Out driving on a grey, 40° morning, Dan says, ”It reminds me of Youngstown. This street especially...It usually looks like this at Christmas when we go there.” And immediately I time- traveled, thinking: to which streets would this compare? How old does this remind me of being? Which place is home? Here--there? How should Danny connect to that place? My history. Ed's history. Then the light changed, we turned, and the moment dissipated like an early fog.
Ed and I had latently, then begrudgingly, realized we are city folks. Even saying it causes a trepidation and a longing that refuse to slide toward regret. We say this after having spent 15 years together as suburbanites… Admittedly, we've met some great people, have a beautiful home, and love Danny's school as it was our biggest reason for coming this way. Also, being in a new home and burgeoning community, surrounded by new school buildings, signaled unrestrained innovation; exciting involvement in undeveloped property, educational perspectives, and new-to-us people… what more is there? Our neighbors, my coworkers, Dan's friends... we'd all be beginning so much--together! The newness of it was alluring. I even wrote a poem our first week in the house about how we were pilgrim-like.
We looked at many of the Columbus suburbs, but nothing offered the same huge swath of blank canvas as Lewis Center. I recall when my district was only 3 buildings (in 1999; now in 2018 we’ll be up to 24) and my new friend Kate and I were driving to a meeting at the elementary school farthest from the main “campus” (the 2 other buildings) and saying to her, “Who the hell would live all the way out here? Really?! This is the sticks! Where is the grocery store?”
Well. Our yard now backs up to that building.
I'm not even kidding.
I quite literally bought into the whole thing.
Over the years, Ed and I did our best with Danny building community to compensate for our extended family being 3 hours (some, more) away--curating “aunts" and “uncles" out of our dearest people and compensating for the lack of a church’s social infrastructure. But after 15 years, we aren't much closer to what we thought we'd have by now. That blank canvas? Still pretty blank. And most of that's on us.
We realized we missed walking to the grocery store. The library. The metro park. This was what Ed and I had when we were kids. And when we allowed ourselves to delve into this conversation, we recollected his proximity to the city pool. Me to the shopping plaza. And both to our respective schools. But I sense more fog rolling in...
We miss knowing our neighbors. Really knowing them. No one here “pops in” on each other like ones from our childhood. We tried...but it wasn't always reciprocated. Then we couldn't figure out if that was a socioeconomic thing that us poor folks did and now upper middle income earners around us pooh pooh. Not having grown up this way, were were guilty of a social gaffe? Or is the a practice relegated to the past? Or maybe that level of comfortability only comes with generational, familial entrenchment? Ed’s house was ensconced by the homes of 5 aunts and uncles, their children, and his grandparents who were streets, if not doors, away. I could walk to my own grandparents’ house in which my mom spent most of her childhood. She and Ed share their high school alma mater, as did my grandmother. The DeVicchio kids up the street were third generational friends of our family on both sides: the maternal connection from Russia; paternal from Italy! We walked into each other's houses daily, unannounced, sharing food, Band-Aids, toys, coffee, and always friendship and familiarity.
This has been so hard to replicate. Am I just waxing nostalgic?In a world where we are more technologically connected, we can be so emotionally disconnected. Or are we?
These lamentations were at one time silenced by our then middle schooler who protested his was a good, happy life. He hoped to bring his own children back here when he was an adult. As Ed and I have no access at all to our childhood homes now, we heard him, and immediately understood: he wants what we always wanted in a homestead--what we dreamed this HOUSE would...could be.
We had also hoped to fill this place with 3 kids--it couldn’t happen. The house is now, realistically, too big for us. Do we move to something smaller--here? Or into an established neighborhood that already has the social and cultural amenities already in place. Or do we stay so Danny could have the roots Ed and I long for, regardless of how close to the surface those might still be? More fog...
The current culture here seems to favor using houses--for access to schools, opportunities, prestige...so many things we might not even see. There are a lot of people moving in and out. Are we those people? We already don’t seem to fit in--maybe we just have to work harder?
And be patient.