After nearly 20 years in the neighborhood I've called home.
Honestly, I never really wanted to live alone, but agreed it would be good for me... a stepping stone before something (or someone) finally came along and fell into place. Two years or so, max.
Or so I thought..
And so, here I am, all these years later, looking back and taking stock.
Jodi asked me what I would miss the most and my knee-jerk response was: commute. I live 10-15 minutes from work, which has been a huge blessing. I get to come home for lunch most days. I get to get away from the office for an hour a day. I don't have to leave home until 8:15 in the morning and get home by 5:45 most days. And those months I was in a flare... so incredibly grateful for that short commute.
But, then I considered the sunsets. Oh, man. I have had a front row seat to some amazing sunsets over the years. With my apartment facing west and being on the 2nd floor, I've had the pleasure of seeing the sun slowly rest into the skyline time and time again. I only recently realized, however that even I don't have the view I once had. The pines the sun dips behind have grown more than double in size since I moved in!
With being on the 2nd floor, my porch also practically perches up in the sweet birch tree that's filled in quite nicely. The birds come right up in front of me on its branches and Buddy, my poor little sweet bullied stray is able to climb up there and find refuge.
I didn't even hardly go out on my porch until about 8 years ago, but finally decided to put a couple chairs out and a cute little table and some plants... and it quickly became my favorite spot to spend my free time. (When it's not sweltering hot outside.) Planting and repotting and working on my green thumb. Sitting and reading for hours at a time. And many times, praying after nightfall. There's just something about being out under the stars that makes God seem closer.
I'll also miss just being around people... in a community. Now, it's not necessarily a tight-knit community and some of these folks are crazier than I'd like them to be... but most have been good and it's just nice (especially when you live alone) to have people around. Kids playing in the pool all summer, yelling "Marco!" "Polo!" and skipping along the hopscotch pattern painted on the basketball court across from me. Passing folks on the sidewalk or in the parking lot and exhanging a "Hey, how ya doin'". Kids passing by in droves, to catch the school bus. Sometimes, some thumping rap from a car in the parking lot, but other times, Mary Mary belting out "Can't Give up Now" or some CeCe Winans on Sunday mornings.
See, I'm the minority in my 'hood and at times, I have to shake my head and ask "Whose life am I in?" but I'm glad to have lived here for nearly 20 years. Though there have been some incidents over the years, I've had more good than bad and I feel like living here has kept me humble and less judgmental. And I honestly fear I'll lose that once I move further out.
But, I'll just try to remember...
Devine and Kyle - half brothers and my buddies, who when in about 5th grade, made a little job out of taking peoples' trash out for candy money. And who would come hang out with me and talk endlessly about McDonalds and the latest 'kicks' and favorite basketball stars...
Aaron - sweet sweet Aaron, who passed away a couple years ago and was such a blessing here. Any time anyone would pass him, either here or up the road at Kroger, he would have a huge smile and throw his hand out in an enthusiastic "hey!" He's also the one who took in one of the sweet little stray kittens a while back. Sweet guy. We called him "Mr. Cordial". :) Still miss seeing him around.
Jimmy - okay, so his name was actually Steve, but before I learned that, I had dubbed him Jimmy because that's what he drove. ha I never did tell him that, but always feared I'd slip up and call him that instead of Steve. He was kind of intimidating at first - older gentleman who'd sit out in his car for great lengths of time, smoking and came off kind of gruff. But, as time went on and we passed one another more, it would brighten both our days to see each other. He would ask how I was, tell me to have a good day and even got him to laugh a time or two. :) He also took the liberty to point out that I'd put on some weight when I was on my steroids, but apparently, in the black community, that's a compliment, so I let him slide on that one. hahaha He moved a year or so ago and it's still strange to not see Jimmy out there in the parking lot.
Jolasia - oh my goodness, my crazy little neighbor on the porch beside mine. That girl still has me laughing. And it's been years since she's been over there. A little 6 year old spit-fire who just loved chattering on and on with me. And I loved it, too. :) She was full of questions for me and full of stories. Knew the entire prelude to "Baby Got Back" and thought hussy was the funniest word ever. She was a hot mess. I remember she yelled "Hey!" down to 'Jimmy' and then said "Why you not say 'hi' to Mr. Steve?" hahaha She wished I was her sister, so I could take her to the park. :) She's the one who wasn't sure if she should tell her grandpa she was talking to me because (and she whispered) "because you're white". I reassured her that he probably already figured that one out. ha
Then, of course, years ago, we did have quite a little community formed within my building. Angie and her little Chihuahua Amia and her boyfriend David. And Diamond, who lived caddy-corner from me and whose uncle mistakenly let himself into my apartment once and both were mortified. I just thought it was kinda funny. Ms. Yvonne, downstairs, who worked at an auto parts store, but surprisingly enjoyed playing guitar in her spare time. We had Vernon and Carmen and Sweeny and his mom... Joey, who kindly gave me a plant for my b-day one year and made sure to specify "this is the kind you water". hahaha Still not sure why he thought I might not be able to figure that one out. Ms. Deborah, who made me thee best homemade, fresh from the oven, pound cake for sharing a couple homegrown tomatoes with her. And Billy, who kept us all entertained, both with humor and acrobatics and yet I could sit and talk about things like race and religion with for hours. And then, Mandi and Cortney... whew. They were rough. They were a couple and lived just behind me and fought at all hours. And fought hard. Mandi was particularly rough and drove a leaky old Oldsmobile, with the booming music and the dreadlock-type hair and just a rough and tough demeanor. And yet... there was just something in her or something in me that lead my heart to say "Don't be so hasty. There's something redemptive in her." So, in between calls to the cops, I would just pray. And try to be as cordial as possible. At one point, she lost her car, so it was hard for her to get to a job. Cortney was no help at all. And I was unemployed at the time, so Mandi asked a couple times if I could take her to her job. I said "Of course". I wasn't sure exactly what to do with that, but just decided to roll with it. She was still a bit intimidating, but I still had a peace about it and felt a sense of purpose with her. She talked a fair amount in our 10 minute drive and I couldn't help but laugh out loud when she told me matter of factly that she had told a potential employer that she could do electrical work (electrical work!) and neither had the knowledge or the tools for the job. hahaha! I think it caught her off-guard when I laughed at that, but then told her "Girl! I only WISH I was as bold and confident as you! You are awesome!" I have little to no doubt that that was the first time she'd heard that in years... or maybe ever. :( Shortly thereafter, they got evicted and I don't know where she went from here, but my heart still breaks for her and pray for her often. And the sweet little handwitten heart cut-out note she gave me for giving her a going away care package is framed on my wall and remains one of my most treasured possessions.
And now, at this point, I have a nice lady about my age, who has a sweet porch set-up, and brings her birds out to sing in the morning sometimes. And a lady who moved in below, who I've not had a good chance to meet yet, but seems furrowed and a little less than cordial - yet... because she moved into where Buddy was used to hanging out and being fed down there, and set up a nice little porch with furniture and plants and whatnot... I was afraid she wouldn't take to Buddy being down there too well. However, a month or two ago, a good little storm kicked up and apparently, she wanted to open her door to check it out and she saw Buddy take off into the storm and she felt bad. So, she's plopped food out on her patio for him ever since. :) And Ms. Thompson, who I have spent more than one lunch hour talking to. She's somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 yrs old and lives on the top floor (oof! - that's a long climb for her). Originally from Mississippi and her kids talked her into moving up here. Her daughter comes by every now and again, but she's quite lonesome and says that she "talks more to the pine trees out back than with the good Lord!" :) And has, on several occasions, carried a chair out to the lower breezeway, just to be around people. I feel for her in that. So, I try to speak with her whenever I get the chance. And the sweet older maintenance man who also greets me most days with "Good morning" and sends me off with a "God bless!" Who asks how my cat's doing, saying she's the sweetest. :)
And, of course, my Lil Bit. I mean, she's definitely coming with me, but had I not lived here, she couldn't have crashed my pad and taken up residency with me and she's blessed me with her companionship for well over 13 years now!
So. Though many people wonder what in the world I may still be doing here, all these years later. And, at times, I may have myself - it's not anywhere I would have anticipated living for nearly 20 years of my life, but it has blessed me. It's been close to work, close to family and has grown me in ways I may not have grown otherwise. And hopefully, I've impacted this place and these people as much as they've impacted me.