Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
August 3, 2011
I’m back in the hood and it feels so good.For a minute, I thought we were making a huge mistake. It probably had something to do with all the people who were like, “Why would you do a stupid thing like that?” when we told them we were moving from town back to the ABC.Even though it’s really none of your goddamned business, I’ll tell you why.A few months ago, my beloved tenants informed me they were moving out, so we decided to move back in. Mostly, it was a financial thing. Just to make double-triple-sure we were doing the right thing, we met with our CPA, Super Steve, to get his advice. “It’s a no-brainer,” Super Steve said. “In fact, as your financial advisor, I’m going to tell you that you can’t afford not to do it.”Let me preface this by saying I’ve always hated doing the right thing, so it was a tough decision from go.We start moving our stuff and going through that horrible process that seems like it might even be a good idea at first: purging what you don’t need, finally bringing those bags of stuff to the thrift store, giving stuff away, maybe even selling a few things. It seems like it’s a great opportunity to get organized, to rearrange stuff and finally clean out those drawers and the back of the closet and the bathroom cabinet that just got to be too much to deal with.Oh, sure, the first seven hours it takes to sift through old photos and letters and books is kind of fun, but then you realize that’s an awfully long time to spend on one desk drawer. So you start busting it out, wrapping breakables in finger-staining newspaper and going through three spools of packing tape before you realize you’re only moving across town and can probably just throw all your crap in garbage bags and call it a day.Then somewhere in the middle of all of that, you look around and all you see are loose ends, stuff that doesn’t really have a place, stuff that doesn’t make sense, and how in the hell did we acquire so much stuff? You find yourself treading water, not here or there. It’s a much farther distance than you first anticipated. Worse, half your life is on one side, and the rest on the other.”I have never seen anyone make such a big deal out of nothing,” Ryan said when I scolded him for not noticing what a great job I’d done cleaning up the kitchen.”But I worked really, really hard all day yesterday,” I said, feeling my voice rise into my throat. “I’m exhausted.””Yeah, well, I work hard all day, every day. It’s not like the world is coming to an end,” he said, sounding more like a football coach than the man I’m going to marry.”But you choose to do that kind of work. I’m just not cut out for manual labor,” I said, my arms stiff by my sides, fists clenched. I knew as soon as I said it that it was the wrong thing to say, so I tried to backpedal. “I mean, I’m not big and strong like you. It’s tiring for me.”He shot me that look that says, I’m not going to say what I’m about to say.The worry and doubt starts to cascade into my brain like an avalanche. This is a huge mistake. We’re going to hate it. I’m going to miss my dead dog that lived there with me. It’s going to bring back bed memories. Our stuff is never going to fit.I plopped into my desk chair, which was now sitting in the front hallway, and just like an 8-year-old who lost her puppy, I started to cry. That was the turning point.Then, one by one, all my old neighbors were there to welcome us back in the old neighborhood. All the Originals are still here: Jean and Eben, Jean Robert and Bernadette, Gretchen, Wheaton, and Paul (though we will be sad to see him go). They’re all my age, they’re all awesome, and they’re all loving life in the hood. There are even two new residents: babies that were born while I was gone – the next generation of Deer Hillites.”I think it’s the most underrated place in town,” Jean said, as if she were God, flying down from the heavens to rescue me from my own self-inflicted neurosis and doubt. “You’re just far enough away to avoid the craziness, but close enough that you won’t miss it if you don’t want to.”I couldn’t have said it better myself.Once our stuff was in and organized in this very same space where I spent my turbulent 30s, I looked around and realized how far I’ve come. It’s the same, but totally different.”Remember that time you came down the stairs to go out and you weren’t wearing pants?” my neighbor Gretchen said when we were catching up. She was like a big sister to me, and it wasn’t beyond her to tell me I looked like a hooker. “I told you to turn right around and go put some clothes on.”We laughed about that, but it was true. She was there. She saw it all go down. “You had to go through it to get where you are now,” she said. (Love you, G! Thanks for being so light on your skinny little feet!)Over the last two and a half years, Ryan and I have built our home the way all quality things are made: all by hand, piece by piece, little by little, until everything is just right. And it is. Since we’ve been here, I’ve never slept more soundly, felt more at peace.Sure, the apartment we gave up was a wonderful place to live, but this is home.The Princess needs to have her roots done. Email your love to email@example.com.