Full circle

Last week, some friends of mine moved into a new apartment in the neighborhood. I saw their Facebook posts about moving day, and I checked the date: August 23rd. I realized that, a year ago, August 23rd had been my own moving day, the day I’d arrived in my current apartment, and begun to get settled into my current community.

It was strange to celebrate that anniversary after having just returned from nearly a full month of travel. I looked back at that month, and realized that I’d spent far more time away than in my own apartment. Between July 23rd and August 23rd, I had slept in a youth hostel in Seattle, a guest room in Vancouver, another guest room in Chicago, my nephew’s bedroom in Maryland, and a beach house in Delaware. During that month, I’d spent a grand total of 8 days in my own bed, and not consecutively.

It felt odd, just then, to think about how it had been an entire year since I’d moved, an entire year that I’d spent getting settled in my new community because, after a full month of travel, I didn’t feel settled at all. Though I’d spent a few nights in my own bed in the middle of my travels, I hadn’t had face-to-face contact with my local community for an entire month. For four full weeks, my only contact with local friends had been via Facebook, and the friends I did hang out with during that time were the ones who lived in other cities, friends I knew from my old community, from before my move.

Back in my current community, my friends moved last Thursday. Last Friday night, I hosted them for a meal, because all of their kitchen supplies were still in boxes. It turned out that another couple I invited was also in the midst of a local move, and they, too, had a partially packed kitchen. They e-mailed me to say that no, they couldn’t bring dessert, because their cooking scale was in a box somewhere. That e-mail brought back memories of my very first Friday in my current apartment, exactly a year ago.

That Friday night, I’d gone to synagogue in the hopes of getting invited to the table of a stranger – and I did. That Saturday, I attended a potluck picnic lunch in the park, where I met new people, and had a wonderful time.

I think I did two things that Friday: First, I unpacked my clothing. Then, I checked my box manifest, and cut open exactly the boxes I needed in order to bake a noodle kugel: I reshuffled the stacks of boxes in order to pull out pots and pans, pyrex dishes, potholders, kitchen towels, measuring cups, the sugar canister, etc. That kugel was the first thing I cooked in my new kitchen, and I brought it with me to share at the picnic.

I remember how good it felt to be able to contribute something home-cooked to that potluck, especially given that I’d just moved in a few days ago. I remember how proud I was that I’d made such a detailed list of what was in each of my moving boxes, and I remember just how many of those boxes were stacked in my living room, my bedroom, and my kitchen. I remember how wonderful it was to meet so many new people in the park that Saturday, and how my new community started to feel like home so quickly.

A year later, all but two of my boxes have been unpacked. Maybe this will be the week when I finally unpack the photos and artwork box and decorate my walls. The other box is my Passover kitchen supply box, and I left that one packed intentionally, since that’s the best way to store it. There are still some empty boxes in my entryway because they make a wonderful table surface, and one in my kitchen that I never got around to recycling, but just about everything else has found its place. I’ve learned where to buy the foods I want, and I’ve made connections to multiple segments of the community. I host friends for meals, and I get invited to theirs.

This past Friday, I cooked dinner for some of my friends in a kitchen that was far more organized than it had been a year ago – and also far more lived-in. I had a lot to get done, because I also had to cook a dish for lunch the following day: a potluck picnic in the park. By the time I remembered how I’d spent that first Friday, I’d already figured out what I was going to bring to this week’s potluck. Of course, it was another noodle kugel.

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