They say you can't go home again.
Actually, nobody says that, probably because it's so blisteringly obvious that it's true. It's one of those things that people bring out when they're trying to sound deep, like "Water is wet" or "Tomorrow never comes." It's like saying "How about those Mets?" It fills space when you don't know what else to say, because of course you can't go home again -- wherever it was that you consider your home, as soon as you stop living there, it's not your home anymore. Your parents' house, your first apartment, even your first car. You have these wonderful ideals of going nostalgically back to see the lilac trees you used to chase guinea pigs under and the front porch where you once got snowed in, only to discover that, as in my case, your most beloved childhood home is now a real estate office.
So while you can't go home again, you can return to places you have lived and people you knew there, which is what I did this past week when I went back to Pittsburgh to give a Rotary speech and get rained on. The Rotary speech was planned; the rain was not. I'd almost forgotten that it was possible to have days that weren't nice, days where--dare I say it--you could not just wake up in the morning and decide to walk somewhere instead of driving, because you might actually be crushed by a tree felled by lightning. I forgot that everywhere outside Southern California has weather, which actually stuns me in how quickly I got used to the constant Sesame Street theme song that is my life ("Sunny days...").
I don't think of Pittsburgh as my home either, really (I'm leaning more towards Canada in that sense...oh, Canada, and your land of pine trees and giant Muskoka mosquitos, and free health care, and Aero bars), but I sure do like all the people I know there, despite their having all had babies.
I like babies. I think they are adorable, with their little chubby cheeks and great big eyes and their obvious bid for survival via such a cute defense mechanism: You don't want to leave me for the wolves; look how cute I am when I'm sleeping! It's the only thiing that stops you from hurling them out the window at 2am; well, that, and the nagging feeling that if you did that, all that time you spent growing them inside your body would have been wasted, when you might have been able to spend it getting drunk and smoking crack.
But it seems like the first thing everyone I know decided to do after I left Pittsburgh was get themself some babies. It's like my friends all shouted, "Hey, honey, can you stop at the store for some duct tape, and while you're at it, could you maybe pick me up a couple of babies? But only if they're fresh!" The nice thing about this is that I get to be strange Auntie Claire, who arrives from unknown lands, probably wearing something strange, bearing gifts and kissing cheeks and staying in your spare bedroom, which you think is cool until you get to high school and realize this just means Auntie Claire is a bum. Then you get to college and realize Auntie Claire had it right, and it's really the corporate hegemony that had it wrong.
So there's all these babies, which is fun for me, because then I chew on their soft little ears without actually owning one myself...although, as I told my friend Amy while we wallowed on the beach today, I would be tempted to have a kid just so I could let it run around naked without those cute-but-pointless little leather shoes that people cram poor little baby toes into. Babies don't need shoes. They can't walk. They don't really need clothes either, unless it is cold out. Then you can keep them warm by placing them inside a wolf. At least, that is the traditional manner of dealing with kids in the winter, especially if they have a harelip.
So what with babies, and the Rotarians (who do not resemble babies), and the greatly, deeply enjoyable visiting with my dear, dear friends, there was almost enough sweetness and light in my life to deal with the DMV. I say "almost" because, as everyone knows, there is no good mood that cannot be destroyed by the DMV. It could be your wedding day, to the most wonderful person in the world, who loves you deeply, and has flown you to the DMV on his/her private Learjet and is waiting, naked, with your favorite coconut curry in a fancy electric car, and you could walk into the DMV and all the joy in your life would be drained out of you until you were too depressed to lift your hand to slice your wrists and sink into a lifeless stupor.
People were getting so excited when they saw the numbers flip over. "Awright," exclaimed one gentleman, who was holding a slip of paper that said D05, as the monitor number flipped over and said 95. "It's almost me."
"It's on the B's," I said. "Sorry." I showed him my ticket, which said C00, and he looked so dejected that I almost wished I hadn't said anything.
Even thinking about babies didn't help. So instead I went off my "no sugar" diet, and ate a Hostess cupcake. That didn't help either, but at least it felt like I was getting something done.