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The Coop

by Jean McGuire in My life

In March of 2018 I moved into my “new to me” home. Much like any adult with a modicum of intelligence, I hate to move. I powered through the move, bitching and moaning pretty much every step of the way. The only saving grace to the move? I truly intend for this house to be where I live for the rest of my unsupervised life.

I spent a small fortune before I moved in having the bathroom completely renovated and the kitchen partially renovated. In addition, the house received a new roof and new siding. It was a whirlwind of organizing workers in the month between closing and moving. I honestly remember little more than a blur of exhaustion during that time period.

I love my house, but Sugar the cat and I have had a number of adjustments in the past year. We’ve powered through and are completely settled into our routines. The new routines work for us, but we have definitely had our challenges.

When I lived in the city, my apartment was located in an area with a high traffic volume. On top of that, there was a large feral cat colony in the neighborhood. Those two situations did not allow me to feel comfortable letting Sugar outside. She was safer staying inside my small apartment, but the confinement had an adverse effect on her personality. She tended to live on the neurotic side of the spectrum while we were in the city.

It took a while after we moved to the new house, but Sugar eventually started spending most of her days outside. Our house is in a small pocket of town that feels like a small town, and there is very little traffic.  There are neighborhood stray cats, but so few I can count them on one hand. These two changed allow me to feel comfortable letting her be a cat who roams. Sugar’s a shy cat who has a distrust of humans and isn’t that fond of other animals, but she loves being outside. We’ve had to work out the signals for when she wants to go out and come back in, but she eventually trained me. I now know exactly what her different commands mean.

Moving back to the ‘burbs has been a mental challenge for me. My new part of town feels amazingly beige to me. I have purposely spent much of my life living and working in diverse environments. It is incredibly uncomfortable to be surrounded by groups of people who basically look just like me. For the first few months I found myself subconsciously counting the number of people of color I saw everywhere I went. The number was always shockingly low.

Fortunately, our new house is only a 15- to 20-minute drive to the more urban parts of town. I still work and teach in highly diverse environments which is where I feel the most comfortable.  I’ve gotten used to the lack of diversity near home, but even a year after the move I still notice how monochromatic the world is in my neighborhood.

I miss the energy of living in Midtown. There is a younger, hipper vibe in the urban neighborhood I used to live in. Yes, I realize I can no longer be counted as either of those things, but I still like the slight edginess of city life. I can feel the electricity in the air when I spend time in the city.

The flip side of this is that the neighborhood where I live now is quiet and peaceful. I rarely hear a siren blaring when I am home. I can walk through the neighborhood without passing a single homeless person crashed out on a bench with an empty bottle clutched to their chest. I can go sit in my backyard in the middle of the night without fear of someone approaching me. When I do this, I have a clear view of the stars in the night sky. I can take a deep breath and smell the flowers in my garden, not the stench of the dumpsters that lined my old neighborhood.

The new house has also been beneficial to my creativity. Shortly after I moved in a neighbor informed me that my house had started its life as a chicken coop. I suspect she hoped I would be upset by this information. Instead, I went inside my home and looked around. My dining room and bathroom are encased in cement block construction. It didn’t take much imagination to see the humble origins of my home. What did take imagination was the series of chicken paintings I did to honor this heritage. I have actually grown to love the story of my house and I plan on hanging at least one of my chickens in the house, probably on one of the walls that comprised the original coop. I also love the fact that the neighbor didn’t get the response out of me that she expected. I can be that way sometimes.

I would like to be able to say that the past year has flown by. Thanks to an unbelievably long winter, it doesn’t really feel that way. It feels like a year has gone by as the cat and I adjusted to our new space. However, it also feels like I am home. I hope for a very, very long time.

(Originally posted in March of 2018 on my old blog site, Jasmine Petals Thoughts.)



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