where should we live?

This question has followed us basically since we moved in together. Eight years ago, I moved to Indiana to join David in his one bedroom railroad apartment. He was in his second year of his PhD program and I was about to begin working on my master’s degree. Our building was a small, red-brick affair with, I believe, ten units. There was a window A/C in the bedroom, a futon under the front window, and very a very typical “boy’s dorm room” bedding set : beiges and greys and faded blues. The oven was too small for a regular-sized baking sheet. We were one thousand miles (and about a 14 hour drive) from my childhood home, and two thousand miles (and a much longer drive) from David’s. There was no local airport, so to fly back to Washington, we took a shuttle bus to the airport first (I believe about an hour and a half long drive) and then usually had two flights to get to David’s hometown. We became very fond of the Indy 500 Grill, where we could plug our laptops in to do schoolwork while enjoying a beer and some onion rings and waiting for our flight.

We left Indiana four years ago, and have bounced around ever since. Traveling in Europe, then crashing at my mom’s house for several months while we got our feet under us, then Boise, Idaho, and now the Capital District of New York. We’ve been here for a year and a half — definitely the most challenging year and a half of our lives. We arrived in January 2020, the dead of winter. It was cold and icy, we were very lonely, and I was very pregnant. Then there was that whole ‘having a newborn and becoming parents in a global pandemic’ thing. No family, no friends, no meal deliveries, no washer & dryer, no help. I’m still amazed we did it (and still struggle with resentment…probably always will, and that’s okay).

But…now what? It’s not like we’ve developed a super tight-knit community here. (Meeting people in a pandemic with a baby is kind of like…not a thing.) We’d like to have three bedrooms and our own laundry machines…but apparently this is the worst time to buy a house, ever. (Kind of like how March 2020 was the worst time to have your first baby, ever. Hmm…) We can’t swing a three bedroom rental on our current income. We don’t want to have another baby until we’re a bit more settled…and have a guest room where the family and friends that will come next time can stay (you guys are coming, right? …right?). But, we also don’t want the spacing of our children to be determined by the whims of the real estate market. (I’m sure that we wouldn’t be the first though, if that is the case!)

No matter where we live, David and I will always be thousands of miles from someone we love. We are from opposite sides of the US, so there’s only so much we can do. We want to be wise, we want to be thoughtful. We also want to be able to host friends and do laundry in our own home, and maybe even have a wee garden.

Anyway, if you know where David and I ought to live, let me know. Should we buy a house? Rent an apartment? Stay put? Our minds are going around and around (well, mine especially).

how things look right now

…because everyone seems to be asking, anyway.

Since David and I returned from our grand European tour, we’ve been living in my childhood home, with my mother and the family dog, Pip. While I know moving back in with your parents isn’t exactly on everyone’s late-twenties bucket list, it’s really been lovely. For one thing, I think something about losing a parent at a relatively young age (in my case, I was twenty when my dad died) shifts the way I think about my family. Even if most of the time we’re just doing regular stuff like watching TV together, going for a walk, or running errands, I really value my time with my mother.

Also, as any of you who know my in real life are already deeply aware, I am absolutely passionately obsessed with my dog, Pip. You know how some parents worry that they’ll finally cave and get a puppy, and then their kids will lose interest? Yeah, I’m not that kid. Pip is thirteen years old and I still think (know) that he is the greatest animal on the planet.

While we’re here, I’m doing a hodge-podge of home and personal projects while applying to jobs (no luck yet, but I’m not exactly rushing), and most importantly, David is working very hard to try to finish his doctoral dissertation. It is all that lies between him and his PhD, and y’all, it is a lot of work. He’s in his office most of the day and has Skype meetings with his advisor regularly. Living at home has allowed us the luxury of time : David has lots to focus on his work, and I have lots to take care of projects and decompress from the world’s most stressful job. I loved my time at the domestic violence shelter/rape crisis center/human trafficking service center but, I mean, as you can guess from the workplace, it was extremely high stress.

So here we are, living a calm and cozy life that feels a bit like a break from real life (but, I must always remind myself, is in fact a real life). I read a lot, I try to cook all the meals and keep the house tidy, and I daydream and worry far too much about what our future holds.

On that note, I’ve got to go tidy the family room and do the dishes. And perhaps have a cup of tea while I’m at it…

homecoming (my time of year)

My time is the cold months, and they are arriving. Last night we slept with the windows open to feel the cool night air, and I wore flannel dark-blue-with-stars pajama pants and pulled the quilt right up to my chin. Fall is here, and winter is coming.

I have never been a summer person. My dad often reminded me to “never wish your life away,” and I’ve learned to love the summer. It was one thing to learn to love the Northern California summer when we would visit our family there — that love came naturally, love for the brown hills and the smells of eucalyptus in Tilden, love for hearing my parents’ stories of growing up, love for a coast where you wore your jeans and a sweatshirt to sit on the beach. Love for New York summers has taken a bit more coaxing, but it has come, too : getting up at dawn in July to feel the temporary dip in temperature, when the regular day’s heat is still somehow present and bumping against you in big balloons that will soon burst. The lush, overgrown Eastern woods. Tuning out the impossibly loud buzz of cicadas until your ear suddenly, shockingly notices it, again and again. Reading on the front porch while the dog sits in the yard and patiently watches the quiet street. Yes, I have found my love of summer.

Nevertheless, my time is a cold time. I was born in November, and my heart seems to have stayed there. November : the darkening, in-between month before the winter blows fully in. Dustings of snow on gray-brown leaves. Morning darkness, which is a different darkness than evening. The memories that return each year : helping my mother prepare dinner one evening during a fall evening rainstorm while we sang along to Norah Jones. Venturing out with my father and brother after the blizzard of 1996 to see the magical world outside our apartment, where snowdrifts were taller than I was — taller even than Daddy was. Thanksgiving with friends in Oregon during college, playing boardgames until we laughed ourselves silly and eating double helpings of pumpkin cheesecake. David, getting down on one knee before me two late-Octobers ago, me in my dad’s old wool sweater and boots and David with tears in his eyes. (And I don’t remember a single thing he said, although I think it had to do with marriage and I know I said yes.)

Every year from November first until spring, I allow myself to listen to the Rachmaninov Vespers again (and again, and again). (If I didn’t limit my listening, I worry I’d ruin them for myself.) After singing Bogoroditse Djevo in my college choir, I fell in love with the entire work. There is truly nothing like lying on your back, alone in a dark room, half-watching the rain, snow, or wind-blown leaves outside the window, while listening to the Vespers. I listen to at least part of them almost every day for those months. I live in them. They are my soundtrack and they connect me wherever I am to the places and times I have lived. The Vespers are fall and winter to me.

And fall and winter are safety, adventure, and stories. They are my childhood and my point of origin. They are cooking in a kitchen that is made more pleasant (not less) by the extra heat of the stove. They are friendship and peace after the frenzied energies of summer. And it is good to be home.

frosted leaves