I’m currently sitting on our bed (*ahem* air mattress) in our apartment in Newark, DE. Yes, Delaware. That little slice of peninsula between New Jersey and Maryland, sandwiched between Pennsylvania (“The PA” as it’s referred to around here) and Virginia. You didn’t know where it was, either? Totally a legitimate answer.
But we’re here, nonetheless, and we have been for 3.5 weeks now. Transplanted. We didn’t come to vacate our lives, but to transfer them here for a season. Christopher is three weeks into the first of two summers for his graduate program at the University of Delaware. We left Colorado on June 20 and drove for three days. We spent our tenth anniversary (June 23) at the South Philadelphia IKEA and the local Target trying to find some basic furniture and other items to help our unfurnished apartment seem less barren. It has been an adjustment, certainly, but also a chance to do something different – to have a sabbatical season, of sorts, for our little family.
I have always wanted to live on the East Coast. Something about it has always resonated deeply with me: The trees, brick buildings, ivy-covered homes, cobbled streets, the ability to live in places that are close walking distance to nearly everything you need.
So, the reality is that I have dearly loved being here. It has been a joy to see Chris have the chance to be challenged intellectually, to learn new things, and it has satisfied that deep longing I’ve always had to live here. Our brothers have both gone off with their families to other places, to have grand adventures and build their homes in faraway cities, but we’ve always stayed close to our parents – and we do not regret that. We somehow get to have our own grand adventure these two summers and, in the end, still come home to the people and the places we love best.
Most days, P and I walk Chris to class along quiet residential streets with beautiful homes. Chris has class all day, every day, during the week, but his weekends are free. We have been choosing our own adventures, visiting DuPont landmarks (Longwood Gardens, Winterthur), some historical sites (Fort Delaware, Historic New Castle), the beaches, and making quick friends with the UDel campus and various local eateries. There’s a park only a few minutes’ walk down the trail from us. The trees and the flowers are all in bloom. The campus is lovely.
The whole experience has stirred up in me the desire to write again, which (obviously) hasn’t happened in a very long time (and was very much unexpected, if I’m honest – though I did have intentions to make myself start writing again while I was here).
But, oh my, I did not realize how hard it would also be to be here.
I haven’t been away from home this long ever (4 weeks), even when I was a summer camp counselor while in college (never longer than 3 weeks at a time). I haven’t lived out of state since I was 3, before we moved to Colorado as a family from Indiana (and I don’t remember living in Indiana, so perhaps that doesn’t count).
Our apartment feels a lot like a residence hall: Basic, aging, not taken care of well. We go in and out; we do our laundry in the basement (For $3.50 a load! When did that happen?!); we cook what we can using a hot plate (for whatever reason, it never occurred to us just to buy a cheap microwave?); we hope the A/C unit in the window can keep up on the worst of the hot, muggy days; and essentially the entirety of my life (work, eating, entertainment, sleep) all takes place in the same room (the second bedroom is too warm to sleep in, so we moved our bed to the living area).
I, the eternal introvert, miss my friends and our weekly summer backyard get-togethers with some of those friends and neighbors. I miss our church family. I miss our nice, clean house with central air and our fully stocked and working kitchen. I miss being able to open the window and have it make a difference. I miss our couches and my office and floors that I don’t worry about falling through (our apartment has some serious subfloor issues). I miss having a bathtub where I’m not afraid to bathe our kiddo. I miss having a dedicated playroom.
But most of these are just things in the end, aren’t they? (Naturally people are not things.) It’s fine to miss them – understandable, even – but the reality is that this is enough for the season. Not ideal, but enough. I remember saying before we left how I wanted to know what I could live without because we have the blessing of having so much. Now I know we can live with very little. I’m not always content with very little, mind, but it is enough.
And it seems so strange to think that, one week from today, we will be packed into our car and on the second leg of our drive back westward. So many long days while we’ve been here and, yet, such a short season when all has come to an end.
If you follow both Chris and me on Instagram, you’ve probably been keeping up with our adventures; if not, however, you can look at the #ckptakedelaware tag for a collection of images from our travels this summer (you’ll have to follow me @akatereynolds, since my account is private — Christopher’s is public, @cmrey).
Anne of Green Gables (again)
The Boxcar Children books
Slowly working through (and loving) Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist