I had a reference point, so I looked it up. Mother's Day, 1989, was May 14. That's the day we moved to northern Virginia. Suzanne was six months old. We planned to stay "a couple of years."
But two years passed, then four, eight, twelve; they passed in a whirl of babies and toddlers and deadlines and milestones. And when I realized what was happening, that I was settling in a place I never intended to stay, I chafed at that fact.
It wasn't the house itself or the immediate neighborhood that rankled, but the suburban experience. The tidy lawns and mulched trees, the lawnmowers and snow blowers that seemed always to be whirring. The traffic, the homogeneity, the "placelessness." The influx of affluence that led our children to ask us why they couldn't live in a house with a two-story foyer.
But a few years ago (yikes, almost ten!) I began to work downtown. I explored the neighborhoods of D.C. — Brookland, Capitol Hill, Penn Quarter. There was an energy and a discombobulation that felt new and familiar at the same time. There were long city blocks where I could stretch my legs. Without intending to, I began to soften toward the place.
This is good, because what's happened in the last quarter century — what's happened when I haven't been looking — is that northern Virginia has become our home. I still may thrash at its limitations, but it's where two of my children were born and where all of them grew up. This is their place, where they've come alive to the world.
A lot can happen in a quarter century. A lot has.
Labels: belonging, home, suburbs