When I Think of Bastille Day

We moved to a then-new apartment close to our then-new jobs at the beginning of June of last year. And while at that point, I had moved five times in less than two years, I was by no means an expert. The joys of moving (from packing, to schlepping, to unpacking) could very well be their own or several blog entries, but the literal feats that must be accomplished aside, the hardest part for me is leaving the life built in the old place and starting over in the new one.

Some parts are strange to the point of being comical- like learning a new grocery store's layout. One skill I learned from many years of grocery shopping with my mom is guessing what products belong in an aisle together, products like shoe polish and garbage bags. Garbage bags means Ziploc bags means utility/light bulbs means shoe polish. I remember spending two-hours at the ShopRite next to where we had just moved: they might as well have had taco shells, pantyhose, milk and magazines in the same aisle with the sign on top of the aisle number reading 'things you'll need on a chilly night when you're going to eat tacos then wear a dress out so you'll need stockings and come home to want a glass of milk then read a magazine before bed'. This is trickier than you may think when you're standing next to the cream and can't find the milk and so forth...

Or how about the fact that when I got in the far left lane to make a left hand turn, I was suddenly far out of luck. 

There are big pieces of daily reality- where are you going to live and work? How long will your commute be? And smaller ones- which is the most reasonably priced dry-cleaners? What is the best route to avoid rush-hour? Where is the best cheap sushi/pizza/BYOB/fill-in-the-blank restaurant?

While you could turn to Google or Yelp for the answers, these are the moments when you are struck by the saddest part of moving away and the hardest thing you'll have to build in your new place - community. Your girlfriends you spent thismuchtime with for the past year live three hours away. Your girlfriends from the place before that live three hours away too. This isn't freshman year of college where everyone is brand new and eager to make new friends. The only people you meet instantaneously are your colleagues, and not that colleagues can't be incredible friends, but you usually want to do your due diligence in seeing what office culture is like before you start talking about the time you were in a rural village in Africa and a local person asked if you were on the Amazing Race. If you want someone to go to lunch, drinks or the movies with; to get your haircut at the place someone trusts; to have someone you're comfortable calling when your husband is on the road and you need a ride to the car repair shop at an inconvenient time: you have to have a community.

So how does this relate to the storming of a famous prison in Paris? Last year, on Bastille Day, someone affiliated with where I work who lives in town invited the whole office among others to her house for a Bastille Day party.  No one else I worked with could go, and I remember showing up with my husband and a home-made hybrid of cookies and cupcakes and being made to feel so welcome. We knew so few people in our new town, and here was this person I’d met once in passing and she had opened her home to us and invited us to the same party to which she invited neighbors, relatives, and her children’s friends.  It was truly one of those warm-fuzzy feelings: even if these weren’t our neighbors and relatives and friends, bringing a dish to someone’s home and talking to a group of people about the weather and sports and when we were getting married and where we were from and where they were from and what everyone’s summer plans were felt really genuine and made us feel a stronger connection to this new place.

This was one of many moments when people in the community extended themselves and made us feel a part of this new place. It made me feel that we could build these years of our life here. I smiled when I got the invite to this year's Bastille Day party. And, while we cannot attend, I am grateful for the invitation and even more grateful for the community we have become a part of and the friends I can call to grab a latte in this no-longer-new town.