Since that conversation we've been sneaking out of Michigan, one thing at a time until here we are, preparing to close on our first New York house. It's heady stuff, but the piece of this journey that unexpectedly smacked me in the head was this one:
I have new license plates.
Yup, after two years of living here in the glorious Finger Lakes, I finally have New York license plates. This should've been a no-brainer transition. I am surrounded by New York (and garbage) plates; both are facts of life here. But when I stepped back for a look at the just-installed, wretched orange-and-navy-blue license plates (they tell me they're homage plates, designed to look like ones from this state's past. I say they're ugly as proverbial sin) I felt, for a moment, like I'd been sucker-punched.
It was wholly unexpected.
Truly, I hadn't given any consideration to the possibility that something as mundane and necessary as a license plate could be a touchstone. But it was, and is. There's also the fact that my Michigan plate provided a frame of historical reference, a small definition of self. The new one is anonymity writ orange.
Why is it, I wonder, that the insignificant things are the ones that serve to highlight change and struggle. Why has a license plate unsettled me more than the house we're preparing to buy? And why, oh why New York, did you choose to make license plates in a color that looks dreadful on every car ever manufactured?
The coming year (I define the years as "Before NY" and "After NY") will see a third installment of this story. It will bring a series of new adjustments and permanence, and permanence makes me uneasy because it implies stagnation and immobility. I've long been aware that the potential for leaving has made it easier to stay because it's easy to be bold when there is nothing to lose.
The orange and blue plates are dreadful but I like them. While I recognize that they mean I have something to lose, what I know is that here? here is where the headlights stopped. It may be easy to be bold when we have nothing to lose, but I'm finding that it's even easier to be bold when we are supported, loved, and allow ourselves to develop roots because, well, it may be a bad cliche but this is how we bloom.
I don't know what comes next, but whatever that thing is it comes wrapped in ugly license plates, old houses, friendship, and a sense of community unlike any I've known before.
So here's to bad automotive analogies, garbage plates, and the end of the road. Whatever this next year brings, and I'm pretty well convinced that whatever I plan for won't be what I get, I'm ready.