When we came to this small town/exurb nine years ago we knew eff all about the place. Steve wanted one two many acres and liked the trees. I appreciated the illusion of interesting topography offered by the ravines (they call them valleys - sob.) The school district was purported to be "good". The river was close and we have nothing against rivers. Target was almost as close as the river. The house was lovely and our favorite sushi place was less than half an hour away in no traffic. So we packed our stuff and our cats and baby Patrick and we moved.
Five minutes later we discovered that our new town was rife with political in-fighting, possesses such draconian building laws that it would be easier to convert the Parthenon into condos than build here and the people... well, let's just say they are iconoclasts.
Three true stories:
1. About a week after we moved here I turned the car out of our driveway and almost ran over a black lab. I assumed the dog was AWOL and worried about contacting his owners to retrieve him before he got flattened by some other car. I checked for nonexistent tags, then drove down the road a bit until I saw a person working in his yard. I parked.
"Hello!" I called. "Hello! Excuse me, hello!"
The man walked over. I introduced myself, complimented him on his lawn, explained that we had just moved in a few houses away and expressed my concern over the dog I had almost murdered. Did he happen to know who the owners might be?
"Black lab?" he asked.
"Yes, black lab."
"Well," he said. "The Jojansonsens used to have a black dog up at the farmhouse," he gestured southward "but they left about twenty years ago. We wouldn't know anyone since then."
Then he turned on his heel and walked away and despite the fact that we live (lemme count) three houses away from him we have never again exchanged words.
2. A new family moved in across the street this summer. We met them through friends (that reminds me - I need to invite them over again) and had a bottle of wine on our porch as she told me about her first experience in town.
She saw a woman pulling up to her mailbox to collect mail and hailed her, explaining that she and her family had just bought the house next door.
The woman said, "Oh? Well it's not like we have neighborhood barbecues or anything."
Then she rolled up her window and drove away.
3. We discovered that our town has no gun laws when a guy who lives just over the ridge went through a period of confusion (rumor has it he was suffering from a bout of paranoia brought on by an undermedicated mental illness) during which time he routinely went around the perimeter of his house firing guns at two in the morning. This startled the beejeezums out of his nearest neighbors who promptly called the police. The police asked if they were filing a noise complaint and when they explained it wasn't the noise that concerned them so much as the bullets, the authorities explained that the man was within his legal rights as the shooting of guns at random in the dark is not prohibited here.
[the guy's nephew lives in town by the way and was able to sort things out and get the guy help. they also removed his guns. I am always saddened when I see people with mental illnesses demonized as if they are evil/just not trying hard enough to be Normal so I want to be clear that I am not doing that]
Anyway, we live in this beautiful but weird and vaguely unfriendly little town and our monthly newsletter from city hall just arrived with the following line -
"Remember: shooting coyotes is a privilege not a right" accompanied by a little note about a man in town who just accidentally shot his neighbor's dog in dim light thinking it was a coyote.
I have been puzzling over the gentleness of this rebuke ever since. I also sometimes wonder how a nice girl from Washington DC (yes we were the murder capital of the world once upon a time but we weren't, you know, depraved) wound up here in the badlands of Minnesota. I'm not even Norwegian.
Seriously, though, I beat myself up for a long time because we moved here and we had this baby and I had quit my job and I had no friends and I couldn't seem to make local friends to save my life but now that I have (slowly) made (some) friends* and things are better I can say... I don't think it was entirely me. The percentages might have been against me.
PS Edward insists that he kept coming into our bed because his bed is lacking in soft sheets and cozy blankets. Soft black sheets, he specified, because he wants black sheets. Whatever. Anyway, I debated with myself and finally bought him new black sheets and - as a coup de theatre - a supersoft microfleece blanket emblazoned with Darth Vader's face.
It is quite literally the tackiest thing I have ever seen and I mourn wee Patrick with his letter bedding fetish but, oh well, to each snowflake their own pattern. Edward took one look at the black sheets and pillows and Vader and gasped, then clutched the blanket to his chest and said, "I am never ever lllllleaving my bed again. Ever."
And for seven glorious nights he honored his word.
This morning I was getting my last four precious minutes of sleep before the alarm was set to go off when Patrick appeared at my bedside complaining of a headache, sore throat, sinus congestion and general malaise.
I opened my eyes to assess when a voice from near my elbow piped up, "Patrick go away! Mommy and I are seeping."
I turned and said, "Edward! What are you doing in my bed?!"
There was a long pause before Edward said, "Uh oh" and then "Meow?"
*I am never going to be wildly comfortable making new friends. People - all people: Steve, my children, my best friends - exhaust me and I need lots of time to recover in the bathtub after even the most pleasant of social interactions. Recognizing this fact and forgiving myself for it and steering clear of people who need a lot of time and attention in order to feel supported by me without resentment has helped as well. I love lots of people dearly but if there are not giant spaces in our togetherness I go spacefuck crazy - it's not you really it's me etc.
That said, I have some friends now. Friends who started in the blog but who I have loved enough to make real. Friends who stay inside the blog but are real anyway. Local non-coyote-shooting friends. Preschool friends. Friends of friends who have become my friends. Exclamation point. It's kind of amazing and I had only vaguely realized how lonely I was when I wasn't so lonely anymore.