The little house I rented when I first arrived back in Maryland is about to be for sale.
I didn’t love the three-level split layout. I didn’t love the baseboard electric or window air conditioners. I didn’t love how the place was inexplicably hard to keep clean or how it was staggeringly dark inside.
It had a fenced yard, the owner allowed dogs, and it was available immediately. Those things overrode all other considerations and sealed the deal… because every shred of the personal belongings I couldn’t fit into my truck, were two days behind me on a trailer and arriving whether I was ready or not.
Once I started going around the nominal property manager and working directly with the owner about things like vehicles the previous tenant abandoned in the driveway, mold in the basement, and appliance repairs things got better. I whipped the yard into shape and made the place surprisingly presentable considering it hadn’t been updated since it was built sometime around 1988.
I’d never want to live there again, but damned if seeing it posted as a “coming soon” didn’t make me just a little bit nostalgic about a couple of memories made in that little house that that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I hope someone snaps my old rental homestead up, gives it a bit of the TLC it needs, and makes it a proper home. It’s got the bones for it, if someone has the vision and a few dollars to spare.
Every Christmas season for my entire childhood, there was a white ceramic Christmas tree given pride of place in my grandparent’s front widow. When I say I remember it, what I mean is if I sit here and close my eyes, I can see it plain as day sitting atop the console record player and flanked, most years, by electric candles (with orange bulbs) and a panoply of Christmas-themed ceramic figurines.
In my mind there’s no more iconic symbol of Christmas in the back half of the 20th century than these plug-in trees. As it turns out, while I’ve always had this memory of the holidays, I’ve now also reached the age where I’m low key obsessed with recapturing those objects from my youth that trigger the most powerfully positive memories.
I’d like to say I scoured the planet to acquire exactly the version of the tree that I remember – the vintage, not tampered with, undamaged, tree of my memory. Actually, I did scour the planet. And I did find the exact tree that I remember. As much of a premium as I place on authenticity, though, I balked at the $400 + shipping securing that particular bit of my childhood would have required. I’ll keep looking, of course, and now that I’m on the hunt, it’ll turn up at an estate sale or flea market somewhere once I start going to those again.
In the meantime, since it’s the day after Thanksgiving (and for the record, that’s the only acceptable day to light up the Christmas decorations), I’ll be making due with a modern, and slightly larger, version of my white tree of memory.
I just signed the paperwork starting the process of selling the condo I bought in 2001… Back when I was a fresh faced, 23-year old college graduate just a year or so into my first adult job in extreme southern Maryland. Back then St. Mary’s County was just starting to grow up – it’s first great strides towards becoming another bedroom community for the District.
Coming out of a two room granny flat that was about the size of my current laundry room, the condo felt palatial at the time. It was 725 square feet of all mine. The first step along the path of my own version of the American dream. If my time in Frostburg molded me, St. Mary’s, and my little condo was where I was tempered and really learned how to be me outside the orbit of the known and familiar.
With the paperwork signed, I’m about a week and a half from seeing the place back on the market for the first time since I snatched it up. I’m feeling an awfully heavy dose of nostalgia tonight – for nights on Solomons, at the Brass Rail, or the Green Door, for friends made and contact lost over the long intervening years, and more than a little for the 23-year old version of me who was so very determined to bend the world to his will, got kicked around a little by life, and kept on coming.
I’ve had chances to sell the place in the past, but could never quite bring myself to let it go. Now, though, it feels right. My long time property manager is closing up his business and being a long distance landlord has lost a lot of its luster. It’s probably a few years past time, really. The place deserves a shot at an owner who’s going to call it home again. I’d like to see that… but of course if another investor shows up with a big bag of cash, I’m not going to send them away.
As much as I’m feeling and appreciate the moment of nostalgia, it does have it’s limits when it comes to making decisions with the dollars and cents.
It’s been a minute since the last time I spent a day glued to NOAA weather briefings, memorizing Department of Transportation route plans, and casting a professional eye towards America’s excess bottled water and ice production and storage capacity. It was a gig that required finding ways to say yes as often as possible, but also offering definitive “no’s” when there was no way to get there from here. I mostly enjoyed the work… and I was good at it.
On days when the storm flags are up, I almost miss it. Working hurricanes was one of the few times in my career I could draw a straight line between the work and the outcome. It was more than editing version 26 of the next set of PowerPoint slides. Getting personnel and supplies marshaled and delivered to the people and places where they were needed was possibly the only time in my long career I’ve felt like I was legitimately accomplishing something.
Now, the TV screens are flickering between cabinet secretaries resigning under fire and the arrival of what should be a routine, if not trivial, tropical storm along the Gulf Coast. With unseasonably high water on the Mississippi, a few feet of storm surge, and the potential to drop ten or more inches of rain in a few hours, Barry isn’t an unusual storm… but he does does arrive bring an unusual confluence of factors that probably don’t bode well for New Orleans and southern Louisiana.
My armchair professional best guess is that the levees will hold this time, but the bigger factor will be the city’s pump capacity. Not even the vaunted pumps installed after Karina are sized to de-water that much sustained rainfall over a period of hours.
I know tonight over at 500 C Street, SW there’s a small army of FEMA personnel and an array of planners from the federal partner agencies making educated guesses on what’s needed, when it needs to get there, and how to deliver it effectively. On days like this, I miss the urgency of that kind of work… but lord, I don’t miss the 16 hour days.
I’ve largely taken a pass on the latest trend towards nostalgia television – Unless you include that one time I skipped senior year Russian history class to watch Walter Cronkite in the CBS anchor chair during John Glenn’s return to space on the shuttle Discovery, I just haven’t found it all that compelling.
Last night I did tune in to see what the Conner’s had been up to after twenty years off the air. I approached it with some trepidation, because even at the hight of the original run’s popularity, I hadn’t been a diehard fan of the show. In the end, though, this reboot won me over. The set piece comedy against the backdrop of a kitchen and living room that are as familiar to me as the ones I grew up in offered a trip down memory lane that I’m happy to take.
Maybe I haven’t entirely missed the boat on this trend towards nostalgia… Now if we could just convince someone to pick up a new season of Buffy, I’d climb fully on this bandwagon.
And here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – or at least the moment I’ve been waiting for – the last post (probably) from the house I’ve been renting for the last four years. I moved in basically sigh unseen. My furniture was about 24 hours behind me and it met all the major criteria. Basically it was available immediately and it had a fence. If I had to describe it in a word, I’d say the house as been “serviceable.” I’ve had my troubles with the place, but it’s been a good enough roof over my head and I’m sure next week when I drive past it I’ll look at it a little more fondly that it probably deserves. Sitting here now with boxes piled on every flat surface is not exactly bittersweet – I’m enormously pleased to be leaving – but there have definitely been a few moments of nostalgia this morning. There won’t be time for that tomorrow.
If I’m honest I’m still finding it a little hard to believe I’m a homeowner again. The reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet, although it got a little more real yesterday when two trucks and a trailer’s worth of “stuff” were deposited. George the Russian Tortoise has even taken up residence already so I’ll make at least one trip down this afternoon there to see how he made it through the night. I know it will feel a lot more like mine tomorrow evening when the furniture is basically in place and the dogs are threatening to trip me at every turn. At the moment, even with a few of my odds and ends there, it still feels like a big empty house – someone else’s big empty house. I keep expecting the old owner to wander down the hall and ask what the hell I’m doing in his house.
It feels a little like I’ve been in some stage of moving since I pulled up stakes in Memphis. In fact there are still boxes taped shut from that move that will get loaded on the truck tomorrow. That probably explains a bit about why I’ve never felt entirely settled here. We’re about to resolve that issue… and I can’t wait to get this all behind me so I can get out of a “moving” mode and into a “living” mode.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t seeing the Mustang sitting on the dealer’s lot that bothered me. True enough, it was a great car, but we never bonded the way the Jeep and I did. It sounds totally asinine, but I would actually drive out of my way in the mornings just to avoid seeing the Jeep on my way to work. I guess it’s sort of the same feeling as seeing the ex out with someone new. Theoretically, you know it’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean you want to see it. It’s funny the attachment you form with your vehicle, especially one that’s been around for a while. It must be a little bit like what the cavalry felt like when they handed over the reins to their horses in exchange for the levers of the early tanks. You know it’s a far superior bit of equipment in every way, but you can’t quite shake the nostalgia.