Raise your hand if you live in the DC metro area, but are not from the DC metro area. In my 16 years of living in this area, it has been much more common to meet new people who share this trait, than the true natives of the area. When my wife and I moved up here in 2000, we were young, recent college graduates looking for something new and something different than our southern roots. We both traveled through DC for spring break a year prior and really liked the vibe. I don’t think either one of us expected to be here beyond our young adult years, but we really grew to love the opportunities available, the seasons, and how many people we met that came from somewhere else. We decided to stay.
When Sheri and I decided to start a family, we knew the biggest challenge before us: no grandparents within a 12 hour drive. While we have always missed our family since living in Northern Virginia, we REALLY miss them now.
We are not lost or planning the move back, however. Over time and through several different involvements in our neighborhood, recreational sports league (Washington Area Frisbee Club), alumni friends that migrated with us from Florida, clients, church, and jobs, we have learned to make our way with the support that friends and other families can provide; most of whom have also come to the DC area from somewhere else.
Let’s be clear… it is not the same as having grandma down the street! Nothing can replace that kind of devoted family support. It requires symbiosis. Giving is obviously important as the support provided should be mutual. One of our recent practices is to take turns hosting Sunday dinner with our dear neighbors and friends. And just like family, the formalities are checked at the door. Another tradition we started as kids came along is to adopt close friends with familial titles like ‘Aunt Kathy’ or ‘Uncle Paul.’
For all of you settling into an area from somewhere else, there are plenty of opportunities to find your local family. Get involved on local social networks like a neighborhood Facebook page and Nextdoor.com. Seek out organizations that suit your exercise, recreation, philanthropy, and spirituality. Go to a local alumni meeting or game-watching party.
After 16 years, this definitely feels like home. And from our kids’ perspective… this will be where they call home as they grow towards adulthood. Let's hope I can remember the sentiments from this blog when I plead for them to stay!