Of all the good that is apparent in this move, there is something to be said about starting over. Carving your mark in a new neighborhood, town, school, social setting, ect. Getting reacquainted with the kind of old insecurities you thought had long escaped you. But on certain days manage to compile just right, in a way that warrants new shades of slight loneliness. Even if the ocean down the street should be remedy enough to most anything that can possibly blight the heart.
Still, cars are honking at me whenever I drive because I get lost and go slow. The scenery is all too pretty. The women at the grocery stores don't know me. The office staff in the schools look right past me. And the mail lady doesn't know my name. But on the other end there are restaurant options and coffee haunts that are endless to us in a way we've never known. And I'd be lying if I I said we're not having quite the time exploring these new surroundings but I've never been big on change. Of the list of complaints we filed over the past few years regarding our old location, it was, for my entire life, home to me. Easy and comfortable. The house on Kalmia, where we brought four children home to, watched them take their first steps, taste their first foods, make their first friends. Likely the reason we stayed so long even though we knew in many ways we were slowly outgrowing the area around us. A city I was born and raised in and never found enough reason to venture out of until the boys got to the age they are now and we decided timing was now or much later. That we had to make the break or hold out until they are out of the house. Knowing we needed to get away from the ever growing traffic clog our community had become, and wanting a more bustling and engaged environment for the second phase of our boy's childhood. In the end, we choose the now.
What that entailed though - and maybe something I wasn't even entirely aware of until recently - was giving up the village we built along the way. A decade of motherhood that saw me as a 26 year old teaching credential drop out settling into a newly constructed housing track, hoping to forge a sense of community there in midst of it. Which we did. In our own time. In spite of some of the preconceived notions that seem to stick to us for whatever reason whenever we are new to a scene. From the outside though, I guess I can see why. How simply we're cast as the quirky family with all the boys down the block. Stirring up noise and chaos everywhere we go. "Stoners?" "Hippies?" "Photographers?" "Mechanics?" Barefoot, opened doored, and aloof. All of which my neighbors fessed up to concluding about us the night we sat together over a bonfire in the backyard of Monica's house as a farewell parting the weekend before we moved. We all laughed. Knowing as odd as we might appear from the window panes lined on that old Culdesac, they all eventually grew accustomed to our ways. The old cars, the swarm of children, the dead car batteries, the dog who belonged to everyone and anyone in the community, the boys and their wild daily stunts, most times without shoes or sound judgment. And we to them. The same way. Where we eventually came to embrace each other wholeheartedly. Like a neighborhood should but rarely seems up to anymore these days.
I think back to some of the highlights that street holds. The homemade tamales on my doorstep on afternoons when I needed them most. The fresh salsa and forced Tequila shots from Jesus and his big boisterous family next door. The janitor who became like family to us all at the elementary school, the block parties and neighborhood watch endeavors to ward off car break ins and wandering night prowlers spotted on home surveillance systems. The cheers along the street when Arlo first learned to ride a bike on his own. All the neighborhood egg hunts and fresh bread deliveries from Richard across the street. The extravagant ice cream cones handed out by the quiet Asian women named Katherine with the fancy car and the endless furniture deliveries at her drive way. The big smile on Taylor's face the day he stood out on his front porch holding a 40, starring down the newest neighbor who was threatening that day to call the cops on the crowd of boys who had gathered in front of our house, the kind of audience you gain by exploding ice bombs on the street corner using the dry ice in your mother's ice cream delivery. "They playing with Science!" He told her. Dry faced. Unmoving because "this is how we do it around here" he said, with the kind of steady resolve no new comber would dare argue with.
He had our back. They all did. In that small suburban microcosm, they watched out for ours and we for theirs in that long blooming decade, that saw as kids with fake money earned by inflated equity scores to depressed home owners tending to the spread of dead lawns and abandoned houses that eventually claimed our street. Until the people and the market cycled upward again. Eleven years we spent growing alongside one another as families starting out, breaking up, having kids, making memories. Getting through it.
I got a message on Instagram a few weeks after we left. Just before the weight of this whole notion had settled in me. From a girl who said she had visited our house once, years ago, as sidekick to our baby sitter and explained what an impact our home had had on her. She wrote about the decor, the instruments strewn around the house, the warmth she felt there, and the admiration she carried for us even after only a single visit. She thanked me for showing her this way of motherhood, following along on social media there after, complementing me in ways I never imagined a 16 year old girl might be inclined to. The funny being - when I went back to try and remember her and this night she writes about, I recall something very different. I remember being in a frantic rush to get to wherever it was we were headed. Greeting Jade, running over a list of footnotes about the boy's routine, being introduced to her friend, offering them pizza and apologizing -with genuine guilt - over the house being such a mess. Reading her take on it made me see how refreshing it is on the rare occasion we get to catch things from another perspective. One more forgiving and far more flattering than the one we cary ourselves. What made me happiest though was that of all the things I worried about in that moment, none of it counted in that first impression, in comparison to what the bigger picture represented to her. Instruments used and messes made and life lived in a harmony all it's own. Something that spoke to a 13 year old girl I never saw again. Something we all strive for, that I managed to convey without any tried effort. Without ever knowing it.
A second sentiment that echoed much of the same came from the neighbor girl Katie a little while later. Her post bringing me to tears the morning I read it and still makes me ache reading it here again today. With gratitude and sentiment for pieces of the past I know I'll hold dear in my heart always.
The week after we left she wrote:
"On a usually rather lively street, filled with the many noises of skateboards, scream, giggles, and the occasional "ARLOOOO!" this week has been so very quiet. (Far too quiet for my liking) It still has not occurred to me that the four boys that I watched grow in front of my eyes for 6 years are gone. To Arlo, you continue to blow my mind everyday. You are so incredibly talented and your passion for what you love inspires me, more than you know. You're going to be a star someday I'm sure of it. To Leon, there will never be a day I don't miss seeing your sweet smile when I'm off to work. Your kindness and compassion is radiant, you made everyday warm and fuzzy. Please never loose that incredible trait of yours. To Rex, you are truly the definition of beauty in madness. You drove us all wild but we loved you anyway. Although I won't miss the doorbell rings at 7 am, I will miss your crazy spirit. To Hayes, sweet Hayes, that golden curly head of yours is such a sight. Your brothers are quite the bunch and you are so lucky to have them. I know they will bring you up in the best way possible. And to Mike and Jessica, thank you. Thank you for opening your beautiful house to the community. And for making the Kraus household a home for everyone. Thank you for giving me my first ever paying job. I will never forget those late night babysitting calls.Thank you for showing me that love and family and friends is an art form all it's own. Thank you for inspiring me to start capturing the best moments in life. And for creating some of those moments too.
I love all of you so so much. And I miss you tons already, please come visit. Until then, I'll be watching you grow through the screens of my phone.
Your favorite baby sitter ever.
P.S Don't forget us on the old street."
The kind of farewell that made me certain of just how much love and life we poured into that house and street during our time there. The holiday's, the late nights, the heart breaks, the lets downs, celebrations, and so many good old casual porch hangs where neighbors came and went. Seasons shifted and kids grew.
Things I think about sometimes when I drive slowly making my way around a town I don't know yet, and wait with a worried heart as three boys shuffle off to new schools. Nervous and vulnerable. The way I never had to because I went from school to school with the same group of kids from kindergarten on. Fretting that they might go overlooked or feel lost amidst so many unfamiliar faces. Even when my better judgment tells me it will all be fine.
Forcing myself too to make peace with new routines and befriend unfamiliar faces of my own. Inside a city who doesn't yet see us. A blank slate missing the history we took pride in at the old place. Grateful that we have the support of old friends on our side, who drop by and check in on us, but also knowing that the frame of that old community is likely not something we might every fully regain. Yet in that, room for new experiences where we cling to paths we have yet pave. Excited for this new chapter. Where I can only hope our next mark is carved as evidently in love. That I remain enlightened by the view those young girls I paid small cash on all those weekend nights while the boys were so young carry of us still. Who managed to convince me - via the ways of social media sentiments - that maybe we're not doing it so wrong after all.
In the meantime, we've got plenty of streets to learn, friendships to forge and beaches to see.
Thank you Kalmia, for all the good, the bad, and the wild times.
The Kraus Family