As a palm tree-worshipping Puerto Rican, I am not crazy about Minnesota winters … but this bitter season does sometimes trigger fond memories.
It was during a deep-freeze January that my wife, son and I moved into our current St. Paul home, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of our lives.
“That was five years ago, right?” I asked my wife today.
“No, dear,” she replied, “Seven.”
Wow. Time flies when you’re having fun.
We had no idea what to expect when we moved into our house. We had never owned a single-family home in a traditional neighborhood. We had only lived in high-rise apartments and condos up to that point, and adjusting to a residential lifestyle most take for granted didn’t occur overnight.
Dwellings with one floor atop another: What a concept!
We hoped to make friends in our new stomping grounds, but that did not happen right away. We were consumed with massive home-improvement projects, for one thing. But, over time, we found kindred spirits, and felt ourselves woven into the fabric of our neighborhood.
Our son also found friends, which we desperately wanted for him, and was one of the key reasons for our big move.
It was for him, after all, that I was persuaded to move out of our beloved, skyway-connected condominium in downtown St. Paul, where few kids live. It was for him that I traded shirt-sleeve commutes for a snow shovel so that he would have a better shot at finding buddies nearby.
It was for him that, spotting kids his age as drove down my new street one day, I leaped out of my vehicle (with what I now realize may have been a semi-crazed demeanor) and introduced myself to their mother and father, who are now our friends.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and dandelions for us in the new neighborhood. We have had our trials. The positives, though, have vastly outweighed the negatives. Besides, some problems are easily fixable.
This year, for instance, I got a snowblower. Now, instead of dreading blizzards, I look forward to them, I welcome them; they’re playtime.
I realized I was living in the right place when one of our neighbors, who is steeped in Puerto Rican culture, this Christmas gave us several bottles of her delicious homemade coquito, a kind of holiday eggnog much beloved among boricuas.
This gesture touched me beyond measure, and it is just one example of the many kindnesses our dear neighbors have shown us.
We’re home. My wife and I can say this with more conviction than we have ever felt (even though it was 10 below when I wrote this). We are home … and we intend to stick around for a long, long time.