I've lived in the same place for over 8 years now--a record for me. Growing up, we consistently moved every 4 years or so. I was always The New Girl, a visitor passing through, ignorant of longstanding traditions or inside jokes. When people asked Where are you from? I never knew whether to say the town where I was born or the town where I lived before this one. (Don't pity me, though. The up-side was comfort in knowing if I hated a place we wouldn't be there long. Unlike my classmates, I had the advantage of figuring out my exit strategy before I started middle school.) My college years were a shuffle of dorm rooms and sublet apartments, I leased living space through my first teaching jobs. Then Mr. D and I lived in an apartment before buying our starter house where we lived for 7 years. Eight years ago we built this house and I was the New Girl in Town one more time.
Yesterday Mr. D picked me up for lunch and voting. In our small town, there's never a line to vote and we can grab sandwiches and coffee at the local family restaurant in a half hour or less. But now we're locals and what should've taken half an hour took almost an hour--because we kept stopping to talk to people. People know us, know our names, have shared experiences with us and share this section of the map we now call home. What really struck me was how I talked to these different people--one conversation was about a book, another about the artist and the mural at Happyland Elementary, another about my sons' favorite babysitter. Tied in different ways to various people living in the same place.
We're local, we belong. Let me tell you, it feels pretty good to feel connected to the people in my neighborhood.
Spill it, reader--what's a sure sign that you belong?