Anytime you relocate somewhere new, there is a process you need to follow in order to create a home. I’m not talking about a literal home, an abode, a building that houses all your furniture. I mean the more figurative home, as in the community you will now reside in, the area surrounding the building that you sleep in at night.
Having been born and raised in Miami, whenever I moved to a new apartment in Dade County it usually just meant taking a different route to work, or to a friend’s house, or to the mall. You may move to Kendall (a suburb west of Miami proper), but your best friend lives on South Beach. A visit to said friend usually involves deciding which route makes you less suicidal: Palmetto Expressway to the 836 to I-95 to the Julia Tuttle Causeway, OR, Snapper Creek Expressway to US-1 to I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. (By the way, “expressway” is Miamian for highway.) Regardless of which route you choose, it will inevitably take you at least an hour to drive the 23 miles because at any given time on any given day in Miami there are at least eleventy bajillion people driving on those same exact roads. A pro tip, though: US-1 has better scenery, and the MacArthur Causeway has Star Island (celebrity mansions!) on one side and cruise ships on the other.
However, moving cross-country brought with it a whole new ball game.
Now it wasn’t just a matter of picking a different street to drive on; it was learning an entirely new layout of roads and traffic rotaries and highways and exit ramps. It wasn’t just going to the same grocery store chain in a different shopping center. It was finding a grocery store in the first place, learning where the cheese and beer are located, and figuring out how to get back home before the ice cream melted. (No lie, I almost had a panic attack my first time alone at Albertson’s. Who the heck puts the deli meats in the center aisle??) And it was learning not only which Thai restaurant is the best, but where IS there a Thai restaurant in the first place?
But, eventually, you figure out all these logistical things. You learn not only where the grocery store is, but the best time to shop. You work out the quickest route to the mall and the least busy time to go to Costco. And you find the best place to enjoy that steaming hot bowl of delicious Pad Thai (great, now I’m hungry).
In addition to these things, having family and old friends (the boy grew up in the Columbia Basin area and a lot of his friends from school still live nearby) around is really nice. We just spent a really fun holiday weekend hanging out at his aunt and uncle’s house, grilling burgers, swapping stories, and enjoying a visit from cousins that live on the west side of WA. (It was really enjoyable. His family is great.)
But the one big difference we have experienced living here is in our neighborhood.
I lived in my old apartment for six years. Ask me how many of my neighbors I knew personally. Yeah, the answer would be none. I don’t know if it’s a city thing or just a Miami thing, but I can’t think of a single person back home that talks to or even likes their neighbors. I believe most people didn’t even know theirs. For me, living in an apartment meant there was a lot of turnover in those six years. I can describe various neighbors that came and went as follows: the quiet couple with the baby, the older lady with the two teenagers, the friendly lesbians, the guy that always hogged the laundry room, the a$$holes that played their music way too loud at all hours, the obnoxious kids that used the eastside wall (my bedroom wall, BTW) to practice their soccer kicks, the Indian ladies that always wore gorgeous saris, and the older couple with the yappy dog. I didn’t know any of them personally. We would just pass each other occassionally on our way to and from the parking lot or past the laundry room. Sometimes you said hello to each other. Most times you fake getting a text message so you don’t have to make eye contact.
Living here is different. Maybe it’s a small town thing, but it always trips me out when someone waves if they are outside as you drive past their house. I always have that split-second “oh crap, what do I do?” reaction. Do I wave back? Do I pretend I didn’t notice? Oh… oh no, it’s too late. The moment has passed.
Now, I don’t know any of the neighbors on my block personally (because we don’t have kids or dogs, and both of us work from home, there isn’t really an opportunity to be outside or even cross paths. Except when the boy is driving his obnoxiously loud R/C cars; then I’m pretty sure all the neighbors just give him dirty looks from inside their houses), but I do know most of the people a couple of blocks over. Because our closest friends have lived in this development for a few years now, they were here during the earliest stages of construction. They got to know their neighbors along the way and, as an offshoot, so did we once we moved here. There are some really nice people on their block and we’ve become friendly with all of them.
We’ve enjoyed spending time with these neighbors during barbecues, birthday parties, Memorial Day weekend, and even a block party on the 4th. It’s such a simple but strange thing to me. I’ve never been friendly with neighbors before, but every time we hang out with them I think “boy, this is really nice.” They are a fun bunch of people and I believe just knowing someone (anyone!) here has helped us settle into our new community better. I definitely feel more of a connection to this neighborhood and this house than I ever did before. My apartment was just the place I slept in and where I received my mail. But THIS place feels like a real home.
I definitely still have those strange “outer body” moments where I feel like we are just visiting. You know, like “oh, gotta pack up our stuff, gotta head to the airport!” And I still have mornings when I wake up slightly disoriented and think “hey, where am I?! This isn’t my room!… Oh, that’s right.” But all in all, I feel like we are finally putting down some roots here. Like we are an actual part of this living, breathing community.
So we really are creating a home here and we are so becoming a part of this neighborhood. (I’ve even got the block party invitation to prove it.)
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