Thursday, February 07, 2008


Sometimes I am surprised by what it is I miss about our time living in DC. I wasn't surprised to miss my friends or even some of our favorite restaurants, but I wasn't expecting to miss my old neighborhood. When we "lived in DC," we weren't actually in DC--we were in the Northern Virginia suburbs. I went out a month before we moved to find a place for us to live, with visions of a cute basement apartment in Georgetown or a row house in Adams-Morgan, or maybe some sort of apartment in Dupont Circle. But the reality of all those things wasn't exactly what I'd pictured--the Georgetown basements I looked at were dim and cramped, Adams-Morgan was out of our price range, and the one Dupont high rise I checked out was...a high rise. I was soon calling about listings in Arlington and Alexandria, and on the morning of the second day of my househunt, I took a bus from the metro to a development in Alexandria which had cute, colonial brick condos, plenty of trees, and even parking. I called Brian afterwards to tell him I thought I'd found us our place, excitedly telling him that it was large, full of light, and not a bad commute for either of us, although it wasn't on the metro. I'd lived my whole life in the suburbs, and, in spite of romantic ideas of city life, apparently that wasn't going to change any time soon.

We lived in that neighborhood, Parkfairfax, for all of our five years. After three years, when we wanted to move to a place with an extra room and a washer/dryer (and when our landlord wanted to sell the unit we were living in), we moved just down the street from the place I originally picked out. Parkfairfax was built during the 1940s, just a little south of the Pentagon. There were some things about the apartments that let you know that the place had been built that long ago--weird wiring for the light switches, and original wood countertops in some kitchens. There was a condo association that kept everything looking rather Camazotz, I suppose--they had an azalea sale every May and a bulb sale every fall, so that most people's gardens were similar, and there were rules about what you could have out on your patio--but it did seem sweet and even sort of quaint. As a Californian, I was amazed that the large lawns weren't watered--they just stayed green most of the year--and by the brick buildings, which I was pretty sure meant we were all doomed in the event of an earthquake.

Mostly I miss Parkfairfax in the evenings when I close the blinds in my bedroom so that the people in the next building five yards away can't peer directly into our windows. I miss my Parkfairfax bedroooms. In our first apartment there, our windows were at ground level, but they were partially hidden by large azaleas. I could lie in bed and peer through the bushes at our little patio. Our second place in Parkfairfax lacked a patio, but the bedroom window was perfect: nearly right up against it was a dogwood tree, and an oak towered over the open space below us. In the winter the trees were bare, and we could sort of see across to other apartments, but they were far enough away that we couldn't see much. In the spring the dogwood bloomed, and then it and the oak leafed out, keeping our room relatively cool and shaded--in fact, I hadn't realized how much darker our room was in the summer until I stood there just before we moved and remembered how bright our room had been as I'd laid in bed in labor with Adriana back in January.

But what started me thinking about this was something that completely took me by surprise. When I went to vote on Tuesday, I missed voting in Parkfairfax. I loved getting ready for work a little earlier than usual and then walking over to the nearby synagogue to stand in line with my neighbors while we waited our turn. Even if I didn't know many of them by name, we recognized each other from our bus rides (I think half the neighborhood rode the bus to the Pentagon Metro every day) and walks, and we would all nod and smile politely. The last time we voted, when I was quite pregnant, we waited with a man who lived across the street from us and rode the bus at the same time most mornings, and as he stood with his two-year-old in his arms, he joked with Brian about doing curls to get ready for our baby. When I was sent to wait in another line because when we'd moved the previous year I hadn't changed my address but the registrar somehow knew about it, I wasn't the only one in that line who had to change my registration right there because I had moved within the precinct. Maybe I'll feel differently when we've lived here a bit longer, and perhaps the fact that not working means I was able to vote after lunch, when there wasn't any line, rather than before heading in to the office. But I definitely missed my old community this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I want to live in Alhambra Valley. Not one of the nice big fancy houses, but a cozy little one where my nearest neighbor will be at least 40 yards away.

I wonder if I will miss having neighbors.