Home, Sweet Arizona

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This year we are staying home for the holidays.

Not GOING home for the holidays, STAYING home. Here, Scottsdale, the Valley of the Sun, the Sonoran Desert, Arizona. Home.

Do you know how long it has taken me to be able to say that last sentence and really mean it? Almost seven years.

My husband and I moved to Scottsdale in 2005. Over the last several years we have built our lives in this community: had two babies at Scottsdale Healthcare, bought a house we love, made friendships I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. We’ve survived summers and snowbirds, been to DBacks and Suns games and the FBR Open, done road trips to Sedona and Rocky Point, and watched our babies toddle their way across a splash pad for the first time. In every imaginable way, we are fully-assimilated locals.

But I’m not going to lie to you: Arizona did not feel like home to me for a long time.

I was born in Oregon, grew up in Southern California and spent college and my early twenties in Chicago. None of this matters, really, except to say that each of those places felt like “home” when I lived there. So why has Arizona been such a tough nut to crack?

One reason, I think, is that there are SO many transplants here. When you meet someone new, the conversation quickly turns to where they (and you) are from, and rarely is it Arizona. Not only that, but people are quick to share what they miss about their hometowns – the four seasons, their favorite sports teams, walkable cities with fewer freeways and buildings made of brick, not stucco – and not nearly as willing to celebrate what’s great about living here. Even people who truly love living in Arizona – and I count myself in this group – seem to stop short of calling it “home.”

Home, by this definition, is where your family’s history lives, where grandparents have basements and Christmases are the same every year; where siblings and cousins reconnect at graduations and weddings and celebrate new babies, new jobs, new boyfriends. Home is someplace you have to pack a bag to get to; Arizona is where you live.

But in the last year or so I’ve felt a subtle shift in how I think and feel about being an Arizonan. And you want to know what has made the biggest difference?

YOU.

(Who me, you ask? Yes you. I know that sounds weird – stay with me for a minute.)

Raising my kids in Arizona has, more than anything else, helped me feel connected to my community. I may never be a true local, but I have two little Arizonans living under my roof, kids who have never lived in snow or at the beach but who know how to avoid hot car seat buckles and can swim like fish. And the more local moms I meet (that means you – yes, YOU), the more rooted I feel.

When I first became a mom in 2008 I was lucky to make some really close friends with babies the same age as mine (thank you, Moms on the Move / Scottsdale Healthcare), and they are still my closest confidantes (you know, the people you can text about failed naps, first steps, world-class diaper blowouts). Beyond that group, though, I now recognize people in the grocery store, at the zoo, in the preschool parking lot. We may not know each other’s names but our paths have crossed enough times at the parks and libraries that we smile in recognition as we wrangle our little ones into the shopping cart.

We smile because we’re connected the crazy circus of parenthood, and no matter where we individually hail from, we’re doing it here. In Arizona.

Home.

What does “home” mean to you? Have you had trouble feeling settled in Arizona? Are you new to the area or new to parenthood? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

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And! While we’re talking about connecting with other moms in our community, please tell me you’re coming to the SMB Christmas Party at AZ Airtime on December 5th. You’re coming, right? Because the $5 per family deal ALONE makes it worth checking out – under their normal pricing I’d pay at least $20 for my kids to jump for two hours on enormous trampolines. $5 per family includes snacks and drinks! And jumping for two hours! And almost guaranteed good naps afterward! Go. Click. Register.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s so funny to me, being a bit of a vagabond through all of my 20s, that all the while I longed to live in Arizona. (and now, here I am) I first came here for a tournament in college, went out to some club on Mill Ave on Halloween with my team and remembered thinking that people in Arizona are so much nicer than people in Kentucky (which was were I was living at the time). Which may or may not be true, but the point is, that stuck in my mind with positive impression of the state.

    I lived in three states before finally getting to call Arizona home and have felt privileged to call it home the past FIVE years (and counting). I’m one of the few people who LOVE saguaro cacti, am fascinated by a wet winter because I KNOW it means we’ll have a green spring and a bit mournful that it’s been two years since I’ve hiked Camelback Mountain.

    Having grown up in Florida and Tennessee suburbs I didn’t get a lot of mountains-in-my-backyard kind of outdoors. There was lots of sand (FL) and clay (TN) and if I wanted to see the mountains, I could drive for an hour and maybe see some of the Smokies through a patch of trees if I looked. (And the moment I saw those mountains poking right out of the middle of the desert, my heart was won over.)

    So, Arizona has claimed me for itself.

    However, I will say that the mommy season of life has created a new wave of challenges in the “feeling connected” department and have been making lots and lots of pleas to the grandparents as to why buying a home in Scottsdale is a great idea (invest in your retirement and get to see your grandchildren grow up win-win. Right?)

    Ah well.

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