I love going for walks on the winding, hilly streets of my new neighborhood. The people I’ve met since we’ve moved, just one month ago, have been incredibly welcoming, and so familiar, perhaps because it’s a homecoming for me: I’ve moved one town over from my hometown. The lady in my first Bikram Yoga class who promised to call the ambulance for me in case I disintegrated; the woman from down the street who dropped off a box of cookies from a local bakery and a much-needed bottle of wine—I guess I’m old enough, now, to recognize the friendly faces, to pay attention to the eyes that are open and kind.
We’ve made a date with my Dad, Pop-Pop: open invitation for dinner every Wednesday night. That feels good. He’s cooked up countless amounts of eggs and bacon for me through the years, and now I can return the favor. How great is it that my father can stop-by when he wants to, that he can regularly look over his glasses across the dinner table at my daughters like he used to do with me, that he can take a post-meal nap (still at the table) while we clean up.
My girls are playing soccer—Lexi scored a goal in Game #2 and is now sleeping with her soccer ball. Same kind of kids here as in Annapolis—they name their teams the “Lightning Cheetahs” and the “Neon Tigers,” just like they do in Maryland. The transition has seemed a little more seamless for Lexi, my first grader. Caroline, in third grade, wrote in her journal about how she misses her Annapolis buddies, how she wishes that someone in her new school knew her well enough to call her by a nickname. She was “Care” to Gianna. She felt at ease with Alice. She and Owen have been friends all of their lives. She wonders if she will ever feel that comfort again. She does—I am not exaggerating—think hard on this topic of what is familiar and what is not. We’ve had many late-night discussions: some girls in her grade talk about iCarly, but Caroline doesn’t watch iCarly; some girls wear Under Armour, but Caroline doesn’t wear Under Armour; some girls are on travel soccer, but Caroline is still getting the basics down through the community league.
It takes time, I say, and I know it’s true for me as well.
I’ve written about our old house. I’ve written about my Annapolis friends: I miss them. I miss the ease of immediate jokes, the assurance and comfort you get merely because you’ve spent so much time with people. It takes time.
We have a couch in our den, but in our living room, all we have so far are boxes ½-unpacked, bookcases ½-filled with picture frames, photo albums, candles, and coasters. The only thing substantial in my new living room is my old baby grand piano, the one that my dear dad had professionally moved last week from his house to mine. It belonged to my mother’s mother, a music teacher. Many, many years ago the same piano was professionally moved from her home in Chicago to ours.
Talk about familiar. Talk about comfort. It was crazy—I sat on that bench, sifted through some old sheet music, put my fingers on the keys and banged out “The Spinning Song” like I’d been playing it every day for the last 25 years. I had not played that song in 25 years.
The girls danced wildly and giggled in my otherwise empty living room to “The Spinning Song.” Mark that as one of my first memories in the new house. I’ll wear that like a favorite jacket when I’m 75 years old.
Our new house: it’s wonderful. A little cape cod with a lot of charm. There’s brick surrounding the stove in the kitchen—I swear it’s going to make me a better cook. The girls climb a “secret passageway” into our snug of a den then sneak into their yellow bedroom—they’ve made a reading nook near the big window where one of the many tilts in the ceiling leans comfortably in. Lots of light during the day, but I find any reason I can to go outside at night to breathe in the fresh air and look up at the stars I can see between the tops of the tall trees. We’re surrounded by a solid amount of suburban darkness here…the stars really shine.
I’ve slipped a couple of times down the few steps that lead into the garage—the wood is smooth and slick in well-trodden places. And the sink in the upstairs bathroom is situated in such a way that when I wash my face, the water trickles annoyingly down my elbows. I need to work on my approach. Though I love the kitchen granite, the counter is slightly uneven—any water on the counter tends to end up on my shirt or on the floor. So that’s the way it’s gonna be, new house—we’re going to have to get to know each other. I’ll figure out where to step in the girls’ room so the floor doesn’t creak. I’ll get there. In time.
Mary Kate, one of my favorite friends from growing up, lives .3 miles from me. My sister-in-law and I jumped in the car and went to Pottery Barn outlet in Lancaster yesterday (I scored two discounted rugs and a print!). We saw my niece score a goal under the lights at her high school last week. My brother was on the sidelines at both my girls’ soccer games on Saturday. Another favorite, Raquel, has already had the family over for a bbq. We babysat the adorable one, my tw0-year old niece. My mother-in-law babysat the girls. So nice. Easy.
As I’ve been known to do, I was listening to NPR this morning. I had a hurried drive to the elementary school because after I watched the girls board their bus, when I sat down to write at my computer, I found Caroline’s homework folder on my desk. This was the folder I was supposed to have slid in her backpack the night before. Our routine is far from familiar at this point—we haven’t secured a homework spot or a place for filing floods of paper, so stuff gets lost. I drove to deliver the folder and on the way back I heard a segment on the radio about the song September, by Earth Wind and Fire.
That’s the song to hear. The first familiar notes from the horns and percussion and I’m back in high school listening to Mary Kate’s basement jukebox. My brother, Dan, is squirreled away in his room, listening to the LP. There’s Raquel in her wedding dress and everyone’s on the dance floor.
I know that song.
But then, I did not know until today that the co-songwriter was a Jewish woman (who went on to write the theme song for Friends). Allee Willis described first walking into the studio and hearing the introduction of the song and thinking, “Dear God, please let this be what they want me to write, because it was obviously the happiest-sounding song in the world.” It’s a great segment (find it online!), but the part that stuck for me was that fact that Maurice White, the leader of Earth Wind and Fire, had included the lyrics “Ba De Ya” from the start, and despite Willis’s pleadings, he never let those non-words go. After a month of trying to persuade White to make that phrase into real lyrics, Willis asked, “What the (bleep) does Ba De Ya mean? And Maurice White responded, “Who the (bleep) cares?”
The “21st night of September,” the date featured in the song, is apparently as significant as ba de ya. It’s the number that best fit the groove. It’s any other day. It’s not laden with meaning. It’s light. It’s cyclical. It comes around again.
The song is happy, memorable, easy, and comfortable.
Pick a day. Any day. It’s the same as it was. It’s the stars that are always there. It’s the soccer field piled with kids. It’s a late-night worry about friendship but it’s an eager, refreshed kid in the morning. It’s the welcoming neighbor, the forever friends in many towns. It’s the end of summer and the coolness and freshness of an early autumn evening.
Pick a day. Pick a neighborhood. Pick a time. It’s not laden with meaning–it’s just a blessing. It’s the familiar but also the wonderful potential of what is to come.