When we decided to move to Syracuse Z wanted to buy a farmhouse with outbuildings on a whole bunch of acres in the middle of nowhere. I told him he could have all that jazz with his second wife, but if we were moving to the snowiest city in America and I was going to be alone in the house with a baby all day then that house needed to be in walking distance of…something.
Our search centered around the University Neighborhood and the house we purchased is a few blocks from a little business district with coffee shops, restaurants, a live music venue, a bike shop, several thrift stores, and a library that caters to kids. On top of all that there are two parks and a Natural Food Co-op within a 10-15 minute walk.
You can’t sugar coat it, the weather sucks here in the winter-that-seemingly-knows-no-end. But here’s the thing, when spring finally arrives it is amazing. Summer is magical. Fall is arrestingly beautiful. There really is a lot to like.
When it finally warms up a bit the sidewalks fill with folks out for a walk. In a lovely and organic way you sort of get to know your neighbors around here. You might not know their names or their stories, but you know them by sight. It’s fun to see people you haven’t seen since last fall.
Late Monday and Tuesday afternoon the boys and I took a walk to one of the coffee shops. Monday’s walk was less than ideal. I carried T most of the way as he wept because he didn’t want to go. But I wanted an iced coffee, damn it. And he was a peach on the way home. Which was good because although C was a delight for the first half of the walk, he decided to throw an extravagant tantrum on the return. Tuesday’s walk was just plan awesome. Both boys were into it. I was into it. Life felt good.
As we ambled past the big yellow house a block and a half from our own I idly wondered when we would see the couple who lived there next. We’ve been stop-and-say-a-few-words friendly with them since we moved in. Or Z has and I try to be. My shyness and lack of social grace will be no surprise to anyone who knows me. Our home has a front porch that is only accessible from inside the house which affords a level of privacy somehow. People don’t tend to notice us sitting there when they walk by, the voyeur in me loves it. In the summer we like to sit out there with a drink after the boys go down. The couple from the yellow house would breeze by, him running and her riding slowly by his side on her bike. We got a kick out of their routine. And she was always incredibly friendly and sweet to the boys when she saw us out and about.
Today I went to get my teeth cleaned. The dental hygienist looked at my chart and said, “Oh, you live on Allen Street. A woman who goes to my church lives on that street. She just passed away in March.” I told her I was sorry, but didn’t think much of it at first. The hygienist was old enough to be my mother. I assumed her friend was as well, which is certainly sad, but not unusual. It became clear that she really wanted to talk about the passing of her friend, she started to explain exactly which house the couple lived in and my heart sank. I asked how old the woman who passed was. “Thirty-three.” she said.
Her name was Rachel. I felt numb as I realized we’d never see her on our neighborhood walks again. And frankly I feel outraged. For her husband, her family, and mostly for her. For the loss of the life she was leading. For how precarious and unfair and painful and wasteful this life can be.
I don’t have a tidy summation for this story. The thought of spouting platitudes frankly nauseates me right now. I’m just sorry and incredibly sad.
Bulbs planted throughout a lawn. This is truly a beautiful neighborhood. I wish Rachel was still able to enjoy it.