Every Thursday evening at 4:45 I hustle all four kids out the door and down to the Ballet School, which is exactly four blocks away from our house, as the crow flies. On leisurely days we cross at the lights and round the corners to get there; sometimes we see a police officer friend, sometimes we get honks and waves from familiar drivers. We always check the time and the temperature on the theatre marquee and all four girls love to stomp across the metal grates in the sidewalk that make the loudest noise. We pass the salon where the girls typically get their hair cut once a year before Christmas (except we didn't do that the years we lived away) and the candy stores where we have lunch with friends or ride our bikes for chocolates in the summertime. These are the things we pass if we take the long way. However, when we're running late, or when it's very cold, or very rainy, we take the more direct route, which is straight across the library parking lot, down the alleyway between the apartment buildings, across the police station/pizza joint parking lot, not crossing at the lights, then finally through the big parking lots to Main Street, where the ballet school is.
One night shortly before Christmas, Martin was home from work in time for me to walk Anja on my own, but we still took the short cut (which is easier with only two people.) It's always nice to have a little one-on-one time with my oldest. I dropped her off at the door of the school--a little white building nestled between a large old building that houses our favorite brewery, and the food co-op, (which at one time was a gift shop where I worked.) Anja delivered safely, I turned and began the walk home the same way we'd come, using the shortcut across the parking lots and through the alley. As I was coming across the parking lot, I was met with a view that really made my heart sing. It was such a blend of modern warmth and Dickensesque charm--ahead of me was the pizza shop, all lit up with neon signs and twinkle lights on the trees outside, then behind that, rising above into the twilight sky were the tops of the old apartment buildings, then to the left the very beautiful stone Presbyterian church. I could see just the top of the library roof, and a ways beyond that, out of sight, would be my little house. It was such a comforting view--the city where I was raised, the downtown neighborhoods where I've lived for fifteen years--such familiarity in this urban setting.
Later in December it snowed on a night I was meeting some girlfriends out for a birthday dinner. We were meeting at a new Japanese restaurant on Main Street and had I not been only four blocks away, I probably wouldn't have gone because I don't like to drive in the snow. But instead, I put on my snow boots and walked. When I arrived there were seven of us total, and four of us had walked through the snow to meet each other. It was such a neat experience. As we were getting ready to leave it started snowing again, the most incredible snowflakes, so perfect they were unreal--it was like being on a movie scene, the snowflakes were so light and powdery. Being a Friday night, there were lots of people out and about, and as we parted ways everyone was so cheerful. The groups of strangers making their ways to the restaurants and bars and theatre were all so happy. It was one of the most magical walks home I've ever had, like walking through a perfect snow globe.
And maybe I'm biased. Maybe I look at this area with rose tinted glasses because it is home to me and everyone loves their own home the best. But I really think this place is something special. More than that, I'm just grateful that these views are mine, every day.