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A tree in our front yard is brushed with pink, and grey-green streams of Spanish moss sway in the breeze. Woody, a huge woodpecker in tuxedo and bright red fez, clings to a telephone pole as he drills for his petit dejeuner, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. Black Cat, our scruffy neighborhood scout, patrols up and down the quiet street before flopping on a sunny corner.

Our home is still a nice home, and one we could never have afforded in the Bay Area; the city is still woodsy and pleasant; our park neighborhood is every month more beautiful in new and interesting ways.

But I’m undergoing the inevitable adjustments that attend a major household move. Like a marriage, the hard work has just begun: to make friends, build relationships, commit to life in this new world.

California had an impermanent feeling to it for the five years we were there. Sandy had two temporary jobs in a row, and the first year almost no work at all beyond a grim spell as an office assistant; I managed a grant project that relied on annual funding (and was shaky from my first arrival…most people don’t know that my “welcome” to California was “Hello, we’re cutting your budget 40 percent”). It was an experiment, and not a bad one; “Don’t die wondering,” Sandy says, my loyal life partner. I wanted to move back home, and of course you can’t do that, but now I know, and along the way Sandy finished a DMin, I earned an MFA, and we had much Dungeness crab and not quite enough trips to the Emerald City, my home town.

That impermanence made California easy in some ways, because we always knew it was possible we wouldn’t be staying. Life is much different when you know this is not the dress rehearsal, the pass-through place, the pictures you run across much later while looking for something else and say, “Remember living here?” before you turn the page and forget.

I was doing all right until the Weber grill episode yesterday afternoon. I know Trader Joe’s will arrive one day; it’s working its way down the Mason-Dixie Line, and I am confident TJ’s will soon be Way Down South in Dixie. CostCo is reportedly imminent (we won’t shop at Sam’s Club); Netflix and Amazon keep us well-stocked.

But I can’t buy a Weber grill within 200 miles, and that is the turn of the screw. I thought I was hitting the stores at the wrong time–in January I tried to buy mulch, and a huge man in an orange apron scoffed at me–but it’s not that at all.

Our grill needs a part replaced, and we decided–ok, I decided, but I’m Grill Girl in this household; Sandy won’t even fire it up–that it was time to replace our hardworking little outdoor oven with a grill of suitable size befitting women with a real backyard. I tried hard to love the grills I saw, but I’ve owned a Silver Genesis A for five years, and I want a Weber. (The Silver Genesis A, a two-burner model, was the only size I could squeeze onto our tiny patio at our condo in the East Bay. It’s a wonderful little grill, but you can’t do indirect cooking very well on a two-burner model, and I do like ribs.)

Every grill I saw made me yearn for another Weber. Thin grates. Too many small, rust-prone parts. Even the wheels–Weber wheels are vastly superior. I don’t know why, except that they are by Weber, I thought to myself while the Sears guy droned; he had one eye on the door as if expecting my “husband” to walk in. (Buying a grill is similar to shopping for computer equipment; when I asked how it was possible to do a really good job of indirect cooking with the burners running perpendicular to the back of the grill, the salesman’s face read, “Now I’ve seen a dog standing on its hind legs!”)

I was bargaining with myself about the grill while my hairdresser wrapped my head with foil–not to protect me from wifi, but to restore my blonde locks, something she did beautifully. Why, most brands other than Weber come standard with a side burner. Wouldn’t I like a side burner, I wheedled with myself. Then I mentioned the grill shopping trip I was planning after my coiffure was complete.

Hairdresser: You know, I bought one with a side burner. I don’t never use that side burner.
Me: Me neither.
Hairdresser: Doesn’t get hot enough. Something about the wind.
Me: I know. With my first grill, I once used the burner to heat beans, and that’s it. I’d rather have the space to set down my Pyrex.

We fell into silence, pondering the profit and the loss. She walked me to the hair-dryer and pulled the huge pink plastic bubble over my head. I sat fluffing my feathers and brooding, while the color baked on. (You can at least get good hair color in the South.)

Naturally, I may not really want a Weber. Consumer Reports doesn’t rate them that highly; a Kenmore or one of the brands at Lowe’s or Home Depot might do just fine. I could buy one online, for a steep delivery cost, but that’s not the issue. I want the life where I could buy one, where it was “the” brand, where that was what we did, when we wanted a grill: we bought a Weber. I can’t go back to that life; even if we moved to California tomorrow, it would be a different California than the place we had left, Weber grills regardless. Our five years in California taught me that it is not the place, so much, as the time since gone, sand through the wasp-waist funnel of time.

Maybe that’s why I wrote personal essays for my MFA thesis. Maybe it was luxurious, but important, time-travel down the streets of my past. If I have one regret about my life right now, it is that my job is so huge, so demanding, so encompassing, that it takes a trip to the garden department of Sears to bring tears to my eyes and grant me the relief of mourning.

Perhaps I’ll replace that part on my grill and make do for a while, to keep the past with me a while longer, or pretend that I can.

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