On this day last year, Kirk and I arrived in our new home town, Charleston, South Carolina. We left New York City packed to the gills with clothes, bedding, the dogs, some food, and a rental truck filled with furniture and items picked up at his parent’s house along the way.
We drove into our subdivision. The dogs and I were in the Jeep, and Kirk behind me in the rental truck. I was anxious to see our house, that I drove a little too fast over the standard suburban community speed hump. So fast, in fact, that little Rhoda (a five month old puppy) bounced from her spot in the backseat into my lap. She was frightened and shaking, and although I felt horrible, I couldn’t help but laugh.
On the drive to the neighborhood, I saw lots of green … “we’re out in the country” green. Marshes and bridges and moss-covered tree canopies. I had no idea what it would be like living here. I was nervous that it would be “too country,” “too republican,” and all about fried food. I struggled with leaving my NBW home group, not having the subway to get around, and moving away from friends, family, and a city I had grown to love after eleven years. I looked forward to a large backyard, growing a garden, full-fledged grocery stores with wide aisles, less traffic, fewer people, and less stress.
We had seen pictures of the house on the internet. We google-mapped the lot and the neighborhood. We rented the house without having been in it before. I was excited and nervous. We parked in the driveway, looked our little yellow house, told the dogs this was our new home, unlocked the door, and walked in.
That first walk through was the beginning of a wonderful year. So much has changed in my life since we walked through that door. We endured a battle for Rhoda’s life, and I was humbled by the outpouring of financial support that our friends showed. She is the $20,000 dog and worth every penny. Victor has become a great friend to her and plays tug-o-war and chase. We went through financial ups and downs while Kirk attempted to secure continual teaching hours. We embarked on a creative journey and produced a successful Christmas production called “Santa’s Naughty & Nice Burlesque”. We formed a business partnership through Sprinkles Productions, transformed our garage into a studio, and Kirk started teaching fulltime here at the house. We established a new non-profit corporation — the Charleston Performing Arts Center — and assembled a board of directors to begin the process of building a cultural hub within Charleston; a performance space and a performing arts conservatory. And, more importantly, we got married. Not here, of course, but on a visit to New York.
Yes, I feel like I live in the country. But there is nothing better than leaving the windows open on a cool rainy night and hearing frogs croaking. Or to see Cardinals eating from the bird feeders hanging from the trees in our backyard. The beach is minutes away, and it has a very “Santa Cruz” vibe to it. Downtown is small and easy to navigate. There are green belts everywhere — we live adjacent to a tidal marsh that, at high tide, spills onto the roadway, and at low tide exposes the sickly pungent smell of pluff mud.
Yes, this town is too republican, but everyone I have met in Charleston has been nothing but accepting of me and Kirk. We have amazing neighbors, who are now friends, many of whom I met while trying to get rid of the many eggplant that I grew in the garden. We feel comfortable walking the dogs holding hands or hugging on the beach; although I will admit that I do look around sometimes … just in case. Kirk was unable to get his ID changed to his married name because South Carolina doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. And trying to get family insurance coverage was like jumping through flaming hoops covered in gasoline.
Yes, it sucks not having the convenience of the subway. Especially since we only have one car. If we’re out of milk, we can’t just run down the block to the Bodega to get it. I have to drive to the grocery store. And since I am going there, I might as well make a list of other things that we need so that I don’t find yourself in the same predicament soon. And then I find that I have spent forty-five minutes in the grocery store filling up the “buggy” (not shopping cart), when all I REALLY needed was milk. It’s also strange to know that many people here are against the installation of bike lanes or building / retrofitting bridges for bikes lanes. Everyone talks on their phone in the car and they FINALLY just banned texting while driving.
Yes, there is too much fatty food here. You can’t swing a cat without hitting something fried. But, the Lowcountry cuisine is fresh, richly textured, and delicious. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t eaten my fair share of biscuits and sausage gravy, y’all. Oh yes! There have been LOTS of biscuits with sausage gravy! There is definitely too much shrimp and fish here, but I can’t hold my distaste for seafood against Charleston.
Yes, there have been challenges and times where I thought — expressed — that we made the wrong decision. There were a few months of feeling landlocked and lonely without friends. But all that is past. A year has gone by and life here has become just that — life here.
I live in Charleston, South Carolina. And life is good.