When I became pregnant with our first child and we were still firmly planted in the city, I thought we'd be out of there before she could walk. Then just one more summer. Then I decided my procreation plans shouldn't be dictated by the housing market, so I became pregnant again. But by the time our second daughter came along, something changed. We learned how to really be here. We learned to love our neighborhood, to love our neighbors. We became part of the community and joined a church on our street. We stopped driving to the suburbs for everything and really embraced our city life. We fell in love.
It is very difficult to explain to people who have never lived in a city why we're sad to leave, or what we'll miss when we're gone. None of them have ever asked why we're leaving downtown; they figure they know. Parking is a daily struggle, sure, and 1310 square feet distributed across three levels is not a lot. Nights have been noisy, our cars have occasionally been rifled through; life is different in the city. I know my mother has been praying for a way out for us for years, and in some ways it is an answer to prayer. But our life is about to change, and we are having trouble adjusting to even the thought of it.
What I love about living in the city is the energy. I love knowing and supporting independent shop owners who live in my neighborhood. I love the restaurants and the activity, love the freedom and walking everywhere. I love not having to make plans (which is kind of surprising, since I'm always making plans). I like early morning walks along the harbor with my babies. I like wandering out the door on a Saturday with no agenda and knowing I can go to a farmer's market, a festival, the park, the pool, the harbor-- all for nearly free. I will miss after-dinner walks to the park and to get ice cream, wandering down the street to eat pizza in a courtyard. I will miss our meandering date nights to Camden Yards. I'll miss the enormous playground two blocks from our house, or the fantastic pool and sprayground that costs just $1.50 that Emerie hasn't had the chance to use. I'll miss breezy nights on the two-story rooftop deck Daniel took two and a half summers to build himself. I will miss it.
I heard myself tell her we'd be just inside the city, "eight miles and a world away." I struggled to describe the location, which is a haven of historic beauty in the middle of a depressed area. Unless you've been there, you just don't know. In some ways, I feel it will feature some of the more difficult aspects of "city living" than living downtown has. "It has a yard, and a driveway, and a picket fence, if you can believe that," I said. She gave me a knowing look. I felt like a traitor. Most people outside our city circle assumed we would do anything to get out. But on the inside, we had a sort of code. Parking is terrible, but you get sort of used to it. Crime is scary, but we can work to change it. Schools are abysmal, but we can build charters and join the school board. We joined alliances, we volunteered at events, we were in on it. We were homesteaders, committing to city life-- the good and the bad. I thought I'd see my little girls in plaid charter school uniforms. And maybe someday I will, but not here. I defected.
Though I never intended to, it turns out I followed the three-foot-rule after all. I wonder if my city kids, who in two days will have a front porch and a backyard with a gazebo and hammock and stepping stones, will ever remember our urbanite life. I wonder if this is good-bye to it, or a departure for now. Either way, though I look forward to the next thing for us, still I mourn this loss.