Fourteen years ago this week, we moved here to Charlottesville, sight unseen. We had spent the better part of that year looking for jobs outside of Birmingham, AL, where we’d been living since we’d graduated from Auburn. We had turned down jobs in locations like Hilton Head and New Orleans. We were newly engaged and looking to start a life somewhere other than where we were. It didn’t matter which one of us got a job that moved us out, as long one of us did. We figured we’d make it work once we got to where we were going. Pat had gotten an interview with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and then a second one. We really thought that if he got an offer from them, it would be for their Pennsylvania canoe rig, based out of Harrisburg, near the town I grew up in, good old York, PA. I wasn’t wild about moving back there, but, I knew this was a job he was quite interested in. When they called and offered him a job that Monday night about 6 pm, they needed an answer by 8 pm. Could he start in less than a week? It was in Charlottesville, VA, a place we had never heard of. So, we looked it up on a map. Called a friend who had gone to college outside of Richmond, who told us, oh yeah, it’s cool, you should move there.
So, with that recommendation, we did just that. It was hands down, the biggest snap decision we’ve ever made. (Although making on an offer on this house is a close second.) I’m pretty sure most of our friends had no idea we’d been looking to move and most of them were shocked to hear that Pat was up and gone in less than a week, without saying goodbye to everyone. I followed a few weeks later, having gotten a bunch of our friends (and future groomsmen) to help pack up the U-Haul full of our things. When I pulled into town at 3 am, it was the first time I had laid eyes on the place. We agreed, we’d try it for 2 years, and if we didn’t like it, we’d move on.
That was 14 years ago.
I have to admit, I didn’t like Charlottesville at first. I had a hard time finding a job to suit my Interior Design degree from Auburn, in a town full of architects with University of Virginia degrees. My first job here was doing billing for the University Hospital, in the old Sears building on Main Street, in row after row of cubicles. I started as a temp and ended up being hired as a regular, with benefits and mandatory overtime that paid time and a half. Pat’s job had him out of town quite a bit – our first winter here, he had a plethora of trainings and internships and conferences and was gone, 5 out of 6 weeks straight. Our first house was a dump, in a neighborhood that was even worse, because most of the good rentals had been scooped up by the end of September.
Eventually though, we found a really sweet apartment down by the river in Woolen Mills, that we found by just driving around one day and stopping at a for rent sign. We ended up with good neighbors – one of whom mentioned the architecture firm she worked for was looking for help and I might be a good fit. People I’d met working at the University told me to wait until summer, that summer was a great time to live in Charlottesville and if I still didn’t like it by the next September, then there would be no selling me on C-ville.
By the end of our trial two year period, we had bought a house, I had a job in my field and life was good. Summer, among other things, had definitely helped sell me on Charlottesville.
12 years after buying that house, we’re still in it We’ve put an addition on the house, we cleaned up the yard (which was totally overgrown), built a garden and a playhouse in the backyard. We’ve realized that this really is a small town and everyone knows each other 6 different ways. We’ll be at the grocery store and a shopowner from the downtown mall will come up and say hello and tell Edie how tall she’s gotten and when they walk away, she never fails to ask, “Who is that and why do they know my name?” Sweetie, that man owns the ice cream shop and let your mother run a tab for my chocolate banana milkshakes when I was pregnant with you. Last fall we joked that our soccer team was “Six Degrees of the Calverts”, because on that team were families we had played with before, families we knew from working together before we had kids, families we knew from when I worked at the wine bar, families from preschool playgroups, families from school…..somehow we knew everyone on that team previously.
This is the longest I have lived anywhere. I like that Edie has only known living in this house and has had some of the same friends since before time began. There are things we swore we would never, ever do, like take our kid trick or treating on The Lawn at UVa, that we ended up doing anyway, because, oh yeah, once we had a kid, we realized how awesome it was for little kids. Once Edie was old enough to go to a few neighbor’s houses, we stopped going to The Lawn – several thousand preschoolers on sugar can get ugly pretty quick. There are some things we really won’t do – like Foxfields. I’ve always said there’s a fine line between a toddler on a sugar meltdown and a bad drunk – it can go either way and end in tears at any time. But with a toddler, you can pick up them and carry them away. Not so much with a drunk college kid, so no, you will never see me at Foxfields. Ever.
We’ve seen alot of changes in our time here. Some good, some bad. I miss the old amphitheater at the end of the downtown mall. Sure, I love the good shows I’ve seen at the new Pavilion, but Fridays after Five haven’t been the same in years. In fact, I don’t think we even went to one Fridays this year. I think we went to just one last year. We used to never miss those. And honestly? They were what helped sell me on this town. That and happy hour at Miller’s. This past summer we finally decided to stop going there on Date Night. They reworked their beer list, and yes, while it might seem better, they no longer have our favorites on there. We’ve changed too. We moved here, still technically single, and have become a family here. Our little May get-together has become a bash of legendary proportions (or so we’ve heard). We’ve gone from being the newlyweds that just moved into the house on the corner to being the family that organizes the neighborhood Halloween party at the park. On one hand, I can’t believe we’re still here. On the other, I sort of knew when I pulled into the first parking lot I saw, which turned out to be Durty Nelly’s that night 14 years ago, that we were home.