This weekend was perfect. Our children were more adorable (and more cheerful) than usual. We were all showered and well rested. We ate delicious food. We sang and danced and laughed a lot. It was like a magical stay-at-home retreat from our lives. After a long week of teething and whining and my own tooth troubles I was just in awe of how joyful and peaceful things were, both at home and out and about. Drew was relaxed, having put in extra long hours last week so he could really just rest and hang out all weekend. The twins were pretty good-natured given some wonky nap schedules and overjoyed to be outside in the sun. I was wearing not-yoga pants and briefly felt like I was back in my old pre-pregnancy body. Seriously. A weekend that gives you out-of-body experiences? It was the best.
It feels like the long weary winter has finally shaken loose and we were free to soak up the sun without fearing we’ll pay for it in slush and snowboots a few days later. I’m [almost] ready to plant my little herb garden on the patio. Almost. I’ve got my eye on you, 10 day forecast. I know your tricks. 80, 75, 78, 81, 75, 28, 31, 23…. You’re relentless, Chicago.
On Friday I made it up to Logan Square for a lunch picnic with Elsbeth & M & A. Somehow, in-between juggling three nursing babies, tending to a very polite and thoughtful 3-year-old and two mamas catching up on the last four months of our lives…not a picture was snapped. I guess that means we were practicing the art of being present. (/I forgot.) Drew and I lived with Elsbeth and Nate for three months after we got married, before our first big move. It was a challenging and life-giving experiment in sharing spaces and sharing lives. I am so in awe of how they have continued to open up their home and hearts to friends and family in the most intimate ways. From the Cools I learned the wild kind of life-sharing that starts as an argument about dish-washing-preferences turns into confessing your deepest fears at 2am. They are good people.
Friday night we cleaned the apartment and then when we woke up on Saturday morning it was all still clean! Adulthood, I think I have finally arrived. I finally appreciate the finer things in life, like not waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes and a trashed living room. My mom will be so proud.
Our landlord is selling her condo when we move out this fall so we’ve had to start keeping things somewhat ‘showing-ready’. It’s a pain with the kids but the forced cleanliness is a perk. We spent Saturday morning lazing about, snuggled up in bed with no-nap Evelyn watching Planet Earth on netflix (in which too many adorable baby animals are eaten alive), running errands with bare-foot babies, and listening to music with all the windows open and that musty cicero breeze blowing in. Heaven.
In the afternoon we were back in the city for a beach picnic with some of our oldest Trinity/Chicago friends. Insane traffic (for a kiddie kite festival!) aside, we had a lovely time soaking up the most perfect spring day there ever was and eating the best food. Otherwise ordinary things just taste better when they’re sun-warm and a little bit gritty with sand, don’t you think?
R&E loved playing in (eating) the sand and our spot on the bluffs just above the beach was perfect for exploring. Rowan discovered he absolutely hates the lake and was so so very angry that anyone would consider dipping his little toes in the freezing water. Evelyn, on the other hand, could not get enough! That girl never ceases to surprise me.
It is strange, driving out of the city. When we lived there we only used transit and the experience of the city via car is still new and bizarre to me. It feels at once both freeing and confining, we’re able to move longer distances more quickly but unable to spontaneously hop off a bus and into a cafe for a snack/bathroom break. Plus, traffic is annoying when you’re on a bus but you don’t feel responsible for it. In a car I feel this anxiety about being a person who got stuck in the mess. And oh how I loathe city parking!
As we inched along lake shore drive with all of the other suburbanites I thought about how weird it will be to move away for good this fall. I remember so clearly the freezing february night when Drew and I were taking a dance class on the stage of millennium park, 4 years ago. It was that night, after a romantic date in the city we loved, that he told me he didn’t get into Loyola. We walked and walked, leaning into each other and looking up at the bright city lights downtown until we were numb from cold. Our lives were suddenly directionless, everything we had been imagining for our life together was not to be. Of course, an acceptance to ICS was just a month in the making and we had a long summer to practice wedded life before our jump into a new life in T.O., but it was harder there than we could have imagined and if we had known we might not have gone.
I am glad we did. We are stronger for it and I can’t imagine our marriage without the storms we weathered together. And now, two years stateside, two long years of hard work trying to move the last 25 miles back into the city and I’m holding much more loosely to the idea of ‘home’.
Maybe because my own family has left the house that made Colorado ‘home’ for so many years. Maybe because we have two new people to think of and my dreams are shifting. Maybe I’m just wearing myself out with all my big plans and idealism. Maybe I’m just scared.
I daydream of their first day of kindergarten in some new neighborhood in Lexington. I’ll fight the urge to dress them in coordinating outfits before they pose for a picture by the front door, dwarfed by giant backpacks. They’ll have their earliest memories in a house I have to pick from grainy pictures off of craigslist, not knowing anything about the feel of the neighborhoods or the people who will help make it feel like home. This is absolutely a luxurious first world problem and I am trying to keep that in perspective but still it weighs.
I spend most of nap times and our evenings reading about Lexington and looking at houses and wondering about what matters most as we begin to restart our lives, again. Two years is just long enough to start finding a place, just long enough to start pressing into friendships. We’ve done that twice now and I miss (and will miss!) everyone we’ve had to leave behind.
We long to be rooted and to commit to one neighborhood, to spend these 5 years really getting to know our neighbors and the culture of a new community. We dream of living in a part of the city that is walkable, of being a family that occasionally forgoes the car and lugs their granny cart to the grocery store because sometimes it’s nice to slow down and soak it all in. I dream of being walking distance from a library and a coffee shop and a park where I can meet other mamas. I hope for a yard where we can grow a veggie garden and keep chickens, for a home with an extra bedroom so we can host friends and family who visit. So Drew has a place to study. So we have room for another someday child.
But then my daydreaming quickly becomes a must-have list where the line between want and need blurs and I’m too comfortable expanding our price range in search of the perfect house. I struggle to navigate the confusing values of the ‘ideal community’. I have these warring impulses: to leave all comfort and security and dig into the scariest neighborhood Lexington has, trying to see God at work and learn from those who have long made their homes there; and the desire to have all of the things on my dream-list and meet like-minded young families and live the perfect little urban-y lives (can Lex claim an ‘urban’ title?) where we mostly pursue our own emotional stability and physical well being.
What does it mean to posture yourself for someone else when you are also pretty needy? How do we sort out our ‘non-negotiables’ from the ‘would-really-likes’?
I do a lot of little google street-view tours of the neighborhoods in Lexington. It is only in the lower-income neighborhoods, those that I have been warned against, that I have seen people out walking. They’re also the only places I’ve seen people who aren’t white. The houses are below our price range (3 bedrooms, $600/mo!) and without any of the perks meant to entice young couples and university students. (And, hello. We are living on a grad student stipend. No place should be too cheap for us!) But I wonder about bug infestations and leaky roofs and lazy landlords and how a person is supposed to learn about any of those potentially problematic things before she signs her name on a 12 month lease. I also wonder about the people who live there now, men and women who work hard to provide for their families the best possible life. Who do they want as neighbors?
I wonder how much I’m responsible for. I wonder about the difference between white privilege and community development. I wonder how to make the most of these years.
Please send all spare wisdom to the comments. Or my inbox. Or come over for tea and I’ll try not to let the kids snot on you too much and you can tell me all about how to live a small but beautiful life.