I’m soaking up the sunlight glittering through the twelve windows in the room we’ve unimaginatively named “The Sunroom.”

The birds are hollering back and forth as the wind sends crisp brown and golden leaves to cover the still green grass right outside the sliding glass doors. The same breeze is also gently nudging the rope swing. Hanging from one of the giant black walnut trees in the backyard, it has a tiny teal disc tied to the bottom and I wonder aloud at the disappearance of tire swings. Have they gone the way of all good things like Jones Soda and Pop Rocks and Ballpark bubblegum?

I’m old. Also, I’m home.

Me with Zeb, the Daruma doll, from Ronne

Last Saturday, I took out the Daruma doll Ronne gave me two years ago. She told me to make a wish and fill in its left eye. I was to fill in its right eye when the wish was fulfilled. Last week, I took a Sharpie and sat in the sunlight in front of the fireplace in my empty living room and filled in the right eye as I whispered to myself, “I did it. I am here.”

My wish was for a home of my own. And that’s where I find myself.

Right now it’s all hardwoods, beautiful light and a lot of empty space. But it feels like home. It’s empty now, but it’ll soon be full. I’m sitting in a camping chair because the only one of us who has any furniture is Jason and he won’t be back from Charlotte with it for another three and a half hours.

The house is quiet. It smells like bacon and apples and smokey marshmallows mixed with fresh paint and spicy candle wax. The silence is gentle but I know it won’t last long.

There is beauty here but not perfection.

The plumber arrives in two hours because the pipes have backed up. One shower is unusable, the other is filled with an unsettling black sludge. The pipe to the washer overflowed last night, flooding the laundry room.

Soon I will have a man working through the actual crap under my new home while two other men unload all of their worldly possessions to fill it up. Lucy the dog will bound about through it all joyfully. Because that’s what she does.

Or maybe she and I will build a fire in the new fire pit and ignore all of them. We’ll roast marshmallows and watch the flames and I will throw her the stick so she can fetch until her heart is content.

Today is a quiet luxury; one I’m forcing myself to be present in.

My new job is exciting and challenging but it’s turned my intensity up to about five million. I’m learning more about high performing Melissa and high performing me needs to calm the hell down. I’ve had no less than five people say to me separately in the past week, “please breathe, Melissa.” The final one was Friday. Jim, the security guard at the gate of our new office complex. He’s a kind Southern man with a soft voice and he watched me with wonder and worry as I dug frantically through my bag Friday morning in search of my badge. It was nowhere to be found. “Take a breath, Miss. It’s alright. It’s Friday. No need to worry.”

When the office security guard is telling you that you might want to chill out a bit, you might want to chill out a bit.

Jason (aka Yarby) with Lucy in our neighborhood, Pleasantville

It’s my intention to lean into this life, to relax into it. But also I feel a bit like Lucy the dog racing about to learn my surroundings. I like them but am utterly weirded out by them at the same time. Jason and I took Lucy for a walk earlier this week and half the neighborhood came out to meet us. This was a new phenomena that was both charming and completely terrifying. After a thorough interrogation, they all insisted we should come over if we ever needed anything and reminded us that it would be our duty to provide candy for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. I mentally checked my medicine cabinet for the Xanax.

Jeremiah finally got home from his globetrotting last night and as we took a walkabout this morning, I told him about it. “We’ve nicknamed it Pleasantville.” I described each neighbor in detail, because they’d shared quite a bit about themselves with us. As we passed each house, I described the couple who lived inside with their matching name set and a small anecdote.

In Chicago, there were people in my neighborhood I never even saw. For two entire years.

The people of Pleasantville aren’t that way. They are present. And watching. “Oh, yeah, I saw you leaving earlier this morning when I was taking the dog for a walk. Heading to work early?” Uhhhhh… Neighborhood Watch don’t play here. They are in it to win it. Also, there’s an aggressive amount of eye contact. “Everyone is so friendly here. You see someone on the sidewalk and they smile and wave at you and want to know how you’re doing. I DON’T KNOW THEM,” I told him. “It makes me so uncomfortable.”

Jeremiah laughing because I'm a Yankee with weird notions about personal space

Jeremiah laughing because I’m a Yankee with weird notions about personal space

He laughed. He’s a Texas boy. He’s accustomed to this “Southern Hospitality” thing. “They’re just being nice, Melissa.” I side eyed him pretty hard. “Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable. How do I know their intentions? I don’t trust someone’s motives until I know them. Why are they being nice? Also, they’re human and not all humans are nice. That’s why Northerners don’t just talk to everyone. You slowly get to know someone and then you decide whether or not they’re a good human. You don’t just walk up to some rando on the street and start a conversation and hope they’re not going to steal your money or stab you or something.”

He seemed uncomfortable with my level of cynicism and for the first time in my life, I felt like I truly understood culture shock. Maybe that’s why Nashville is known for community, because you guys just talk to random strangers on the street, invite them in, and trust that they aren’t going to kill you or steal from you or traumatize the living crap out of you.

If Nashville is doing anything for me (and it is) it’s challenging me and showing me a hella lot of places I need to grow.

That’s why my first purchase was the fire pit. I don’t have a real bed or a dresser, BUT a fire pit seemed more important. I moved here for community. Yes, I have an amazing job that I love. Yes, I have a gorgeous house that is more than I possibly could have imagined. Yes, I GET TO LIVE WITH A DOG.

But I came to Nashville for the humans.

So, it felt like the other things could wait. I wanted the first thing I bought to be something that would help me gather people. It’s black metal and shale and I used my own tools and bare hands to screw it together. Because this is a life I’m building for myself and I want to invite people in. I’m not fantastic at it yet. Last night I put out a Facebook post inviting people and sent out some texts, but everyone had plans. Maybe I need to get more aggressive with my eye contact and less passionate about my fear of people’s intentions.

I’m going to trust that Kevin Costner was very on his game during the making of Field of Dreams and got it right; I’m building it so I’ve every faith they will come.

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1 Comment Welcome to Pleasantville…

  1. Lisa

    Melissa! I’ve been fascinated with the people and the community in Nashville, too. I’m secretly kind of jealous of y’all. I’d love to spend a little while there, getting to know people I mostly know from the internet. I hope I can manage it sometime.

    I also hope I can manage finding or creating that type of community in my new little city here. I love Lancaster, but it’s been hard to find people, y’know?


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