I’m no longer 202. I’m not even 303. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I find myself, much to my surprise, living in the Maryland suburbs – in 301 to be exact. It’s by my own doing. I mean I’m the one who left the dream job and then gave up the dream house. (Dream job = dream pay = big expensive dream house).
But I like living in the suburbs and I’m shocked at myself.
I’m the one, who upon moving to Washington DC in 1993 knew there was no other place to live than the Adams Morgan neighborhood. That was 20 years ago when I was nervous to walk by myself in certain sections. Twenty years ago, when I paid $600 a month to live in a two bedroom apartment, down the street from a crack house – today those apartments are $500K condos across from a Harris Teeter at 17th and Kalorama.
I was a 202 snob. I had friends who would call to ask me to come over for a party, or a barbecue, or to meet them for dinner. “What area code is this in?” I would ask. You know the inevitable answer. And I’d vehemently respond “I do not go outside of 202.”
But I like it in 301. It is quiet. There is space. There are neighbors, but there is no incessant humming of the city – people up at all hours, people walking their dogs, ambulances, police sirens, or drunken people trying to hail a cab.
There is no sound of the neighbor’s garage door screeching as it opened at 6:00am each morning, causing my shoulders to hunch and my face to pucker. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think of trying to find that garage and leaving a can of WD-40 outside his door with a red ribbon and a note pleasantly but firmly suggesting that he use it, liberally.
I’m sitting in my bedroom, of a condo owned by a friend. I am renting a bedroom on her third floor. She’s the kind of friend that allowed me and my cat to move in with her when I resigned from my job. She’s never had a roommate, never had a pet – “stay as long as you need.” No questions. Rearrange the room. Rearrange the cupboards in the kitchen to accommodate my things.
I sit with my feet up on the windowsill, looking out at the rain, taking deep breaths of the freshly washed earth – the smell of earthworms filling my nose. On my window sill is a single rock that says; “Believe.” That rock inspires me. Listening to the lone neighbor’s dog barking in the distance inspires me. Being able to move from the 3rd floor down to the 1st to eat my morning oatmeal inspires me.
In 202 I lived in a 350 square foot efficiency – jammed up against my other neighbors on all sides. I woke up in my living room, needed only to go a few feet to the kitchen to put the kettle on for tea. I never drove my car. I walked a few blocks to the gym, to Starbucks, to the hardware store, to the grocery store, to the drugstore. Yes it was convenient physically.
But it was not convenient mentally. I didn’t feel like I could ever really take a big breath … the cleansing kind…the stretch your arms over your head and fill your lungs kind of breath where you inhale all of life and think “YES!” it is morning!
In 202, I found myself holding my breath.
I moved from 202 to 303 in 2004 – Denver Colorado to be exact. In 202 I paid $1100 a month for my 350 square foot efficiency in the middle of Dupont Circle. In 303 I paid $1500 a month for a four bedroom, two bathroom two floor house at the end of a street that was a few feet from a creek and a bike path.
In the winters I would strap on my snowshoes and walk a few feet to enjoy the solitude of the freshly falling snow, Canadian geese my only company aside from a lone runner who’s slushy footprints I followed wondering why his legs weren’t bright red as I watched him disappear in the distance after our ear to ear grins greeted each other silently.
My back yard yielded apple and plum trees, a grape arbor, and wild rhubarb. One fall my neighbors and I picked 100 bushels of apples providing me with bright pink applesauce to eat with my Latkes that Hannukah. Baking strawberry rhubarb pies were part of my summer ritual. In 202 my local supermarket invited me to pay $4.99 a pound for rhubarb that grew wild in my backyard.
In 303 my back deck overlooked the mountains, my backyard bbq’s were infamous and I hosted many fundraisers because it easily fit 50 people outside of the house. On New Year’s Eve you’d find people inside the house gathered around the wood burning stove after midnight talking about the meaning of love until 3:00 am, or outside in the backyard huddled around the outdoor fire pit passing a bottle of whiskey and smoking cigars.
I lived in cities on the East Coast for 17 years and I was a proud city girl. I loved the hustle and bustle and being among the throngs of people going to work, going to a show, always going somewhere. That hustle and bustle gave me purpose.
I loved listening to five different languages while I walked down the street, sidestepping the crowds, ducking into a random restaurant that I had never seen before. I thrived on that hustle and bustle. I never thought I would live anywhere else.
I find myself living in 301, tranquilly watching the bright orange butterflies play tag on the tree outside my window. I smile to myself and raise my arms over heard and take a deep cleansing breath, and sigh with happiness.