Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not Good, Not Bad, Just Different: Old vs. New

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.


Robin said...

Excellent post! I like the not good not bad, just different.

Christie said...

I know JUST what you mean. Give it time. I always say it takes me a year to feel at home in a new city. And one day you'll look around and wonder how you ever lived surrounded by old, moldy, broken down PA.

Well, probably not. Where you lived was pretty awesome. Not much help, am I?

Hang in there, chica. AZ needs cultured peeps like you!

Diane said...

I moved from the Seattle area to the Salt Lake area over 4 years ago. I've adjusted pretty well, but the one thing that I miss more than ever is my "old" friends. I don't know if that will ever really go away, even though I am making new friends here.

calibosmom said...

I don't think I could do it. I know I will never be land locked again. I was born a Rocky Mountain girl and it's in my blood but I'm a White Mountain, East Coast snob through and through...and I love it! Sorry, I'm no help at all! I am jealous that you have ALL the sun though-I miss warm!

Jessica said...

Timely post for me: I was frustrated with someone yesterday for how they handled something and I realized that the way they handled wasn't bad, my way wasn't bad...they were just different. We need different, but sometimes it's hard to remember that different is only that: different.

Great post.

the wrath of khandrea said...

the thing i had the hardest time with leaving new england was the homogenous nature of the people. where are all the italians? the irish? i met a woman named megan o'leary the other day... she was, of course, from boston.
i guess i don't mind all the white people, but none of them know where they're from. they're just from...seattle...

anyway. good observations here. love your writing.

Melissa said...

Great post.

We wonder what would happen to us if we moved back west... And what will happen if we don't. Will our kids grow up never looking a stranger in the eye on the street and saying Hello?

I looked at a photo of Logan, Utah today and was shocked at how BROWN the mountains seemed, everything here is green, all shades of green green green! Right now there is brown, orange, pink, yellow, golden, but still so much green. And the narrow little old roads that wind around with houses practically on the curbs? Love that. Especially love the US history that is all so close and relevant to my kids. Nothing like learning about Valley Forge IN Valley Forge!

Most of all though, your post struck a chord with me in terms of new new new, and the urge to keep up with neighbors. I feel none of that here in DE/MD/PA land. (We are at the border of all three states... another cool East thing to be in 4 states in about 15 minutes.) I worry about my own ability to bloom where I'm planted and be happy with my own skin out west.

Travelin'Oma said...

The older you are, the longer it takes to bring a new friend up-to-date on your life. The short-story version, becomes a novel, then an epic. When someone wants to hear the whole saga you've found a true friend.

Travelin'Oma said...

I love the map of pennies. Thanks Jake!

Jenibelle said...

Did your Jake make the map? Awesome!!

I have lived in the same town for 25 years, the same house for almost 17, the same husband for 28 years, the same BFF's for 20+ years. I'm thinking I need something new...maybe I'll go wild and have a mid life crisis. (Which Scotty told me today means I'd live to be 102!) Sometimes I envy those of you who move and experience new things. But old is certainly comfortable isn't it?

Linsey said...

Everything older than 2 years is ancient to me these days. The nice thing about moving every 2 years is that the bad stuff is temporary and the good stuff leaves you with sweet memories. Arizona will grow on you, after all, that's where your babies are growing and it's hard not to love the places where your tiny humans become real people.

Rochelleht said...

That's how I feel about Texas sometimes. Very new and I miss an old house, but the people make up for it in spades.

Just us Nelsons said...

I understand so much of what you are going through. I like the not good not bad, just different. I agree!! I miss you lots.

Lauren in GA said...

The title says it all. Your dad is very wise.

It's funny...I have lived most of my life on the East Coast...but I compare the eastern seaboard (north vs. south) all of the time. I can't get a great bagel down here in Georgia. Not like the ones in NYC when I visited my family or in Baltimore when I visited other family members.

Such a great post, Gabi.

That penny map is awesome!

Mom Taxi Julie said...

I've never moved out of my 45 mile radius here, I can't imagine how difficult it would be! Especially to go from old world to the desert!

laina kay said...

Just think of us in January when you're not shoveling your driveway and bundling like a mummy for a quick trip to the store...

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