Earlier this week, I was at my neighborhood Hannaford, a regional grocery store chain in upstate New York and New England. Anna was sitting in the shopping cart, munching on Goldfish (contentedly, but not for long), while I zipped us up and down the aisles, finding what we needed and tossing everything in the cart. Clementines, green beans, tortillas, red enchilada sauce, macaroni and cheese (always macaroni and cheese).
Stanton, the girls and I have been living in the Albany area for six months now, and after these six months, I have a pretty good feel for this grocery store—where everything is, which cashiers are fastest, the girls’ new favorite deli meats (who knew Grace would discover she loves salami?).
I was feeling more and more “home” every day. Then in the soup aisle, I recognized a familiar face: one of the pastors from our church. “It’s great to see you,” I told her—and it was.
One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet. So for me, that morning at Hannaford was special, in its extraordinary ordinariness. 1) I knew my way around the grocery store aisles. 2) I bumped into a new—dare I say—friend.
I was home.
Here are a few more signs, friends, that you’re home.
3) You have new local favorites at “your” grocery store. These days, I can’t imagine not having Against the Grain Gourmet three-cheese frozen pizza, which I discovered at Hannaford, in my freezer, or Dominick’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce in my pantry.
4) You have usual orders at some favorite local stops: your neighborhood coffee shop, the pizza place, the deli outside your office building. You don’t need to study the menu before you walk in or call ahead; you already know what you like.
5) You know where the light switches are, and which lights they’re for.
One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet.
6) You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors. We’ve been lucky that already, quite a few family and friends have come to visit us in our new hometown.
We’re still learning the ropes, but we feel pretty good about taking summer guests to the nearby Five Rivers nature trails and TwisT ice cream shop; folks in fall to one of the many beautiful surrounding apple orchards; and winter travelers to the New York State Museum downtown for a ride on the historic carousel.
We have yet to experience spring, but look forward to the annual Tulip Festival in Washington Park and whatever else may be in store.
You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors.
7) You’re home when you have a driver’s license and corresponding license plates for your current state.
8) And when you can enter your ZIP code at the gas station from memory, rather than consulting a Post-it stuck on the back of your credit card.
9) You’ve figured out other logistics: your primary care physician, your kids’ dentist, your older daughter’s dance studio, your younger daughter’s library story time, an auto repair shop you can trust (thank you, Broadway Auto Clinic!).
10) Your wallet contains membership cards for some of these places (e.g., the local library, fitness center, figure skating club).
11) You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.
12) A place’s roads are cool symbols of local culture, I think. I see a lot of Vermont license plates in my community, reminding me that the border of the Green Mountain State is just an hour’s drive away. Along with these license plates come bumper stickers with sayings such as “Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat” and “Go Vegan.”
Back in my San Antonio neighborhood, on the other hand, I saw many Nuevo Leon license plates (Nuevo Leon is a state in Northeastern Mexico, about 250 miles from the Alamo City). In my seven years there, I’m pretty sure I never saw a “Go Vegan” bumper sticker in South Texas. 🙂
Your mental pictures have readjusted.
You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.
13) You can chat in a semi-knowledgeable manner about local life. For example, I was happy to pass along to another “new-to-here” mom that kindergarten registration is happening now, which I had heard about from my dance studio mom friends. It really does take a village.
14) You have new local websites to check in on (www.timesunion.com, www.alloveralbany.com, New York State Writers Institute).
15) You have a feel for the local lingo. When people tell me they’re going “downstate,” I now know they’re referring to New York City—which is worlds different from “upstate” (although there seem to have been conversations about what exactly “upstate” entails). And in winter, when neighbors mention they’re spending the day at “Maple Ridge,” I know they mean the local ski ridge as opposed to the local park of the same name.
16) You know your mail carrier and UPS guy. And they know not to ring the doorbell around 2 p.m., when your toddler is napping.
17) You’re stocked up on gear. By which I mean, I haven’t owned a pair of snow boots since before age 22, when I graduated from the University of Richmond and then spent the next 11 years in Virginia and Texas. Neither has Stanton. Thanks to L.L. Bean, however, we’ve got new winter gear, and we’re prepared (hopefully!) for everything from snow shoveling to sledding and snowman-building this season.
Your mental pictures have readjusted.
18) Stanton, the girls and I were lucky to have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you did too. We spent Thanksgiving in Texas with his family, and Christmas in Pennsylvania with mine. We got to catch up with lots of loved ones—share happy times together—everything was great, and very special.
Late on New Year’s Day, we got the girls to sleep. We had just driven back to Albany that afternoon. So after the past few weeks of holiday traveling and several rounds of bedtime stories, we were alone together in the living room.
We got comfortable on the couch. Stanton opened a bottle of Saratoga lager. I had my evening cup of tea. We turned on an old episode of “Parks and Rec.” Lamplight glimmered across the TV screen, and on the beer bottle.
Stanton stretched. Sighed. “It’s good to be home,” he said.
It made me happy to hear him say that.
And I agreed.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.