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Faith in Vermont: Saying Goodbye: It's Deja vu All Over Again

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Posted on December 30, 2015 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



Last week, the woman behind me in the Hannaford supermarket check-out line asked if I knew where Salon Déjà vu was located. She wanted to get a gift certificate for somebody, she told me, but the address that she’d been given led her to the wrong place, and nobody answered the phone at the number she’d found online.

I was absolutely certain that I knew where Salon Déjà vu was, and gave the woman directions based on my knowledge. But when I drove past this location several days later, it turned out to be a different salon all together.

So, I have no idea where Salon Déjà vu is. (Note to Salon Déjà vu proprietors, if you’re out there: Update your online information!)

Only later did it strike me that Salon Déjà vu was a perfect name, given these circumstances.

Déjà vu is a French phrase that means, “already seen,” and it refers to the illusory sensation that an event currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.

I expect to have quite a few déjà vu experiences during the next five months. As I’ve written previously, in early January our family will pack up and move to Berkeley, California, where my husband is taking a five-month sabbatical from Middlebury College.

This is a new adventure, but it’s also very familiar: Berkeley, California is where we lived for five years prior to moving to Vermont. It’s where my husband did his doctoral studies at the University of California at Berkeley. It’s where I worked at two separate community nonprofit organizations. It’s where three of our children were born.

I loved living in Berkeley – right until we boarded a plane for Vermont. Then, I never looked back. It’s been five years since we were last in Berkeley.

During this extended stay we’ll be renting a small home in the Berkeley Hills, close to the first neighborhood where we lived back in 2006. My husband will take up residence in an office in his old department at UC Berkeley. We have many family members and friends to catch up with throughout the area.

But so much changes in five years. I used to know the Berkeley area well enough to conjure up a mental image of almost any intersection; I can no longer do this – the whole city has become a fuzzy mish-mash of pink stucco, flowering jasmine, and steep sidewalks in my mind. Many of the shops and restaurants that we used to frequent will have disappeared. This turnover extends to people, as well: Many friends have moved on to other locations, and those who remain will have aged and changed just as we have.

When we left Berkeley, we had a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, and a 3-month-old. We’re returning with an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old. The addition of five years and another child will certainly change the way that we live in Berkeley now. This time around I’ll be homeschooling my two oldest daughters. We can no longer cram all of our children into a double stroller in order to navigate those hilly sidewalks more easily. And my children have almost no experience with life outside of small town Vermont: they’ve rarely been inside big-box stores, they’re used to running far ahead of me because there are always people who know them wherever we’re going, and they assume that if a bathroom isn’t immediately available then it’s permissible to squat by the nearest tree.

Brace yourself, Berkeley.

I’ve changed, too: Vermont has become my home in a way that no other place, including my original hometown, has ever been. In Vermont, we have a life that fits the vision we barely knew we had for our family, until we found it here. I’ve heard it said (and I believe) that a good spouse helps you to become a better version of yourself; Vermont has done this for our family as a whole.

When we return to Berkeley, I expect that I will walk into stores, eat at restaurants, or stroll sidewalks and suddenly be overcome with a vague sense of familiarity: for an instant I will remember how it felt to be newly pregnant, to worry about fundraising for work, to be unsure about where our family would land. I will see babies I knew in the faces of 8-year-olds; I will see new lines of joy and sorrow in the faces of friends and family.

I also expect that when we return to Berkeley, I will hike trails and suddenly be overcome by a longing to find my feet on the TAM, or the Robert Frost, or in a pair of Nordic skis up at Rikert. I expect to become momentarily confused that the Berkeley Hills aren’t the Green Mountains. I expect to pass gardens and think about the gardens I’ll plant at our new house in Middlebury.

I will miss living in a place where it’s normal to have extended conversations in the grocery check-out line with strangers who are probably separated from you by only one degree.

There is much to be said for taking an adventure. There is even more to be said for reconnecting with old friends and family – especially grandparents. But best of all is having a home to return to.

I will continue writing this bi-weekly column while we’re in Berkeley; think of it as Faith in Vermont (California edition!), all about our escapades on the West Coast. Send news of home -- but please don’t rub it in!

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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