, when I put him in his father’s arms and walked away, he cried out, “Don’t leave me here! This is not my building!”

Of course it was his home, but that feeling–that he wished to be somewhere else–was so heartfelt, adorable, and funny, even. Like many phrases and words children in my family have coined, “It’s not my building” came to be part of our language.

And I’m here to tell you: This is not my building.

Making new friends in Tryon was effortless. When I moved from California to Tryon, I told my mother I was sad to leave all my L.A. friends behind, and she said, “You’ll make new friends.” I almost laughed. After living in L.A. and collecting friends for 27 years, I just couldn’t imagine how I’d make new ones so easily anywhere else.

But they don’t call Tryon the friendliest town in the South for nothing. In my first week there, I’d walk into a shop or restaurant and get asked, “Who are you? Where do you live? When did you get here?” I go into a store here in Phoenix and get bupkis. I could volunteer personal information to the cashier or salesperson, but somehow I don’t think I’d get the same result I got in Tryon.

I know I do need to make more of an effort to meet people here, but it’s hard to go out when it’s 800 degrees every day. By the time I dash to my car in the driveway, I’m drenched in sweat, and no longer desirable as anyone’s new chum. And I don’t even want to think what a haboob could do to my hair.

I live beside a beautiful park, but can’t walk my dogs because their paws would melt. I tried walking them in the early part of the morning when it’s only 102 outside, but I nearly passed out from the exertion. When I let my Chihuahuas out into the back yard to do their business, I have to carry them like footballs as I dash from one shady corner of the yard to another.

I joined Nextdoor, a phone app that connects neighbors to each other, and while it has been helpful in getting information, it’s just not as fun as drinking wine on the front porch at our house in Tryon, which was a sure way to meet the neighbors there.

I sit in my air conditioned home here and read on Nextdoor about stolen bicycles, burglaries, shady characters spotted on the street, and think maybe it’s best to just stay inside anyway. I’d forgotten about big city crime after living in a safe small town for four years. It’s enough to make a person paranoid. Or at least more homesick.

I posted a question on Nextdoor, asking if people here recommended buying generators for their homes. We’ve lost power 5 times in a year, always on a day with record-breaking highs, and of course, when Paul’s out of town and all I can do is sit in the dark hot house and hope the dogs and I don’t spontaneously combust.

One nice lady sent me her phone number, probably sensing I was pitifully lonely. I promised to call her, and maybe we could take a walk in the park together. In October.

I’ll stop complaining now. After all, I am fortunate to get to live in my nice little Phoenix house with corners of shade in the yard. We have pretty potted plants on the patio we only have to water twice a day, and a couple of them are still alive.

Paul loves his job here, and I get to write as much as I want. And thank goodness for Facebook and email and FaceTime. I can keep up with my favorite town and all the friends it was so easy to make there and so hard to leave behind.

So think of me when your weather turns cool, and you greet friends as you stroll down Trade Street. On Fridays, tell everyone in Shelly’s I miss them. Order the strawberry cake at Nana’s that used to have my name on it. Take your dogs to Harmon Field and smell the green grass, listen to the babbling creek, watch the kids play worry-free.

I’ll be back for a visit soon, eager and ready for my Tryon fix.
Colorful pots and whimsical garden art can turn any house into a home.