As I mentioned in Monday’s post , we are headed out of town this weekend. First stop? My father-in-law’s birthday/retirement celebration in Pennsylvania, followed by 48 hours in Baltimore – a city that plays a pretty significant role in the history of my little family.
I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten into it here before, but here’s the back story: When Dr. G and I were dating for about 18 months, he was accepted into a doctorate program down in Baltimore. And I moved down there with him.
I think it was kind of scandalous at the time – you know, because we hadn’t been dating super long, were relatively young and not married. I remember more than one person asking incredulously, “You’re moving without a ring on your finger?!”
At that point, we both knew this was it, but we hadn’t made it official yet. And the idea of not being in the same city with him was simply unthinkable. So we loaded up a U-Haul, left our friends and beloved Boston behind, and embarked on our new adventure in Baltimore.
However, excitement soon gave way to the reality of my new situation. And it was not pretty.
In fact, with the exception of one deliriously happy event – getting engaged in beautiful Annapolis – the first year down there was kind of miserable, a result of being in a new city … and also some bad luck.
Two months after we moved, I had to have a large (and thankfully benign), softball-sized cyst removed from my neck.
Less than three weeks after surgery, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (and while all my doctors swear the two aren’t related, I firmly believe there is a connection). I then spent about 4 or 5 miserable months on medications like Prednisone before my doctors finally discovered my “magic cocktail” of non-steroid meds to keep the disease in remission without causing me to blow up like a balloon or turn into a raging lunatic.
I lost two great-aunts (one of whom I was very close to) and an uncle in those first six months.
But the biggest roadblock that first year? I was incredibly lonely.
I was in a new city where I did not know a single person besides my boyfriend/fiance. I liked my job, and I worked with some terrific people, but no one really socialized outside of the office (at least not initially), and I was the youngest member of the team. On the flip side, Dr. G. was one of the older first-year students in his PhD program, so I didn’t really have much in common with most of them at the beginning, and I always felt like such an old lady when I would meet up with them at a campus bar after work.
In that first year, I relied on Dr. G to be, well, my everything: my boyfriend, my roommate, my best friend, my confidant, my entertainment, my reluctant shopping partner. And in the process, this independent, social, outgoing woman became a needy, whiny, co-dependent girl … the kind of person I always swore I would never be. And I hated it.
I ached for my girlfriends in Boston. I missed the comfort and familiarity of them. I longed for our brunches and dinners and shopping dates and gabfests. I was homesick for my family back in Rhode Island.
I was kind of a mess.
But as the saying goes, this too shall pass. And, eventually, it did. I slowly made some wonderful friends – women who helped me find my footing, regain my equilibrium and rediscover who I was.
Once the dust had settled, I began to see the upsides of Baltimore: the quirkiness, the diversity, the unmistakable culture, the proximity to Washington, DC and Virginia Wine Country and the Eastern Shore.
Dr. G. and I loved discovering new places and new neighborhoods, and after awhile, we had our own set of “go-tos”: our favorite restaurant, favorite bar, favorite coffee shop, etc.
I remember celebrating my 30th birthday at our second apartment in Baltimore, surrounded by a dozen of our closest friends at a dinner party that my wonderful husband had orchestrated. I think that night might have been the first time I ever considered Baltimore to be home, even though we had technically been there for about three or four years by that point.
Fast forward about seven years. It’s been a long time since we called Baltimore home; after Dr. G’s graduation, we hightailed it back to New England, where we’ve been since 2007. For so long, I either thought disparagingly about Baltimore, or was simply indifferent to it. Perhaps absence (and time) makes the heart grow fonder, but now I have a more romanticized, nostalgic and sentimental view of the city and my time there.
Because, to me, Baltimore is more than just my favorite sushi place or grabbing beers at Brewer’s Art or strolling around the Inner Harbor or catching dozens of Red Sox games at Camden Yards. It was the home, the setting, the backdrop to some pretty monumental, life-changing events … and therefore will always be tangled up in my life story.
It’s the city (hmm, well, kinda …. Annapolis is about 30 minutes away) where I got engaged.
It’s the city I was living in through all the stress and fun and excitement of having to plan and execute a wedding taking place nearly 400 miles away.
It’s the city where I first called myself someone’s wife.
It’s the city where we adopted this beautiful girl, Miss Raven, whose name is a daily reminder of our life in Baltimore.
It’s the city where I learned I was going to be a mom.
And it’s the city where this little guy was born.
When I stop and think about it, I came to Baltimore as a single twenty-something and left as a mom and wife in her 30s. Talk about a journey.
We’ve only been back once or twice since we moved, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little excited for our trip (excited to go to Baltimore …. words I never thought I’d say). I can’t wait to reminisce, catch up with friends and return to the place where my little family began.
Is there a certain place – be it a city, a state, etc. – that saw some of your important life milestones? Where is it?