The little big city.

CapitolhillI’ve been thinking lately about the intimate smallness of the big city that we live in.

I’ve lived three places since moving to DC 5 years ago, all of them scattered about Capitol Hill. Maybe it is this commonality, this rather small radius of lodgings and daily sights, this familiarity, that makes the city feel delightfully small. I’ve lived here longer than any one place since high school, and this big city has long felt comfortable and close. Now of course, it feels even smaller, as a whole bunch of our favorite DC people have all clustered our addresses on one several-block stretch of the same road on the edge of Capitol Hill. We walk to each others’ houses, see each other out and about, and enjoy the ease of visiting that I remember as a kid, running back and forth to my friends’ houses.

But it’s more than just that.

Somehow, somewhere over the past couple years, my routines in this city have turned it from a big place teeming with people into a small community that I recognize, even if I don’t know the name behind every face.

I’m talking about the man who dutifully stretches his slackline in the park, morning after morning, occasionally moving it to the sidewalk when it has rained the night before. I’m not sure what he does all day, Slackline Man, but I know that he starts his mornings off with the world’s least impressive tightrope walk in Lincoln Park. And he feels like an important part of my life, because he’s part of my little big city.

I’m talking about the guy who lives down the road and looks every bit the frat boy, but spends hours pruning his meticulous yard, caring for each peony bud and rosebush, making his tiny plot of land perfect. We smile and nod when I pass by, recognizing his superior greenthumb. And he feels like an important part of this neighborhood in this little big city.

I’m talking about the woman who works at the post office, who always holds up the line when I get to the front, reaching across the counter to rub my gigantic stomach and speculate on the baby’s due date and a million other tiny things. I ran into her walking home the other day, and she got to meet James, and it just felt normal to be standing in the rain with this almost-stranger rubbing my stomach and laughing with my husband. And it’s that same feeling you get from old church ladies, the ones who have seen it all and seen you grow, only it’s just my postal worker, a key member of my little big city.

I’m talking about the people I see in the park on a regular basis, recognizing which kids go with which parent, or which dog with which owner. I’m talking about the baristas and barre instructors and servers who I recognize and see out and about. All our routines move like concentric circles, our patterns overlapping and making us all comfortable backdrops in each others’ lives. I wonder if they feel the same way about the pregnant woman they see devotedly getting in all her Fitbit steps in endless laps around the park, pausing to take pictures of the same pretty houses over and over.

Sometimes it feels daunting to think of raising a kid in this city, worlds apart from where either James or I grew up. Worlds apart, but maybe not so different. Maybe there is just a little bit of the small town reality of our childhoods at play in this little big city.

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(PS: Weren’t you just hoping that blog silence meant that baby boy showed up early to surprise and distract us? YEAH- ME TOO. Insert all the “over-it” faced emojis, and the botmoji of the stuffed turkey with the human head, as I have been using those on repeat to communicate my feelings to any texts I get from friends.)



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5 Responses to The little big city.

  1. WomanLoved says:

    Lovely post. And hang in there, the last few weeks can totally drag, but when your son does make an appearance, (and yes, he will come when he is ready :-p ) it’ll be a if you were never without him. Enjoy your walking and snapping x

  2. E.H says:

    I miss this city so much.

  3. This might be my favorite post you’ve ever written–truly captured the essence of small town, big city DC. So good, Hannah!

  4. Lovely post. I’m in a photo challenge on IG this month and today’s prompt of pattern was in sync with your observation of the overlapping patterns of people’s lives. I love the bit about childhood at play in your city. Thanks for telling the stories of a few of the people you notice and see! I mentally do that in Boston but I may well write about them too. I love love love this post!

    I was just in DC last week and fell in love with the houses you describe, in a different neighborhood, and all the green. Can’t wait to see more of your motherhood observations. 💖

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