My trip to DC was a bit of a whirlwind. A friend of mine was having a wedding shower and since I'm in the wedding and unable to attend her bachelorette party, I decided to make a quick trip up 95 to be at her shower. I love me a good road trip. There was a lot I wanted to see in DC, including my 5 year old cousin and my favorite Eastern Market cheese vendor, and with some careful planning and a newly loaded up Metro card I managed to make it happen.
Friday I arrived, white knuckled after having come through the can of worms that is 495 meets 395 meets 95, at my Aunt Jennifer & Uncle Jon's house. Walking into their house is as comforting to me as walking into my parent's house in NY. This was my escape from grad school stress, my home base during coach training. It feels like only yesterday that I would get off the orange line at Ballston, see my uncle waiting for me, walk the quarter mile home to their house and be greeted with a chilled glass of white, my Aunt’s hospitable smile and a sweet newborn to hold. The wine and my Aunt’s warm welcome remain the same, but that sweet baby is now a smart, chatty adorable 5 year old. I can't get over it. Our time together was wonderful – dinner was scrumptious, the company even better and the time with my little cousin was priceless.
Saturday morning, I met my friend Jen for coffee. Jen and I went to high school together, and while we probably have not seen each other in real life since then, our shared love for all things interwebz means we've been following each other's LiveJournals, then Facebook statuses, then blogs and now Twitter feeds for the better part of the last decade. Despite the fact that we were in different graduating classes and share only a handful of mutual friends, I feel like I know Jen better than 75% of the people who were at my 10 year reunion this summer. So to sit down for our first IRL date was literally like picking up a conversation trail we had just left off that morning. And of course, the first thing she asked me was “Did you check in yet?” And of course, I had not, because I was waiting for her to get there so our check-ins would sync. See? We know each other. (Check in to FourSquare, for those of you who actually have a good real life/online life balance and don't use every social media app out there.)
After our coffee date, I headed over to Arlington for Sarah's shower. The shower was lovely and a nice chance to catch up with some Wake friends, including of course the bride and my college roomie, Britta. I hadn’t seen either of them for awhile, so we filled in the gaps that our emails and phone calls and texts hadn’t covered as best we could in between the gift exchanges and the shower games. Although I am sure I did this at my own showers, it always makes me chuckle how brides exclaim over their gifts as if they are delighted with the gift giver's taste. "This bowl is so cute!" "Oh my gosh, I LOVE these!" Well of course - you picked them out! But I know I did this too, if only for the awkwardness of having a roomful of people staring at you as you open presents and not knowing WHAT to say.
Although in my defense, since my husband took over our Pottery Barn registry, many of the items WERE a delightful surprise to me. Including the candleholders that I thought (hoped) were margarita glasses.
The bridey & gifts, and me with apologies for only bring my phone as a camera to such an event. Oof.
Back to the hotel (repeating the white knuckled traffic grip again and getting lost TWICE even with my GPS... did I really live here once?), I cracked open a bottle of wine to have my own little happy hour while making plans to meet my friends Karl & Sarah out for dinner. They chose a place and sent me directions, and I crossed my fingers that I still knew how to ride the Metro.
My Happy Hour. Relaxing before diving back into the city life..
I did, and dinner with K&S was wonderful. The place they picked - Ceiba - had a great lounge area that we ate dinner in, the food was delicious and the mojtios top notch. I have known Karl for literally half my life, and I don't think the universe could have found a better match for him than Sarah. They are two of my favorite people to hang out with, and I hate that it only happens for weddings and the rare occasions that we both end up in Pittsford for holidays. So it was great to spend time with them that didn't involve yelling at each other over the music at Pittsford Pub. They took me out after dinner to a bar where their friends were converging, and I had total non-city-girl culture shock when I had to pay $3 for a PBR and was yawning my face off by 11:00 pm. I am so not cut out for city life anymore.
After my night life adventure, I was so ready to get home and see my boys that I thought about just getting up at the crack of dawn and hitting the road. But Matt had to go to work and Buddy was at daycare, so I stuck with my original plan of going and exploring my old neighborhood before I left. When I lived in Capitol Hill / Eastern Market, I had always wished I had a fun camera to walk around and play with. So I owed it to my 22 year old self to backtrack. Eastern Market looked like I remembered it (even though it has been rebuilt since the fire), and most important, my cheese vendor was still there.
*Currently enjoying my hunk of sage cheddar as I write this. So good.
I snapped some pics, admired some produce, petted a dog, longed for some coffee (it was cold, but my hands were full with my camera and I'd have to dump it before the Metro), and found myself out of things to do after about 10 minutes. I walked down the street and found myself standing in front of our old house. It was a bit surreal to look up at it, and feel that weird time-space warp where it somehow felt like forever ago that the 3rd floor front window had been where the sun streamed in on me each morning and yet so recent that I could walk up to the door right now and step in. After lingering there just long enough to look like a creepy stalker, I headed towards the Metro - realizing before long I was tracing the steps of my every day commute.
I always get twinges of nostalgia about places I've lived in the past - I take it to be an indication that those experiences were positive ones in my life and I miss the cities provide the context for those experiences. As I headed down the escalator at Capitol South, I picked up a stray copy of the free metro newspaper that I used to read every day and settled into the familiar orange seats. Besides the nostalgia though, there had been some other emotion nagging at me throughout my entire trip. It took me reading the first page of the metro paper - an update on the goings-on of the government events which immediately caused my heart to start pounding with (real or imagined?) the stress and bustle of this city- before I could identify it. It was: relief.
Relief that I was visiting this busy city, and that I no longer lived here. No offense DC and residents of it - because trust me, I liked it too and I know it’s a wonderful place to live. In fact, I greatly miss having easy access to public transportation, the networking opportunities, and the plethora of restaurants and bars to choose from. But I'm simply not a big city girl. I'm happy that I lived there, on my own, for 2 years. I learned so much then, and I could feel that "heck yea I can do anything" attitude an d independence permeate me as I power walked to dinner through the busy Penn Quarter on Saturday night. But along with the independence, when I lived here, there was a certain feeling of being unsettled, transient and temporary that colored my life. Today, I feel so rooted and so nestled in my cozy life that waves of contentment wash over me as often as waves of loneliness or stress did then. Is it just the difference in zip code? Of course not. I know this. Of course a major difference is that I am married to the person who I was then dating, but had 500 miles of distance between us and I have had 2 jobs here that I greatly loved that have allowed me to make wonderful career connections, and an incredibly supportive and wonderful network of friends. But I think it's more than that – I’m a person who is influenced by my environment. I love my "small town city" that I live in. I drive around Winston, and it just feels like home. I think I've always known that I'm not a big city girl, but it took revisiting it to confirm that. I was happy to visit - overjoyed to see my lovely friends & family - but ever so happy to come back home.
This was supposed to be a post about my trip, but somehow it turned into a post about my home. Funny how that happens.