A few days ago, I went by my parents to visit and coincidentally my mother had uncovered a box of old photos. Since several photos were literal snapshots into my family over the years, I took a few of them to my therapy appointment to show Gary. I reminded him that my father and his family are all from Edgecombe County in North Carolina on a road that bears their last name since everyone living on it was from our family. He looked at the portrait of my mother from 1967 and said, "where is your mother from?" Me: "Oh, she's from Ocean View." Gary: "No, but where is her family from?" Me: "Well, she was born in Raleigh I think, but they all moved to Ocean View when she was really little." Gary: "No, before that. She looks a little Mediterranean." Me: "Oh! I have no idea. I'm not good at genealogy. She's from where we live now."
My father was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and lived on the same farm his whole childhood, one with its own family graveyard. Recently, though, he and Mom talked about picking a plot out over on Granby Street, just a few miles from where we are now.
As for me, there is definitely a very small radius of real estate that I call home. I'm irrationally dedicated to this neighborhood. I had been living across the state in Christiansburg, married and with a full-time job, when we drove back to Norfolk for a visit. I had the window down as we came out of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and when the salt air hit me I suddenly realized that I was home. I wish I could bottle up that smell to share with you.
On the day I told Jeremy our marriage was over, I handed back my wedding rings and drove home. I stayed in a rental property of my parents, sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor, but I was back in the neighborhood where I rode my bike as a kid. I spent a lot of time walking up and down the beach then (since I was only a block from it) and came to realize how much I needed to be near the water.
Soon after that, I moved to another rental property that I eventually bought from my parents. Rich and I had many discussions while he was living many miles away in Richmond as to who would move for us to share an address, but I think we both knew that the further I was from Ocean View, the harder it would be on me. I come by this irrational behavior naturally. When Rich and I talked about moving to the next neighborhood over (a whopping four miles away), my mother lamented "I don't know why you have to go so far." So of course when Rich and I shopped for a larger home than our original house together, I would lament that certain houses we saw while walking the dog were "too far."
Rich: "You realize we got here on foot from our current house?" Me: "Yeah, but it's too far. I can't walk to the water or my parents' house from here."
That said, I consider any space I share with Rich to be Home, wherever it is. He was gone all day yesterday and I spent most of my day either doing laundry or moping about the house waiting for him to come home. Where do I feel safe and content? Wherever Rich is.
But where am I from? I'm from a part of the coast that is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than other cities inland. I'm from a shoreline protected by the Chesapeake Bay, so the water is perfect for learning to swim in the summer. I'm from a neighborhood where live oaks twist into shapes like giant bonsai trees and create so much shade that they make "clean swept yards" of sand and tiny acorns. I live just far enough away from the water to not have to buy flood insurance but to still put sheets of plywood over our windows when a hurricane comes.
Our local grocery store is equally frequented by poor families and yuppies, and there are nearly as many rainbow flags as American flags on front porches. This area was the place to be in the 40s and 50s, a place to avoid in the 80s, and is slowly turning back into the place to be again now. But some of us have been here all along.
We've learned to swim in these waters, learned to rollerskate on these sidewalks, frequented every single 7-Eleven available to us, practiced driving a stick shift on the dead end roads near the inlets and struggled to peddle our bikes up the hills of the Bay streets. And with a baby on the way, I look forward to creating another "OV lifer." I still can't quite bear to get one of those "OV before it was cool" bumper stickers, though.