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One of the reading lessons I teach my 4th graders is to always pay attention to the setting in a story. In some books, the setting is so important that it’s like another character. In the book of my life, Capitol Hill is indeed a very important character. I’ve been coming to this neighborhood to visit my godparents since I was 7 years old. On those visits, I used to play with their neighbors’ daughter, a girl about the same age as me. Three years ago this girl, still a friend of mine, sold us our first home here on the Hill. Life had come full circle.

This neighborhood feels like a small town. You go to the Market and recognize most faces. You run into friends at the Safeway and then again, 10 minutes later, at the park. We love living here, especially TC. When we were house hunting, he refused to even look at any other neighborhoods. We were 27 years old, living on one income while we expected a baby, and steadfastly determined to live in this neighborhood, even if we couldn’t afford anything bigger than a coat closet. I am so glad we made our home here.

Despite some of the racist, ignorant, and, quite frankly, stupid comments I’ve read about our neighborhood, our city, and our family in the past two months, I have never been more proud to be a resident of Capitol Hill. Over the course of this journey I have met the most incredibly kind and loving neighbors. I wish it hadn’t taken such a horrific tragedy to make those connections, but these people are living proof that our community is strong, vibrant, and resilient.

As TC gets closer to discharge, we have many decisions to make. Our future is completely different than the one we envisioned two months ago. If we ever left Capitol Hill, we assumed it would be because we were expecting another child or relocating for work. Not under these circumstances. Never under these circumstances. Now our future plans are guided by wheelchair considerations, therapy facilities, and a very uncertain financial future. How do I explain this to my husband? How do I tell a man who put himself through college and grad school, who has been employed since he was 15 years old, that at the end of his three months of hospital hell, he won’t be coming home? It’s heartbreaking.

There are many things to look forward to when TC finally gets discharged, but leaving this beautiful neighborhood (no matter how temporary the situation may be), feels like a real loss. Crime happens everywhere. Bad things happen everyday. Our situation has become very public, but many instances of violence occur in DC with little fanfare. It’s not Capitol Hill. It’s not even DC. It’s a social disease that we must stop ignoring. I’m not sure what the solution is. I assumed as a teacher I was doing my part to help, but clearly we must do more. Comprehending this type of hate is something I will meditate on for the rest of my life. There are no easy answers.

One thing I especially love about this community is the collective spirit to rise above – to be louder than the violence and petty crime – to be stronger and bond tighter – to be fearless in the face of adversity. I’m looking forward to sharing in that spirit this Sunday with the many friends and strangers that have supported us along the way.

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