I surrender. I've decided that I belong in an exhibit of rare and curious beasts.
I really didn't think much of it when, at a party of recent Washington immigrants, I heard that no one in Washington is really from Washington. Everyone says that. I was somewhat embarrassed at the stir I caused when I admitted that I was from Washington, and, further, that I had lived most of my 26 1/2 years here. (I confess readily to the sin of metropolitan fudging -- I was born in the city, but lived in Silver Spring.)
But now I learn from an article in Style Plus that "Washington's a hard town to call home."
I never had any trouble.
Of course, I didn't always realize Washington was unique. When I was a kid, I was mystified by all the hotels and motels. Who would ever want to come to Washington? The Capitol was not the seat of government, but "the place where Daddy works." (I'm fudging again: My father actually worked in the then Old Senate Office Building.)
I liked the Capitol. It had neat subways (first the old, doorless cars with high-backed, wicker seats and later, sleek metallic cars with padded seats), a maze of basement tunnels, and -- best of all -- chocolate sundaes in the employe cafeteria. I was still puzzled over (and, I confess, somewhat disdainful of) the tourists lined up in the Capitol Rotunda.
My parents came to Washington in wartime for six months. They left their furniture in storage in Chicago. My mother didn't really care for the slow, Southern pace of Washington, and she thought that the people here were unfriendly. She was looking forward to going home to Chicago.
Thirty-seven years later they're still here. The mortgage is paid off on the only house they and I have ever lived in. My mother has a network of friends across the city, constructed mostly through volunteer work for church and schools. My father has retired to the tennis courts and plays 4 to 6 hours a day.
My brothers live with their families in Columbia and Rockville. My god-parents live across the street from my parents. The parents of the girls I once played with still live next door. My former Girl Scout leader lives a few blocks away.
I was baptized, received first communion, was confirmed, and was married in the same parish. My mother still shops at the same Safeway, though the building has changed with the years.
I remember when we used to go into downtown Silver Spring to buy clothes, before Wheaton Plaza was built. I remember playing with a friend in a wide field, where houses were razed to make way for the Beltway.
I did go away to college and for a short stay in law school. (One of my law-school classmates was born two days before I was, in the same hospital. Perhaps we were neighbors in the nursery. And two of my college roommates ran into one of my high-school classmates in Japan.) When I married I moved to Reston -- for seven months.
My husband is not a native of Washington and I sometimes wonder how he feels about being caught up in these small-town entanglements. He never knows when he's going to be introduced to some grade-school classmate's mother, high-school friend, or neighborhood pal. He's developed a friendly, if long-suffering smile.
Even I am sometimes amazed. My mother is often introducing -- or reintroducing -- me to people who knew me as a baby, or knew my brothers in high school. I went to get my hair cut one Saturday and discovered the person cutting my hair was a friend from my summer swim team.
Now that we're back in Silver Spring, we've joined the YMCA where I took swimming lessons one winter as a child. We see R-rated movies in the theaters where I saw Disney films.
When we look for a house -- isn't everyone in Washington always looking for a house? -- we'll probably look in Silver Spring.
That way we'll be close to my roots and family, to all of our long-time friends. Who says Washington isn't home?