As Jane Eyre says, Reader, I married him. Or should I say, I married them? After all, we are three — I, my husband, and our daughter, little Lemon. There is much to write about our marriage, our new home, the life we are settling into together. I will get to all that in due time — after all, even my husband sends me textmessages pleading, “Update your blog!!!!!!” (with multiple exclamation points, no less, the blasphemer).
It’s July now; there are flowers everywhere, and the sun is bright and warm when I go for hikes on the trails outside my front door. Finally, I think — finally, this condo has become home; finally, I am able to walk the hills overlooking the water here without missing the apartment and water-views and marina I left behind in the weeks before the wedding in late January. I haven’t gone far — 25 miles is nothing, distance-wise. But as I wrote three years ago:
The East Bay is not the South Bay is not the North Bay is not the Peninsula is not the City. One can drive for an hour over half a dozen different interstates and highways and still be in the San Francisco Bay Area — and yet not feel at home in one part even while another part is familiar and comforting.
Regardless of its myriad geographies and communities, California as a whole is my favorite, though, and I am lucky to live here, and to not be asked to give this up.
It was a prescient statement, although I didn’t realize it then. When I met my now-husband a year after that post, I was relieved that we both agreed my California would be home. After I moved this past January from the apartment I had shared for almost 1.5 years with my best friend/cousin, Somayya, the only things I regretted were the fact that I was leaving that beautiful place behind, and also that — except for hundreds of photographs on my harddrive — I had neglected to properly document, in writing, my life during the time I lived there. So, this is an attempt to remedy that, and to explain why I found myself in tears during the most inexplicable moments in the weeks leading up to the wedding.
The tears — oh, those were interesting, especially from a woman who hates crying, particularly in front of other people. But there were tears at the post office, in the shower, while packing and loading and moving endless boxes, in my car while driving, and in between phone calls to various wedding vendors. Even as I excitedly looked forward to my wedding, and to the next chapter of this beautiful love story I had helped create and cultivate, I couldn’t help but mourn the apartment I was leaving behind. It took me weeks to understand that it was okay to mourn, and perfectly allowed. This was, after all, just the latest in a series of homes I have loved and left behind, only to eventually, blessedly, find yet another place to love. If I still falter when asked, “Where are you from?”, it’s because I now need both hands to count all the places my hearts expands to hold.
I am falling in love with where I live now (that is a story for another post), but there are things I will always miss about the 1.5 years in the last apartment, starting with the stunning sunset from our balcony, five floors up:
And I miss this marina being only a stroll away:
I miss the $5 Tuesday movie nights at the theatre right across the street, and the various occasions on which I ordered my movie ticket in a Desi accent (this was always particularly hilarious on the nights during which the theatre was playing Bollywood films). I miss how our apartment was always filled with friends dropping by; the fridge and pantry were never empty, nor was our capacity to welcome and feed all who showed up on a whim. We had extra pillows and blankets and towels, and even a twin-sized mattress we’d drag out of the closet for friends to sleep on (sometimes, they stayed for months. We loved when they did that). I miss cable television (yes, I do!), and sprawling on the cream-colored leather couch with my feet on the coffee-table, watching endless episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (don’t judge me; this is also the apartment where I first learned who the Kardashians even were), the Real Housewives, Castle, and The Mentalist.
I miss our beautiful clubhouse, where we hosted the party for our adorable little nephew M’s first birthday (Elmo-themed, no less). My favorite boots have red dots inscribed into the cognac-colored leather, a vision that still makes me smile because I remember those dots dripped down from the red dye I mixed into the frosting for M’s cupcakes.
I miss the fact that we were on the fifth floor and in a corner unit; we had enough privacy to keep the blinds open all day and all night, so that the apartment was always light-filled during the day and star-filled at night. I miss the Trader Joe’s down the street, where I bought brie cheese and sunflowers and challah bread; the Target where I, well, bought too many things; the Pak&Sav (ugh! that spelling!) where I had to bag my own groceries, just as my father had always taught me to do from the time I was a child. I miss my beloved Berkeley being simply two streets away, all the coffeeshops in my vicinity, the fresh gelato at my disposal.
Even my arch-nemesis, the rain, could not deter me from enjoying the neighborhood. Feet squeezed into rainbow-striped rubber rainboots, I’d wander down the street, kicking up soggy leaves and jumping through every sloshing puddle I encountered.
That was the apartment where I lived as I shifted more deeply into my relationship with the man who became my husband, and with little Lemon. There were endless late-night Gchat conversations while I sat in bed, textmessage exchanges as I cooked, Skype sessions where I twirled my laptop around so they could see the decorations, the furniture, the balcony-views. I miss driving by the downtown Berkeley park and remembering, This is where I used to sit on my lunch-breaks and call him from, when I first met him. It was the apartment to which he sent me flowers for the first time — yellow ones, of course.
I remember practicing (terrible) cartwheels with Lemon on the lawn of the apartment-building across the street, and sprawling on the grass overlooking the bay with her and her father. The first time we went there together, I was charmed by how their relationship manifested in physical closeness such as mock-wrestling and foot-races (she won, because she always took off before the signal to “Go!”). Laughing, I video-recorded them, knowing I would want to remember those moments later.
I found hearts on the stairs outside the apartment:
And faith and refuge inside, even when I wasn’t sure where my story was going:
My sister and friends rallied around to organize a stunning and meticulously-planned bridal shower for me, and lent their assistance for my handmade wedding invitations as well as the chaos of anything&everything related to wedding-planning. Without them in my corner, I would have lost my sanity long ago.
That apartment was a testament to our friends and loved ones. Somayya and I took second-hand items from our parents (lamps, dishes, rugs) and gifts from our friends (paintings, toaster oven, blender, food-processor, microwave, television, yet more dishes offered by a friend at the masjid), mixed them with IKEA furniture and lucky consignment-store finds (barstools, pirate-ship painting, coffeetable decorations) and our own individual creative touches, and turned the bare place into a bright, vibrant home. Whether sunshine spilled through the windows or rain tapped on the glass, we were warm and safe and happy — even in the beginning, when we didn’t have furniture for months and simply ate all our meals seated on rugs on the floor.
More than anything else, that home was a testament to my friendship with Somayya. During college together, we used to speak wistfully about how wonderful it would be to be next-door neighbors when we grew up. Years later, we went one better — we received admission into our respective graduate programs (at different schools in the same city), and took the leap into living together.
Together, we joined the gym across the street, we cooked and ate and kept our fridge well-stocked, we laughed and shared stories, we decorated and re-decorated, we studied and wrote academic papers, we procrastinated and then gave each other swift kicks in the ass, we made friends with the maintenance men and enemies of the snobby manager, we split bills and shared life.
For a woman who loves sunshine and another who loves rain, we have meshed our lives together in an impeccable way. This is the blessing that occurs when family are friends, and friends are family. I am so grateful to have had that opportunity — to live where I did, with whom I did, and to have shared that experience with everyone who crossed the bright, Welcome-matted threshold into our home.