Our New Apartment
We had been without a place to call our own for half a year. Six whole months of not technically having a home, but being welcomed into nine temporary ones. Under any circumstance this would have been amazing, but during a global pandemic if felt extraordinary. From Bend to Montreal, doors opened for Daniel and I to have a safe and supportive transition from our life in Oregon to our new life in Vermont. And now, finally, we were heading toward our 10th and final door— that of our new apartment in Montpelier— and the landlord’s message said that it was unlocked and awaiting our arrival.
We had been staying at our family’s church-cottage in Quebec for the last week, without the ability to make international calls—so I hadn’t been able to confirm the delivery of my moving cubes. The last time I spoke to them I had learned that if I waited until my move in date, they would charge an entire month, even though I just needed a couple days. I attempted to reach out to my new landlord, current tenants and neighbors to see if there was a place to put two big cubes for those extra days–It felt like a terrible first impression, but it saved me a lot of money and I liked the idea that I might be able to start unpacking the second I arrived.
None of them had matched my level of concern, hadn’t even really responded, so I couldn’t tell if they were annoyed or if it just didn’t really matter to any of them. I hoped for the latter, wondering if it was possible that everything would actually work out smoothly. We packed my mom’s car, grateful to be able to borrow it and one of my sisters, and the three of us made the short drive to the border. Despite it still being officially closed, our American passports got us over effortlessly. The road meandered through cute Vermont towns and we pulling over to fill up on maple syrup—jugs of it were just sitting out on the side of the road with a jar for money. Our first taste of Vermont was licking maple/vanilla swirl CreeMees, on handmade rocking chairs. Vermont life was sweet already!
As we turned the corner onto our new street, I immediately saw my cubes, politely taking up one parking spot, safe and sound. I squealed with relief and excitement. We parked next to them and climbed out of the car. A young woman was out in the yard gardening and we introduced ourselves—I immediately liked her. I had been so concerned about whoever lived on the ground floor being annoyed with the pitter-patter of tiny feet, but without prompting she told me how happy they were when they heard that another kiddo was moving in. Having lived below two toddler, they seemed to sincerely miss the liveliness.
We climbed the steps of our porch and I swung the front door open, not completely sure what to expect. Having only been inside the apartment once for a short time, I felt like I was exploring it for the first time. The mud room had been filled with a huge tangle of bikes, so my first thought was how big it was. I hadn’t been sure, but there was plenty of room for my big antique gargoyle faced storage bench.
The three of us climbed the first set of maple stairs, and arrived at a bright and beautiful main level. Like opening a pile of present, we ventured into each room, discovering their charm and quirks. We took in its big windows and expertly curated interior colors, natural wood floors and stained glass in the walls of both bathrooms. I was excited to decode and problem solve the set up of my new home, with enough room for me to have both an office and a guest room; a living room and a playroom; plus a washer and drier and a storage basement. I looked forward to setting up my burnt-orangey-red couch against the sophisticated blue and natural wood of the living room, and hang art on the walls.
Even though it was already late in the day, we got to work unloading the storage cubes. I noticed some minor damage here or there, but having sat in the summer sun for several months on top of bumping down the highway for 3,000 miles, things seem to be in impressive shape. Until I saw the two big storage bins that held my great-grandmother’s china, dented and crushed and my heart sank. After carrying them inside, I braced myself for shards as I lifted the lids…and discovered that miraculously not a single piece was broken or chipped. She had purchased the set during the pandemic of 1918, and I felt her strength within that delicate gold rimmed white china. I declared that it was time that I bought a china cabinet to display it.
My queen bed had been a fraction of an inch too big to fit up the old stairways, so with the help of my neighbors we hosted it up onto the balcony and pulled it into the guest bedroom. That first night, I floated on the air-mattress, my head spinning and my body aching from walking up two flights of steps all day. I was tired but so deeply relieved to have finally arrived.
They say that when you’re in the right spot at the right time, things just fall into place. It seemed that no sooner did I think of something that I would need for my new home, than someone would offer it, or we would find it sitting there, gifted from the previous tenants—from essential furniture to a water filtration system to a strategically placed train for Daniel to immediately start playing with. My first text on my first morning was from my first new friend, the woman who I had met when I was apartment hunting. She was asking if I could use a dining table or china cabinet— of which I was beyond excited to get both.
I downloaded an app for a neighborhood forum and decided to reach out the community in search of a few things to make my house more of a home. No sooner had it posted than my email flooded with people offering me everything on my list. We spent the rest of the week collecting these gifts from new neighbors, until all the rooms were filled with greenery, both Daniel and I had rocking chairs, lamps and stained glass shone in their respective ways, and our new house felt like Home.
I hung curtains over the many windows, using some from my booth at the Portland Saturday Market, and others from the previous tenants, the colors coming together magically. Looking out, I caught sight of a little girl playing across the field–She looked about the same age as Daniel. And at another window I chuckled when I noticed that the clock tower at City Hall was unapologetically seven minutes off. It felt so different from the big city of Portland; comforting, quaint, quiet, calm. The capitol building glinted in the sun and the trees easily outnumbered the buildings ten to one–the green leaves, blushing from the cold breeze that had whipped through the night before, promised an impressive show of colors in the near future. I was very excited for my first official New England autumn! Which, I’d been endlessly warned, would be the prelude to an extremely cold white winter like I had never experienced before. I stood at the window just smiling.
It has been exactly a year since we walked into our tenth door and made ourselves at home in Montpelier. We’ve started to settled into small town life where our next-door neighbor is our mailman and “put it on my tab” is still an acceptable form of payment.
As I write this another neighbor has delivered our organic CSA to the front porch. Daniel just got home from his nature based school, with 3:1 ratio of students to teachers. We are happy and healthy and I am thankful every day to be living here. It has, across the board, been the safest state to live in during the global pandemic. Despite the challenging times of COVID, we’ve both made some wonderful new friends— many of which I realized I didn’t know what the lower half of their faces looked like until recently.
The little girl across the field is the 4th generation being raised in that house, her last name the same as our street. She turned out to not only be about Daniel’s age, but exactly Daniel’s age, born only a couple hours earlier— Instant buddies.
Often, in spite of our happiness, we talk about how much we miss our Portland life and our friends that we had to say goodbye to. It turns out that you can feel the comfort and security of being home while simultaneously being homesick. They say that home is where the heart is, and having left a piece of my heart back in the Pacific Northwest, I continue to feel the separation daily even after a year away. Those friendships can’t be replaced, nor will we try. This is just the start of a whole new chapter. Thanks for reading along.