Birds of a Feather

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  My third day at the new job and I was at my locker, putting away my home stuff and getting out my work stuff, when I heard it.  The unmistakeable accent of my former home, Long Island. Actually pronounced LAWNNGGUYLAND. I turned around and was face to face with Jessica, a woman who started at the job 2 months ago. I grinned and said, “Hi my name is Susan, how are you?’ Actually pronounced HOWAREYA. Not only did she come from Long Island, but she grew up in Queens, near my childhood home.

  Seems that Jessica and her husband live in Orwell, Vermont and she commutes to Glens Falls Hospital, about an hour or so each way. They are looking for a house and are living in an apartment in the meantime. 

  We fell right into a gabfest, questions coming fast and furious from both of us,”where did you work, where did you live, oh do you know so and so, did you go to the bar off Utopia Parkway by the bagel place…”

  There’s a lot I don’t miss about Long Island and I’ve written about it, the overcrowding, the traffic, the lack of personal space, the stress.

  But I will always turn my head at the sound of my home. I think its because I can pretty much count on a common sensibility and a wiseass attitude.

  Jessica and John (her husband) have been here since June, finding jobs, saving money, looking to buy their first home together. When I asked her why they decided to make such a move, her answer was almost identical to my own. 

  I wished her well. And we got down to the business of the work. Still I was happy to know that she is now in my orbit. Happy to see the light of expectation and anticipation in her eyes. 

  Today was a good day. 

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Neighbors and Acquaintances

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Kathy’s porch

  I met one of my next door neighbors today. Her name is Kathy and she is a dedicated porch sitter. I noticed her right away only because where I come from people don’t really sit on their porches.  They might have the time, but they do not have the inclination.

  Kathy is always outside on her porch, reading or talking to people passing by. She is a fixture in the neighborhood.  I know this because I struck up a conversation with her. 

  She has been in the same house for 41 years. Her house has some similarities to mine; built around the same time, big living room and dining room, no bathroom on the first floor.  We commiserated about that, but apparently she has not felt the need to put in a bathroom on the first floor.

She just “deals with it” she told me, “it’s a matter of timing”. Like everything else in life.

  It got me thinking about the differences between here and Long Island. Where I lived, everything was done for me. Garbage pickup was twice a week, all I had to do was sort recyclables. I paid a lawn service to mow the lawn and gave them extra to come shovel me out in the winter. I could get my groceries delivered if I chose (and yes sometimes I did), get my laundry done, get dinner delivered. 

  This was my life. It was convenient. It was easy. It was lonely. It was isolating. I truly lived on an island, the island of Me and Me only. Not so here. In Cambridge, I am forced to interact with people. I am learning very quickly that the village I chose to live in is one where people help each other, they choose to put themselves in that position. It’s a little disarming at first, but its very easy to fall in to the habit of saying hello and stopping for a chat. To wave at people in the street as I pass them by. 

  It’s another step for me in this life. It’s one thing to change the physical aspects of my life; new house, new job, new town. It’s quite another thing to fall into the rhythms of my new town, to accept the easiness and openness as normal. 

  This is how people are here and I am getting there. I enjoyed talking to Kathy. I found her to be a source of information and a real sweetheart of a person. My conversation with her was longer than any one I had with my neighbors in Freeport after living next to them for 17 years. 

  Happily, I am more than willing to accept that change.

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A Chance Encounter

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Lawn work on my block

  The day started like any other. I got up, showered, dressed, came downstairs. Gathered the wet clean laundry from the washing machine and headed out to the laundromat on Rte 22. 

  As with any laundromat day, I made sure I had two things with me:change and my Kindle. Both items were present, so I set about the business of drying my clothes. 

  Anyone knows this is the easy part of the washing and drying process. Oh sure, I know you purists out there separate your delicates and synthetics and dry them at different temperatures, but not me. High heat for the fastest results, the hell with the elastic in my underwear.

  So I stuffed my wet clothes in the dryer, fed the machine my quarters, hit the start switch and settled in for a nice read with my Kindle.

  I got through about a page and a half, when I noticed this guy looking at me. Or rather, I felt his eyes kind of crawling over me. 

 So I look up and I see this older man, kind of slovenly, grizzled beard, faded farmer cap on his head. He smiled asked me how I was, and I didn’t hesitate in answering; “Fine thank you, how are you”?

 The guy took this as encouragement and the conversation progressed from surface info exchange to personal in like 3 seconds. 

 He was the man who wanted to know. “New in town?” Yes. “Where do you live”? In the village. “House or apartment”? House. “Own or rent”? Own. The questions continued and I got that he was trying to pick me up, because the timber of the conversation got really personal very quickly. 

  I learned that he was living in a house with 12 people and missed his “privacy”. I learned that he was “single for a long time” and was actively looking. He got that I was alone as well and divorced for a long time.  

  The whole conversation at this point reached the point of ludicrous. But the odd thing is that if this had happened to me when I lived on Long Island I would have told this guy to “F**k off”. I would’ve been a lot more defensive and would not have even entertained the possibility of a genuine friendship. 

  Not that this was in any way going to progress as anything even faintly construed as a romantic liaison. No, the point I’m trying to make is that here in Cambridge, I find myself being more open and friendly. I am responding to the people and the down to earth personalities I am encountering.

  And there was no menace involved in this meeting. At least none that I detected. He was just a lonesome guy.  

  His lines were real winners though. I just had to laugh. He told me that how “much he misses laying with someone in bed” so I told him that is why I have a dog. He looked at me and said “Well that’s not the same thing”. Really?  His one redeeming feature was that he did fold his clean clothes very neatly, hung up his tee shirts on plastic hangers, rolled his socks together. 

  My laundry was dry and I stopped the dryer, stuffed my clothes into my laundry bag, gathered my things together and prepared to leave.

  My would-be boyfriend was also leaving and his last remark, “Wow we finished at he same time”,  hoping that observation would send me into the realm of a meant-to-be match made in heaven, just made me laugh at the absurdity of this encounter.

  Many women I’m sure would’ve pulled up the drawbridge almost immediately, not bothered to converse with this would be suitor, been insulted even in the “how dare you even speak to me” mode that many of us employ when we want to discourage encounters of this nature.

  Maybe I’m being too open but I trust my instincts. Always have. I mean they led me to this lovely little town I’m living in.

   And they led me to conclude that a direct conversation with a harmless guy was ok. Not a detrimental episode, but a funny absurd event in my life.

  

  

  

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Maiden Voyage

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Cambridge Recycling/Transfer Station

  

  So I made my first solo trip to the dump yesterday morning or the “Recycling/Transfer station in Cambridge. 

  I have never done this before. I was one of those people who had trash pick up in the town where I lived. 

  I never gave garbage much thought. You just filled up your garbage bags and put them out by the curb. End of story. If you had an item that was big like a TV or a piece of furniture, you just called the town and arranged for a special pick up.

  I’m told this option is available here in Cambridge, but I have a lot of trash  now. I didn’t want to wait. 

  I flattened and folded my cardboard boxes, I sorted my glass and plastic, I bagged my generic household trash. Instructions for all this was available on the Town of Cambridge website. 

  I’ve always been somewhat of an overachiever, so I followed the directions pretty closely. I didn’t want to be singled out at the dump for erroneous garbage sorting. While I don’t think this is a punishable crime, it would be embarrassing.

  I drove to the dump and saw the bins clearly marked for specific trash disposable including recyclables which was broken down into the subcategories previously mentioned. 

  I started to remove the garbage from my car. The attendant, Dylan, saw me and sprang into action, “I’ll get that for you, ma’am”, he politely said and quickly helped me dispose of my trash. 

  What a nice guy. Another source of surprise of my new hometown. I am still at the quiet amazement stage that life is different here. It’s not easier or harder, that remains to be seen. I’ve only been here a week today in fact.

But it’s sure nicer. And that counts for a lot.

  

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Pre Employment

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Greenwich Sunset

  Things have sure gotten complicated since 9/11. I’ve been out of touch with the updated requirements for employment since I’ve been at the same job for the last 20 years. 

  It’s a brave new world. I am learning day by day how much more complicated life is. You need a lot of supporting documents to prove you are you.

  Two major ID’s. A driver’s license isn’t enough. My pre employment for my last job consisted of a Xerox copy of my driver’s license and the first page of my phone bill.  That was enough. Now you need a passport or a birth certificate or a social security card in addition to the license. I used to have those things. I thought I knew where they were. I was sure of it. 

  I was wrong. I unpacked the last box and my hopes were dashed. Now I was supposed to start my new job tomorrow and I was woefully under identified. Am I really who I think I am? That opens up a whole avenue of existential consideration, but I don’t have time for that now.

  Getting a copy of your birth certificate is a simple process, but it takes a long time. I don’t have that kind of time.

  This morning when I got off the phone with Human Resources at the hospital, I was kind of panicky. I hate not being prepared, I hate feeling like a loser. 

  This was a lesson. I had learned so much and worked so hard to avoid this type of self denigration that I am so good at. I know that road very well and good Lord, here it is beckoning to me again. 

  I wasn’t going that way. I recognized the beginning of the fear and realized that getting a duplicate birth certificate is not the only solution to the problem. I just had to think about it for a couple of minutes and I came up with an alternate answer. 

  I could go to the Social Security office and get a duplicate card. There is an office in Queensbury. Off I went. I get to the office and there is no one waiting. No line. At all. I thought maybe they were closed for a minute, but no. I was in and out of there in 5 minutes with my receipt for the card which I can show Human Resources at the hospital and that will suffice until my card gets here. 

  It was trouble free and didn’t cost me a thing. 

  I feel ok about today. I succumbed momentarily to the panic, but I remembered to find my quiet place where logic and peace are. My strong center that I’ve been working on to allay those fears that used to rule my everyday life. 

  It’s getting better all the time.

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Life’s Rich Pageant

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Cemetery near Saratoga

  I spent my first full day and night alone in my new house today. We are getting to know each other, sniffing around cautiously like two dogs who meet on the street. There’s a lot to find out about this new house of mine. It was built in 1925 or thereabouts and there are a lot of quirky parts to her. 

  There are pieces still left from when it was built, like an old coal bin in the basement, and built ins from the thirties and a telephone shelf where you can just imagine the old rotary black phone sat. 

  Thursday August 2nd was a very long day. I got up at 4 AM to drive down to Freeport and meet the movers at the storage facility so we could pack the U Haul and drive up to Cambridge where my house sat empty and waiting. I get to Freeport and Christina and her husband and helper had the truck almost packed and it was only nine thirty in the morning. 

  I picked up my little dog from the vet’s where she has been languishing for the last ten days, closed out my account at my old bank and get back to the storage facility where Christina and company were waiting, truck packed and ready. 

  A good omen. So we proceed to drive up to Cambridge and we get here, my visions of truck malfunction and my stuff strewn all over I 87 were thankfully unrealized. 

  And the three of them moved all my stuff, put the bed together, and put the air conditioners in the windows and left. And there I was. Alone in my house for the first night. 

  I started to unpack and realized how tired I was and went upstairs to make the bed and lie down. But I couldn’t. I was all keyed up and excited and Sally (my dog) was running around the house like a nut, so I went downstairs and started to unpack the kitchen, chanting  to myself over and over, “one box at a time”. (Hi my name is Susan and I’m an obsessive organizer).

  So I kept at it until I was falling down tired and even Sally was ready to call it a night and went upstairs and laid down. It felt great to sleep in my own bed again. 

  I laid awake listening to the night noises of my new home. Guess what? It’s  beautifully quiet. I listened to the absence of man made noise and fell asleep to that. Not a bad thing.

  Friday morning. Up at 530, shower, dress off to Stewart’s for a cup of coffee and a roll and start unpacking earnestly. High powered. The kitchen was the first goal, and it was slow going, but I plugged along, and the day flew by.

  I had promised Jon and Maria to meet them at Bingo, so I quit at about 5, showered again and changed and sat on the sofa and…dozed off. I heard the text chime from Jon on my phone, I was late to Bingo, I jumped up, ran to the car, got to the Mansion in 3 minutes (small town, no traffic) ran in and took some good natured ribbing from Jon, sat between Joan and Alice to help them read their Bingo cards, realizing that I had forgotten my glasses  which made reading kind of tough and promptly called a false Bingo on Alice’s card. 

  The game stopped, the other players cleared their cards, thinking the game was over when it really wasn’t and OY what a hullabaloo. Then I did it again on Joanie’s card. And I was supposed to be helping them. Looks like I was the one needing the help.

  The games proceeded without incident from then on and Jon and Maria invited me to their house for dinner and I gratefully accepted so I followed them after stopping at home to pick up my glasses and cell phone, and I am driving up Rte 22 to the farm when a State Trooper pulls me over ‘cause I was going 65 in a 55. And guess where I was? In the driveway of Bedlam Farm. 

  Thinking that this was a bad dream, I get out of my car, meet the Trooper, who was very nice, asked me where I was going and I replied, “right here, Officer”, he told me to be careful and just let me off with a warning. Thank God. 

  So I go into the farmhouse, thinking what I strange confluence of events that has happened to me tonight in the space of two hours, but I wasn’t done yet. After a great meal and wonderful company, I got up to leave walked outside and slipped on the wet slate outside the door and promptly fell on my ass, breaking one of Maria’s clay pots. I was lucky though, I could’ve fallen on the cactus plants. A small favor life threw me. 

  This night then entered the realm of the surreal and I just had to laugh. I tend to take the long view when stuff like this happens to me because events of this nature are all too common in my everyday life.

  But three mishaps is way above average even for me. There is no rhyme or reason. It’s just my life. And I’m living it, every mistake and mischance and misadventure.  

  And I’ll take the casualties and calamities. It’s just part of life’s rich pageant. And they make some pretty good stories.

  

  

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Closing Day

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  The day has finally arrived and I am up, pacing and rattling around my motel room like dice in a Yahtzee cup. It is early, the sun hasn’t slanted across the parking lot yet. The birds have just started their morningsong.

  So many emotions flooding through me now at this moment. I don’t even know if I can put a name to them all, its like I held them all in check for so long, that now on the day that has been so long in coming, so anxiously awaited, they are champing at the bit and wanting to take off, galloping down the straightaway.

  I have to keep them reined in a little while longer, though they are unruly.

If I allow myself to think of the full import of what I have done in the past year and a half, the floodgates will open.

  And guess what, it happened as I was sitting here in my motel room with all this turmoil roiling around inside me, my good friend called me and trying to carry on a simple amicable conversation brought it all up and it boiled over.

  The horses left the stable and are running full tilt all over the landscape of my mind.

  Not surprising. I’ve held my head down for so long, trying to get everything done to make this move possible and now with nothing left to do, I can let go little bit and allow myself to feel the depth of emotion and joy I’ve held in check. 

  I am not unhappy. I have not cried like this in a long time and the last time certainly wasn’t for a happy reason for sure. Even now as I sit and type this my eyes are filling. 

  I met my realtor and she wanted to drive me over to the closing, but I asked her if she wouldn’t mind if I followed her. Tears were threatening and even though my realtor is a sweetheart, I needed to be by myself. It’s my process.

  She understood and it was easy, following her, I didn’t have to stress about finding this place. We get to the closing table and everyone was so friendly and we were having some good conversations. It went fairly smoothly, a few numbers needed to be corrected, but nothing major.

  Keys were handed over, checks were exchanged, papers signed and I arose from the table the owner of my new home in Cambridge NY.

  We drove back and I kept fingering the keys in my pocket and smiling to myself. I cried a little more, but they were good tears. It’s like my head was so full of joy and happiness, the tears just had to come. 

  I climbed the stairs and opened the door to my new home and introduced myself to the house. I told it how long I’ve waited to get to this point. I told it how many times I had to defend my course of action to my former friends.

I told it how when I first saw it I knew the two of us belonged together. 

  “My story now includes you”, I whispered to it. I stooped and ran my hands over the shiny wood floor, I needed to do that, my instincts told me to. I saw many happy times ahead for the two of us. 

  I started to cry again and the joy just kept welling up and spilling over, every nerve of  my being was feeling it, nothing to keep down anymore, nothing to police or minimize. This is what happiness is. I like it. 

  

  

  

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