The sound of the door opening echoed harder than it ever had before. Manhattan apartments are so small they reverberate loudly when empty. Mine was speaking to me as I walked inside. “Prepare yourself. Life as you know it is about to change.”
My phone rang. PAPPA BEAR.
“Hi. Have you talked to Him.”
“His mother just called me. He moved out this afternoon.”
“I know. I just came home.”
We celebrated the holidays in Texas with my family a month before he moved out. After flying back to New York, we were unpacking in our apartment when he said the last nice thing he would ever say to me. “This place feels like home now. I really actually think of it as our home together.”
The idea of home becomes muddled when you move away. This is my sixth year in New York. I grew up in Houston, but we moved to Austin with my mom when I started high school. She now lives in Los Angeles. My father and step-mom are still in Houston, in a house they have owned for over 10 years, but it isn’t the house I grew up in. A child of divorce, I grew up in many houses. For me, home is wherever I happen to be with my family. But for many, it is one distinctive place—and we always hope to think of it that way. But when your parents sell their house, or decide to move to a new city, or you have established a new home of your own, “home” changes. “Home” becomes “where I grew up” or “where my parents live.” There is no returning to what has always been your foundation.
As I looked around the emptied apartment, I had to remind myself to breathe. Be proactive. Take inventory. The bedroom furniture was mine. But the living room was bare. I had sold my furniture to accommodate his move in. He left me a couch that had once belonged to his sister and moved the tiny bedroom television into the living room. It was sitting on the floor, staring at the couch. And I could tell they had been talking about me.
The Wizard of Oz was on. I felt like I had lived through my own tornado, crashed, but there was no yellow brick road to guide me to where I was supposed to go. I had loved this movie so much as a child. The first time I went to New York, I remember telling my mother all I wanted was a pair of ruby red slippers. And in the shopping capital of the U.S., this had to be where I could find them. Now I lived in New York, and knew I was disappointing that little girl inside of me who believed in trotting down yellow brick roads in the perfect pair of shoes to eventually be surrounded by people who loved her.
The end of the Wizard of Oz was always so sad to me. Everyone said goodbye. Whether or not the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion were real, or figures in Dorothy’s dream to help her grow and appreciate what she had in her own backyard, she would never see them again. People come in and out of our lives every day. There are goodbyes that we don’t even remember. But it only takes one to break your heart, and completely change the course of your life.
I recommend this to everyone when they need to think or are going through a major change. Go back to your roots. Be around people who know you the best, and who love you no matter what. People who won’t judge you for how much you cry, and will take you to have favorite restaurants that remind you of the safe haven you think of as home.
I went to Houston first, because it helped to be around a father who would have made Tony Soprano look like Santa in this kind of situation. When your little girl gets dumped, she gets to call the restaurant shots. We went to Brennan’s of Houston for brunch. Brennan’s garnered its fame in New Orleans, but the Houston location was a pure taste of home. They had a fire during Hurricane Ike, and had recently re-opened after renovations. It was a new beginning for both me and the restaurant that was a staple of home. It was family tradition to eat there before the theatre or ballet. It is also where my brothers and I learned we could like bananas. We also thought it was very cool we were being served something with rum. Bananas Foster is made of such simple ingredients, but the combination works. I want this at my wedding.
A couple of weekends later, I made it to Los Angeles. I got to have hours of girl talk with my mom at Chateau Marmont, a hotel that will make you forget anything bad. There is nothing like a hug from mom, especially when she never liked your ex-boyfriend. We spent the day at Malibu Wines with my old roommate and close friend, Christie. She had plenty to say about the situation, and had me rolling with laughter. A plane flew over, painting the words “Love is in the Air.” It should have hurt, but felt more like a sign. The most beautiful beach was telling me to hang in there.
My brothers met us at Geoffrey’s for brunch, where overlooking Malibu Beach, you feel like you are in Hawaii. It is a restaurant I came to so many times with family, when I lived in L.A. for a summer during college, even with Him. I never had dessert there before, and Geoffrey’s Classic Crème Brulee falls onto a list of one of the best things I ever ate. Beneath the crème brulee is a layer of chocolate mousse. They blend together as you bite in, and are meant to be together.
The sweet taste of home. I cry every time I say goodbye to my family to travel back to New York. On these occasions, unsure of what I was coming back to, it was especially hard. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted New York to be my home any longer. I was coming home to an empty apartment and a job that made me miserable (more on that to come). I was giving up living away from my family and my home(s) for this? But often when you can’t decide, something happens to nudge you along.
I landed at LaGuardia with a voicemail from an unknown number. The Hearst Corporation. They wanted me to come in for an interview.