It's taken more than five years but I finally feel like I can call this city home. For better or worse, this is my community now. The Rhode Island natives would sneer at that - after all, I've "only" lived in the state for 11 years now. I actually had the following conversation:
Socially inept man at party: So are you all from here?
Me: Yeah, we're from the southern part of this city. Well, we lived in Other City before, but we've been here four years.
SIMAP: Yeah but where'd you live before that?
Me: We met at URI.
SIMAP: So you're not from here, from here. Your kids are from here. But you're not.
Well, okay then, if it means that much to you, pal. Here's what I know:
I know several of my neighbors and the ones directly next door are amazing. They are literally the "borrow a cup of sugar" type, my kids love them and their new baby, we hang out at least once a week, etc. The other neighbors have at least finally determined I'm not a raving lunatic (little do they know!) and will at least say hello.
I have friends who live within five minutes of me. Easy to pop over and grab a drink, say hello, get our kids together.
One of my closest "mom friends" lives a few streets over. I love hanging out with her and her kids because she and I have very similar parenting styles. It's so nice to sit in a lawn chair next to her while our kids play not tethered to us. Amazing.
Today we went to the playground by the bay. I watched Mary and Kyle, my friend's eldest, climbing all over everything, lost in Pretend World, while we pushed two toddlers and two babies on the swings (Yes, we have skills. Mad swing skills) and chatted. There was a breeze off the water that made the day absolutely beautiful. And I thought: I am truly lucky. The city council may be completely inept and the high school may scare the bejeezus out of me, but I have good friends here. I have a life here. The girls have school and dance and little friends here.
I know when the farmer's market is, the best places to run, which one is the "good" Dunkin' Donuts. (Hint: It is not the one closest to my house where a random bunch of middle aged people hang out like teenagers all day, every day. Seriously, do none of them hold jobs? Have other commitments?) I can recognize our mailman by the sound of his overly loud music blasting out from what I have to assume are headphones. The kids know the UPS guy by sight. (Okay, that one might not be a point of pride.)
This house, for all its faults and misgivings (the prior owners evidently fancied themselves handipersons. They were not.) is ours. All of my kids came home to this house. They learned to walk in the living room with the scratched up floorboards. They pick raspberries in the side yard and all have, as infants, eaten their share of clover on the front lawn.
The house is too small, there are not enough bathrooms and the one we have really, really is in need of a facelift (see: prior owners' handiwork). There is poor storage and no basement and I would probably kill someone if it meant we could have functional closets bigger than a postage stamp. But it's ours. (Okay, it's the bank's. But let's not split too many hairs.)
So am I "from" here? No, not in the weird "state pride" kind of way. And I don't have a Rhode Island accent. But my kids are locals for sure.
Like it or lump it, this is home.