Moving from New Jersey to Virginia was probably the single best and most traumatic event in my pre-adult life. I hated it. Just hated it. My brother and I were shipped south from our home in East Orange to spend a few week with an aunt we barely knew in VA while my mom, fresh from divorce, packed up everything we owned and brought it to our new house in VA. Our time in Richmond with my aunt was interesting. She had two grown sons and without time spent with adolescent girls, had no clue what to do with me. Or my hair… We went swimming our second day there, and my hair was an unmitigated disaster the rest of the time there. I was loathe to even leave the house to play outside with my brother. Virginia was turning into nothing I wanted any part of.
Finally my uncle came to take us to our new home. My mom had planned out enough time to both pack and unpack without us being there. We stopped in front of a structure that was bigger than our single family home in NJ, and sort of looked like the rowhouses in New York, but not quite. This was something called a townhouse, and ours was on the end of a four unit cluster. I hated it on sight. It had beige siding (our old house was yellow) and brown shutters. The roof was brown and towered high. Our old house was one story with a full basement and as I wander from room to room in this weirdly closed in new house, I wondered where we were going to be allowed to play. This house opened into a foyer with a coat closet. What? No more mud room? How does this work. The new living room had all new furniture and I couldn’t stand it’s mauve and maroon paisley print anymore than I could stand the beige coloring. My young mind rebelled and I immediately went in
search of my mother. She had to get our old house back and take us out of this tree filled suburb back to the city. Were was the corner store? The sub shop? And what on earth was a 7-11? This sucked.
I found my mom upstairs in this huge (as it looked at the time) room with all my furniture and personal belongings in it. I was stunned? In our old house, my brother and I shared a room because my parents owned a two bedroom house. I looked to my mother in askance and she smiled at me. She asked me if the paint color was okay, but I was too confused to articulate any reasonable answer. This was to be my room. Only mine. No little brothers. No guest. Just mine. I quickly forgot my anger at the move and rushed the adults out of my new room . I sat on the blue carpet and stared at my posters of Lawrence Taylor and Charles Barkley (I was a strange girl… still am.) and thought about whether I could tolerate this quiet new life if it meant my own room. My brother burst through the door, yelling about the laundry room that was just across the hall. No more hauling laundry up and down stairs. It was amazing, but not enough to let him just run wild in my room.
I quickly threw him out. I could hear him whining, but since the sound was coming from the other side of the door, I didn’t care.
I decided to check out the rest of our new home. And yes, this is when I started looking at this as our home. My mom has a crazy big room with a closet you would walk into and hide, and her own bathroom. I had to share a bathroom with my bathroom, but there was a toilet on the first floor so no more potty dance waiting for your turn. Shocking! I wasn’t sure if this was going to be okay, but this new house was truly looking to be a step up from where we were. And I couldn’t deny how happy my mom was and how scared she looked to take on this new phase in our lives. As I look back, the house isn’t so big, and the neighborhood isn’t as boring as I thought. But it was quiet and safe, and far away from the inner city dangers that my mom knew would be looking for us sooner or later. Twenty five years later my mom still lives in that beige townhouse and it’s the only place I consider home.