Here it is—the essay that started the blog. This originally appeared as “Latitude Change Brings Attitude Change” in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on April 3, 2011.
Geographically speaking, 10 degrees separate Oberlin, Ohio (82˚) from Richmond (72˚), at least on the longitudinal scale. In 54 years—my entire life—I never lived anywhere other than northeast Ohio. Then, last September, I moved to Richmond. On the life-experience scale, the degrees separating my old life from this new one might as well be 10,000.
Here’s what happened: I fell in love.
You hope for these things; you don’t plan for them. It never occurred to me that one day I would meet someone with whom I was meant to spend the rest of my life. Or, if I did, we would surely live in Oberlin, in the house I’d bought after my divorce.
I’d come home from my job at the Conservatory of Music, and we’d cook food that we’d bought together at the Farmer’s Market on Main Street. We’d attend concerts in Finney Chapel; on Sunday mornings we’d go to church at Christ Episcopal, then have brunch at the Black River Café. My son and his girlfriend would come for dinner. His sons and their girlfriends would come for dinner.
This would be my life, and it would be idyllic: shared with the man I loved, in the town I loved, with a job I loved.
But that’s not what happened.
Four months after I said yes to the man who asked me to marry him (over omelets at the Black River Café), he was offered a job. In Richmond.
Things were about to change.
Reader, I married him in August. Since then, I’ve cataloged 14 life stressors on the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale. There’s the remarriage, which added not just a husband but also two fine stepsons to my family. I retired from my job, albeit in name only. (Happily, I’m too young to collect a pension. Unhappily, the extra cash would be nice.) I started my own business, drastically altering my work hours and responsibilities along with my career. I lost a dear friend to cancer. I have celebrated major holidays. I have changed my residence, my name, my living conditions and my social activities. I also have had the flu, but the marvelous thing is, I have not done any of this alone.
My husband is my life partner in every sense of the word, pitching in to help with all the myriad tasks that these large-scale life changes entailed. He not only cooks, he cleans up the kitchen after I cook, which, if you know me, is no small feat.
Wonder of wonders, he loves and supports me unconditionally.
With this kind of backup, it’s been true each of the 783 times that I’ve said, “It’s all good.”
It was all good when I endured the whiplash of selling my house in a buyer’s market, and when the temperature spiked to 93 degrees on our wedding day in an Oberlin chapel so historic that it didn’t have air conditioning.
It was all good when I realized that most people in Richmond share their walls with their neighbors and their cars with the elements, and when I learned that although you can’t buy stadium mustard at Martin’s — or find it at The Diamond — you can buy it online.
It was truly all good when I discovered, in no particular order: James River Writers, Richmond CenterStage, the Henley Street Theatre Company, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Carillon, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Carytown, the Byrd Theatre, and Ellwood Thompson’s.
It has been true with each new friend I’ve made, even while missing my old friends with an ache in my heart that might never diminish.
It was true when my husband’s sons joined us for an early Christmas; it will be true when my son and his girlfriend visit us in May.
I’ve apparently learned two things from this whirlwind of a year: First, life is best when lived as part of a pair.
Second, degrees of separation aren’t necessarily as innumerable as one might first imagine them. After all, it is said that there are only six degrees of separation between us and everyone else in the world. I’ve already met five people in Richmond who have ties to my hometown. When I meet the sixth one, I’ll write again and let you know.