I woke around five, to my own surprise, and was similarly surprised at how quiet it was. I live in a big city after all, and we are entering the season of leaving windows cracked at night to let in the late summer breezes. But at five the city was hushed, and even the breezes were quiet.
I woke early on a morning many years ago – I couldn’t tell you what time it was, but I can tell you how old I was, four quickly going on five – after the first night in the old house on seven quiet acres that my parents had recently bought. We had moved from a quiet suburban neighborhood to state road that led from the same suburb into the farmtowns to our north and east.
We had no neighbors. We had no streetlights. What we had was the rare but audible car zipping down the long, straight road at night, and when I woke that first morning I complained that the sound of airplanes had woken me up, not recognizing the whoosh of passing cars.
Now, that same bedroom is where I go when I need to get out of the city, when I need a place to sleep that is dark and quiet. It is a retreat, and if I wake in the morning to the smell of my mother’s blueberry buckle, then the retreat offers an added blessing beyond just the peaceful rest.
As soon as I left home I started searching for a new home. When I settled in South Boston ten years ago this fall, I became determined to make it my home. I needed to be rooted. Despite often looking over my shoulder at the roots that still linger in the quieter land of my youth, I have also wound roots into the ground here, through the cracks in the sidewalk and the postage stamp sized city parks that that break up the monotony of gridded streets and three-floor walk-ups.
There are things I put up with to be in this place: it is expensive and my apartment is small. I have to parallel park every night, and spots are scarce. The landscape is changing: the first of every month more twenty-somethings move in to flipped condos that their parents are paying for. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to afford to stay, or how much longer I’ll fit in.
At five on a quiet weekday morning my adopted home surprised me. No young partygoers were stumbling along and shouting, no one was rustling through the cans in the trash, no one was warming up a car with a rattling engine. It was quieter here than a city has any right to be. The streets would soon be waking up, as I was. Sound and light through the window would soon be changing. For once, I didn’t shut my eyes to try to block it out.