Well, the hiatus is over and we are finally home.
Shifting from a house to a condo has been an interesting process, with no few adjustments that came easier than expected. Honestly, it’s a relief not to have to think about picking up branches, pulling weeds, planting gardens. At this moment, I really only miss one particular space, and I’ve been too busy to think about it much. That space, of course, is my quiet, sacred space. It will end up being shared with the bedroom, and when I pull it together enough to set it up, it’ll probably be fine.
But otherwise? Dropping from ~2,000 square feet of space to 1,272 hasn’t felt like a great loss, really. Sarah and I never really needed to be spread out that much. We’re enjoying the open layout that lets us snark back and forth from kitchen to couch without having to bellow. Being downtown is hugely fun; already we’ve walked more than we ever did in the suburbs. Groceries, going out to eat, visiting people — it’s all an easy stroll instead of needing to drive (at least when it isn’t freezing!). We’re part of the world now, not just sitting in our individual cookie cutter house.
The condo is 12 floors up, which means we have a beautiful view. We face northeast, both the direction and the neighborhood, so we can see the place where the Mississippi curves from north-south to east-west when it hits downtown. Funnily enough, the view is also a perfect metaphor. We’re across the street from the top of the nearest building, so my windows are directly across from their big air conditioning thing. But I literally just need to look past the obvious in the foreground to a beautiful background. Every single person who has come over wanders out to our balcony, and they just stay there. They go out to “take a peek” and vanish for 5-10 minutes. It’s pretty fun to watch.
Once we started moving stuff into the condo, we immediately felt that we had come home. It was surprising to me how quickly we adjusted. Parking in the underground garage and riding an elevator became normal, even comfortable. It was going back to the house to clean it out that seemed strange. We walked the house on the last day and wondered why we ever thought we wanted or needed so much space, so much yard, so far away from the heart of the city. Really, I think a lot of it comes down to lifelong assumptions and expectations. The American Dream is still kind of the standard in the communities in which we were raised, and that means a house and yard kept immaculate at all times. That’s how you progress, right? You go to college, get married, buy a house and a dog or maybe have some kids, and you live in a good neighborhood where you can drive into the city sometimes for special occasions.
You don’t have to deconstruct that scenario very far to see the many implicit economic, social, and racial biases. (Also ecological impact of individual homesteads instead of more efficient communal living.) And we weren’t as knowledgeable about these things ten years ago, but we are now. And once you see the system, once you see the barriers raised to those who don’t have the same levels of privilege, well, I think you probably only have two options. You apologize for being part of the system, or you opt out of it. And Sarah and I have white privliege acting for us, but we’ve been on the wrong side of the privilege power dynamic, and we are always happier defying it.
But we didn’t just move to make a political statement. It’s just *better* for us here. The yard was a huge stressor for both of us, as well as various aspects of home maintenance. Being 12 stories up in the air with no yard to mow, no trees to trim, it lets us focus on other things. Having a built-in assumption of walking means more regular exercise as well as more time in the urban community. And there’s such a different experience looking out the window and just seeing the house across the street from looking out to see half of the city, the mighty Mississippi, and a humongous sky.
(It’s taken me 2 hours to write even this far, because I keep getting distracted staring out my own window. I think I could look at that river view for the rest of my days and never tire of it.)
The thing the house gave us wasn’t status or security like it gives to others. That’s not what we wanted. It did give us space to host our friends and family, but we just have to be a little creative and we can recreate that space just as well. This condo has places we can reserve to host parties bigger and more comfortably than we could at the house. (It also has an indoor pool, which I fully expect to make use of during some of those parties.) What the house gave us was a home base for the people who fill up our lives. And that is something that isn’t tied to an address in suburbia; it lives with all of us everywhere we live.
Which isn’t to say that we are sorry for the years we spent in that house. In our almost 9 years there, we loved that house. But it wasn’t the right fit anymore, and that’s neither bad nor anyone’s failing — things change, we change, the world changes, and priorities change. Add it all up, and the time had come for us to move.
Of course, living here will be far easier than *moving* here. Until Saturday, the room I am currently sitting in was wall-to-wall boxes. Storage won’t be a problem once we get it all organized, but in the meantime it’s a DISASTER. But we make some progress every day, and with everything we set into place, we’re more sure that this is where we belong.
It’s not that different to me from settling into Minnesota after being from New York. It’s a change, for sure. But the adjustment fits against my edges — not identically, but equally easily. Louise Fitzhugh wrote, “There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people.” (I think. It’s hard to be sure when my copy of Harriet the Spy is in a box somewhere. It’s close to that, anyway.) And, for me, there are right ways and wrong ways. This condo, this is the right way. The house was the right way too, for a long time. But now it would be wrong. The suburbs would be wrong.
Frankly? Anything that doesn’t give me this view of the Mississippi would be wrong.
This coming weekend is the TCWC spring concert and it’s theme, appropriately enough, is “home.” All the songs are about finding home, or losing it, or creating it, or not knowing where it is. And while the choir community has long been a home to me, this time when I sing those songs, I’m going to be thinking about my place halfway into the sky, with the river to the north and west, the sunset streaking across the balcony, and the room that was mostly boxes and is slowly growing itself into a den.
I have very much come home, once more.
(However, even if I have found my hallelujah, I sure can’t find anything else! Time to unpack more boxes!)