Sunday, August 09, 2015

Goodbye, My Second City

Although "Doctor Cleveland" is my nom du blog, I've been splitting time between two cities for years. Like many academics in my generation, I've struggled with the "two-body problem" as part of a couple with teaching jobs at universities in different places. We've had homes in both places, but I've been the primary commuter and my spouse has held down the home front. I've really been "Doctor Eastern Great Lakes" or "Professor I-90." Now, at long last, we have solved that problem. My trusty Buick has made the last of its round trips.

The bittersweet part is that being together means saying goodbye to one of our cities: the city where we were married and bought our first house, the city where we made our primary home. Today, the sale of our house in Rochester closed. I have come to love Rochester, and I will miss it.
The Kodak Building from the cheap seats

Rochester and Cleveland are not so different: they are resilient Rust Belt cities on the shores of Great Lakes. And both have been home. But Rochester taught me the charms of the small city. Hundreds of thousands of people, rather than millions, live in and around Rochester. It lacks the major amenities of a big city: no big-league sports, no Big Five orchestra, no Art 101 masterpieces in the local museums. But the scaled-down versions of those amenities make for a pretty good life. Rochester taught me the pleasures of Triple-A baseball and the local Philharmonic, the quirkiness of small museums, the pleasures of a pocket-sized amusement park tucked alongside the small beach. Aristotle writes that The Good is that which needs no addition, and there were many days and evenings when I had no desire for any finer place.

Guarding my study on a summer night
I will miss the Japanese maple in our backyard, and grilling dinner on a crisp September night. I will miss the mated pair of cardinals that nested nearby, and our evening strolls along leafy side streets. I will miss the annual Oscar party in fancy dress at the George Eastman house, and the Rochester Philharmonic's annual Messiah. I will miss our church, where we were married, and the pastor who married us. I will miss Sunday brunch at the Highland Diner, where we eventually became such regulars that we weren't always given menus. I will miss driving past the Kodak building late on winter nights, knowing that when I saw it I was nearly home.

Time to be going

 I will miss our first house. I will miss our dining room and the old two-way swinging door to the kitchen, I will miss the old butler's pantry with its 1920 woodwork, and the fireplace that my wife loved building fires in. I will miss coffee on our front porch, and the garden which managed (thanks to the foresight of the previous owners) to have something in bloom or berry almost all year round. I will miss our lilac trees and our holly bush. Most of all, I will miss the little window in the room I used as an office, which looked out into the enclosed porch that was my spouse's office. And most of all I will miss looking up from the sidewalk in the evening and seeing her in her well-lit aerie, looking down at something on her desk.

Near the end of summer
I will miss the dinner parties we had for friends. I will miss hosting our parents, both sets, for Thanksgiving in that dining room. I will think fondly of the friends who visited us in that house, for a weekend or an afternoon.

As we were doing our last weeks of yard work, packing away our garden tools until next year, I realized that one of the bushes in our back yard, which we had never identified and which had only just begun bearing its first green, immature fruit, was actually a peach tree. The little mystery fruits yellowed and reddened into small, half-grown peaches, too small still to eat.

As ripe as this summer allowed

The full ripening, and the taste of backyard peaches at the kitchen table, will not come until another year. But I was happy that I got to see that color on the tree, promising better things to come.

cross-posted from Dagblog.

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