Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
This story is part of a two-part series of stories from Alex, a woman who was raised in a house in Mt Pleasant during the 80′s and 90′s, and now, Tamara, the woman who lives there now with her family. The two families have an amazing set of things in common, and talk about a changing neighborhood through the lens of a beautiful old house on 19th and Kenyon St.
“My husband, Alex, and I moved to D.C. from San Francisco because the city was closer to Afghanistan and the foreign policy world. Alex had spent about six years in Afghanistan in the 90′s doing conflict resolution work. After 9/11, it became clear that his work was going to take him back, and he started traveling there regularly for work. Eventually, I joined him for seven months to make a documentary for PBS about the elections. It was so wild to be there, partly because I realized that the man that I married had this whole other life. He spoke the language, seemed to know everyone, and was so familiar with the culture. I mean, we landed in the country and he knew all of the guys at the airport. It was amazing.
“While in Afghanistan, I became pregnant with our daughter, and decided that I wanted to give birth back in the states. We went back to San Francisco, and then eventually moved here about six years ago. It was hard to get me out of San Francisco. I am a West Coast kid, and my parents, who are from New York, always talked about how they couldn’t believe that people actually stayed on the east coast. When we started to look for a place, our friends suggested that we live in Mt. Pleasant. We looked at about 40 houses in four days. Our realtor kept saying, ‘You might want to look at Bethesda. You have a daughter to think about.’ I am definitely not a suburbs person and did not want that. When we walked into this house, I thought it was perfect and said, let’s do it. Alex agreed.
“The day that we made the offer, a guy was shot in the neighborhood. That gave us some pause, but there were so many other great things about this place that made it seem like the right fit for us. The neighborhood is urban, but it is close to a park and full of families. I like that there is so much history here and the neighbors tend to be very tight night. The day we moved in, everyone came over to meet us and welcomed us to the neighborhood. In getting to know our neighbors, many of them have told us stories about the family that used to live here.
“Everyone here remembers the girls that lived here, Alex and Gabrielle, and their parents, Gerald and Mauricette. People remember Mauricette as the woman with the white dog who was always in the garden. She was a real convener of the neighborhood. Before she passed away, I met her when she came to D.C. She was such a radiant person and we realized all of these amazing similarities between us. It turns out that we lived in the same neighborhood in San Francisco, had both been in Afghanistan, and now shared the same house in Mt. Pleasant. This house meant so much to them, especially Alex, who came here to visit us after we moved in. It was nice to see her remember her childhood, as she walked through here. It is nice for me that she has such positive memories of this house, as one should with a childhood home. I hope that my kids will feel the same way about this house.
“When I moved here, my friends in San Francisco all felt really badly for me that I had to live in D.C. People always say that San Francisco is a great city to live in and D.C. is a great city to work in. I gave myself three years and then thought we might go back. When we passed three years, I wanted to stay. Many people feel like this city doesn’t stick with them. They just come for a few years and then take off. I was prepared to feel that way about D.C., but I can see myself staying here for another five years. I usually like to think about life in five year stints, so we will reassess again then. As long as we stay, we will live in this house. I love the neighborhood and am happy that my kids meet people from all over the world and feel part of a global community. I think that experience is worth a lot.”