It's been four months since our little minivan rolled out of a Philadelphia suburb and followed the sun to the Grand Canyon State. Hard to believe, we've already had a quarter of a year to get used to life in the wild, wild West. It's a bigger adjustment than I expected.
Although both Brad and I grew up west of the Mississippi, it is amazing how a dozen adult years along the Atlantic Seaboard turned us into a pair of East Coast snobs.
Now that we have returned to our western roots, we've experienced just a wee bit of culture shock. Some changes have been wonderful (My car actually fits in the garage!) and some not so much (Really? This is the best bagel place in town?).
But, like my dad always taught us kids when traveling to new places, "Remember differences aren't good. They aren't bad. They're just different."
I'm trying to teach my kids the same lesson...and remind myself, too.
Here's one of the biggest differences between living in the Northeast and living in the Southwest... Old versus New.
Every fifth grader knows that Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies. So we got used to old. Historical landmarks and places steeped in tradition. A little crumbly around the edges, sometimes. But charmingly so.
Arizona, on the other hand, was the last continental state admitted to the Union. There's not a lot of old stuff here. Plus, it doesn't rain much, so things don't get damp or dingy. A little dusty, maybe, but no moldy oldies. Our kids have all noticed that the cars here all look new and shiny. Everything here seems new and shiny.
I like new and I like shiny, within reason. In places like the gym or the post office or the grocery store, newness is a very good thing. I love the fact that our new dentist's office and hair salons are space-age and gleaming.
But my heart absolutely aches for beautiful old churches, historical homes, and century-old cemeteries. Driving around a whole bunch of pre-planned neighborhoods and strip malls all day can feel pretty soulless sometimes.
Back in PA, most everyone we knew lived in older homes. All our friends were remodeling or updating or ripping out old wallpaper. A couple years ago, every home in our neighborhood turned 30 and every family in the development got a new roof for Christmas or Hannukkah.
In our new stomping grounds, most houses are less than 5 years old. Everything smells like new paint. Travertine and stainless and hand-scraped wood surfaces shimmer. Nothing is stained or cracked or broken in.
It's fun to walk through all the bright new spaces, but sometimes I have a really, really, really hard time not breaking the Tenth Commandment. Today I took the kids to a birthday party and, while they ricocheted through the inflatable slides and bouncehouses, I wandered the Tommy Bahama-themed backyard and patio turning every shade of green.
That's the main problem, I think with new. It is addictive. A new house calls for new furniture, new appliances, new accessories. New. New. New. And soon, the new stuff is old and you have to start all over again.
But old has its problems too. Progress happens for a reason. I mean, who wants to live without air conditioning or Netflix these days? Not me.
And so, this cross-country adventure has reminded me about the importance of honoring the old while still embracing the new. I'm looking for new friendships and new favorite lunch spots, trying not to miss dear old friends and places too much.
It's tough, sometimes. But it's not good. It's not bad. It's just different.