We've had some really good times here, we've had some fun. But I won't pretend it hasn't been a rough year. We still miss the island. We're still trying to find our place here. And of course, one of the move-motivators was a family tragedy we still haven't gotten over, or even accepted. That'll never go away.
Max is the one who has settled in most happily. He had a good year at school, has friends, is looking forward to starting high school in two weeks.
Our biggest problem – in the category of "fixable problems" as opposed to "this is just how life is" – was finally resolved a week ago. We got a car.
We had a car. The Beast. I've written about it. But The Beast went the way of all things. A blown head turned it into a former car just after the first of the year. It was going to cost more to fix than we'd paid for the thing.
So for more than six months we walked everywhere. The grocery store was only half a mile away, but that required you to think while you were shopping about what you'd be able to carry home. If you bought the gallon of milk, did you also want to buy the five-pound bag of flour? And if something was out of our foot range, we either had to figure out the bus that got us closest, or we didn't go. On a few rare occasions we took taxis. Mardi Gras was one of those times, and well worth it.
Something I had been meaning to write almost when we first got here was how, on St. Croix you always knew you were on an island. There were few places where you couldn't see the Caribbean. There were some places where you could see the north shore, then turn around and see the south. It wasn't a bad thing, it was kind of cool. But you knew where you were, what the boundaries, the limits were. We even went through a period there without a car, and I could still get almost everywhere I needed to go for work or family. I actually enjoyed the taxi vans, and one of the world's most beautiful beaches was only a 10-minute walk away.
Almost as soon as we got here, I could feel the difference. Driving to the store or to pick up Tori, I could feel the continent under me, feel the road spreading out, leading everywhere. I didn't need to drive to Minneapolis or Denver or Charleston, but I could feel them there, under my wheels. Then I lost the wheels and lost that sense of connection. Unlike when we were on the island, we felt kind of trapped.
It was even harder for Tori. She was subbing in the Jefferson Parish School District, and not having wheels severely limited where she could work. It had to be a school within reasonable bike distance (we got a bike at a yard sale, five bucks. It took a week of work to make it rideable. It's not a comfortable bike but it got her there.)
Getting anywhere always took the kind of planning that landed the Allies at Normandy, and turned a 20 minute trip to and from the bank into a three-hour expedition involving two buses and some walking. We've missed lots and lots of things. Basically, if it wasn't close, we couldn't do it. Even the library was just outside our range. That was a killer.
This month we finally got a little ahead of the game. Not much, but we were able to get a cheap used car that we think will serve us for a while. Doesn't look like much, but it runs great. It's used, but it was lovingly used. It even came with a name – the guy who sold it to us said his mother called it "Linda" – pronounced the Spanish way, "leen-da" which of course is Spanish for pretty.
Now, if we want to get on the road and visit our friends in Houston, we can do that. Or escape a hurricane, or at least get into the city for a festival or a show or just dinner. Just knowing that makes you feel a little freer.
In the 10 days since we bought Linda we have been to the library twice, other grocery stores (the close by one has good prices but crappy produce,) we made it to several garage sales (good story I'll tell Wednesday.) Saturday we went looking for a farmers market – this is not apparently farmers market season down here, we struck out at three locales, but we had a nice drive.
Sunday afternoon Tori took Max and his girlfriend Lauren to a workshop for young musicians. A handful of kids got to work with a professional jazz trio from a New Orleans club, learning blues riffs, then jamming together. They had a great time and he felt like he learned a lot. We'll definitely be going back. Tori's also talking about a trip to the coast. We've been told Pensacola is only a two-hour drive. She really misses the beach.
So we've been here a year, but we've been sort of locked down for half of it. Now we're ready to spread out a little. Get back into the swing of things, get our groove back a bit.
I don't have to go to Minneapolis or South Carolina, but I can feel them again.