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The difference two years makes

August 26, 2011

This time two years ago, I woke up every morning in a 20 x 20 studio apartment overlooking the Chevy Chase circle. Now, I wake up in the same room I woke up in when I was in high school. I used to make myself a pot of coffee before the sun came up, take a shower in a bathroom with bright yellow tiles, and stash my heels in my oversized tan leather laptop bag. Now, I wake up my sleeping Baby Girl, feed her, cuddle her back to sleep before I leave my bed. I rarely make coffee, my back-up shoes are in the passenger’s seat.

I used to wave at my doorman, who always joked that I arrived home at night well into his night shift and left in the morning before he did – he’d insist that a growing girl needs at least five hours of sleep. Now, a grinning, stretching, giggling girl grabs at the giraffe in her crib while I sing her songs about washcloths and getting dressed. She is so happy in the morning, even when her eyes are still asleep, her smiles say “Playtime!” I used to grin at my little space before I left, because it was mine and there were no roommates with whom I had to share the bathroom sink. On mornings Delta was there, I never minded sharing. Now, I have new roommates: my parents, my teenage sister and brother, all of whom want to be the first to hug Baby Girl when we join them in the kitchen.

I used to walk across the street to the Connecticut Avenue bus stop, take one of the 30 buses to Cleveland Park Metro Station, catch up with whoever I ran into on the way. I loved that city so much. I woke up feeling alive and energized, like there was important work to be done and I was going to do it. That’s how political junkies are made – whether its taking your place at a prize office from a winning campaign or pitching a new initiative to a committee/board/task force of men thirty years your senior – wherever you are going in this city, the place itself is a drug.

Now, I’ve overcome my deep-seated hatred of driving. Baby Girl loves her car seat, every ride is a little adventure, even though she knows where we’re going. I drive through our idyllic neighborhood, the branches of old cottonwoods forming a green arch over the road. Baby Girl stares out the window and into the monkey mirror on the headrest in front of her, even from my rearview mirror, she looks just like Delta. I drive through the wide, full corn field that separates my town from the next. There are McMansions on the hills, surrounded by trees far older than the housing development they’re in, it’s a beautiful contrast to the green sea below them, the hundred-year-old barn, and the dirt road that leads to the boys’ Catholic high school where I went to prom all four years. I was set up with four different dates, each even shorter than me until I told my friend Chris to start focusing on personality, that year my date was 6’2″.

In a span of two seconds I age the past decade over again.

It’s the beginning of my day, but I am as content as I used to be snuggling into bed with a bowl of ice cream. It isn’t age or marriage or motherhood that’s done that, it’s this place. Two years ago Delta was preparing to leave the District, I was ignoring the fact until the last possible second. Things moved quickly for us. Six months after we started dating, he met my family and I told him I’d follow him wherever he went. A year later we were engaged, he was off on business trips and I was weighing my options, trying to choose between the tiny apartment, a big new job, or a the day-to-day uncertainty of living on base OCONUS.

That all seems like a lifetime ago. It was. It was her lifetime ago.

Some mornings pass like a dream, then there’s the pause right before I leave her. She’s always so happy to see her teachers, her friends, all the toys on the play mat, and the giant mirror she makes faces into and waves at. I hug her, kiss her cheeks, and hand her to Ms. Julie. She smiles and waves back at me. In a few months I’ll have to take her from here. Away from everything she knows and into a world where mama stays home and daddy kisses her goodbye in the mornings.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived three lives in the span of ten years. Living in Europe will be a dream come true, it won’t be in a castle, but I’ll have my prince. No one ever told me the epilogue of those fairy tales, but my next life will be one.

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