Dear husband and Dietrich,
Today is our first anniversary of starting out here in DC. One year ago we were inching our way across the old home state, me in the little red Corolla with a very concerned dog in the back seat and the husband in the Budget moving truck. The roads were packed snow and ice from the unexpected winter storm the night before, the storm that delayed us by a day and made us last-minute refugees at the other middle’s house for a night. On December 1 we drove. The sun was blinding, reflecting beautifully and dangerously off the white of the road and the trees, and I was terrified that one or both of us would never make it to our first stop at my parents’ house.
But we did, and the little sister was there with donuts for us before she left for work and we left for our new home, which we still hadn’t seen except for in three tiny pictures on craigslist. Refilling our water bottles, coffee mugs, and adding the parents to our caravan, we set off again across some beautiful and familiar states that would get us to our new and unfamiliar home.
Do you remember that we took a wrong turn as we came through Maryland and ended up on winding back roads into Arlington? It wasn’t so much a wrong turn as the less-direct route and we came into DC parallel to the Potomac. It was midnight and the river was as still as the winter air and as black as the sky above it. In between the two dark blankets lay the city; each of us had only ever visited twice, with friends. We had never been here together, not even for so much as a layover at the airport. The white monuments stood out in the dark, on display even from a distance. I thought it all looked very romantic.
We found our new address and together with the parents unloaded just enough to brush our teeth and have something to sleep on in our new basement home. The thrill of a new adventure is what helped us laugh when we saw the kitchen/laundry room/entry way and boiler room/closet. The wisdom of having sold our couch before moving was made real to us. That we would have to leave more things on the truck and make a drop at Goodwill the next day was also made real. The four of us blew up air mattresses, laid out a blanket for Dietrich, and fell asleep.
The next day we unloaded the truck and the husband returned it while the parents and I did our best to shoehorn the bare essentials into the shoebox. It was hard work. In such limited quarters, we had to make sure that anything taking up room was something we needed and would use regularly. Just last week when the sisters were here for a visit did the oldest and I unpack our baking sheets. I hadn’t seen or used them since before last Thanksgiving.
With everything moved in and somewhat organized, we left our shoebox home to explore town with the parents. Dietrich stayed in his new, fenced yard. When we came back, chocolate covered fruit had been delivered for us, a housewarming gift from the other middle and her family. They sent only the good fruit. No melon. Even though it was the first week of December, the chocolate had melted every so slightly on some of the fruit. This was a new place indeed.
Then the parents left and it was just the three of us alone in our new home. Shopping at Target was the most normal, familiar thing I could think to do, so that’s where I went for food and toilet paper. One year later, Target is still my first shopping choice, a type of comfort zone. May Target never go the way of the Twinkie.
This year when I look at our home, our growing family, and the work we do during the week, last December has a quiet feeling. I knew each day would begin with a walk around the block and end with reruns of The Office watched on our computer, one of us sitting in the brown comfy chair and one of us in the rolling desk chair, Dietrich on the floor in between. I knew dinner would be homemade and small enough that there would be no leftovers to try to cram into the mini fridge. I knew I would pack the husband’s lunch the next morning, tossing a few pieces of cheese to Dietrich while he ‘helped’ make the sandwich and the husband ironed his work clothes in the bathroom, the only space large enough to set up the ironing board. I knew Christmas would come at the end of the month.
And that was our life when we got here, one year ago. And Christmas did come at the end of the month. And then the little oyster was on her way and we knew we had to find a new place to live. Then I was back at my old job, working from home. Then we had a few dollars in the bank to travel with, and we visited the old home state twice. Then I started on the Hill and going out for dinner was an option again. Then the little oyster arrived and the three of us became the four of us and home was even more our favorite place to be, all together. Then Martha went away and December came again and soon it will be Christmas once more.
For a lot of people, December is a time of endings. For us, beginnings. So as the weather gets cold again and scarves are a staple and street musicians play Silent Night, the notes carrying over the steam from the manhole covers and the halting start-and-stop of downtown traffic, I am caught up in the excitement of the season and now in the possibility of everything before us, as yet unseen, as yet unknown.
Happy anniversary, my dear boys, and merry Christmas.