Messenger in a Bubble
How we ended up living in Chardon could be coincidence but wasn’t. In either case we were pragmatic about it. We needed to live within thirty minutes of the airport, a requirement of Sean’s new job. We had a certain sum of money we could reasonably afford to spend. We wanted a house that was larger than 250sf, the size of the Airstream we’d been traveling in for the last year, but smaller than 1,800sf as we’d purged nearly all our belongings and owned next to nothing. That was it. We must’ve looked at a hundred houses. Three we saw in person. One was in Chardon.
The afternoon before our showing we drove slowly past the house on Ferris Avenue a couple times. It had potential. The street exuded an inherent pleasantness. We circled the Square and noted the gazebo. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a well-designed gazebo. It was January and snow blanketed it’s peaked roof. Half-melted ice sculptures ringed its edge. In my mind’s eye it was bathed in sunlight and dressed with patriotic bunting. It hosted barbershop quartets, first kisses, senior year photo shoots and marriage proposals. I’ve seen every episode of Gilmore Girls at least fifteen times. Important things happen in gazebos.
It was Sunday and nothing was open on Main Street yet we didn’t want to leave. We wanted to get a feel for the town. In 24 hours we’d be south-bound on I-71 and Sean would leave for a month of training. There was a sense of urgency but also excitement, like holding a lit firecracker. We found our way to Maple City Taps and sat on the edge of a crowded dining room lit dimly by galvanized bucket pendants and neon beer signs while entire families yelled at football on seven different TV’s. Forget that we hadn’t actually seen it, the house on Ferris Avenue was all we could talk about. We ordered drinks and debated home improvement ideas all the while dancing around the question whose answer we both knew but wanted the other to say first. Would we buy the house on Ferris Avenue in Chardon? Is the gazebo white?
On March 8th we drove 9 hours from my mom’s house in Tennessee towing a modestly sized cargo trailer largely occupied by Sean’s motorcycle and a washer-dryer set. We arrived to a foot of snow in Chardon and literally no accumulation anywhere else. We’d entered a snow globe. Having no furniture to contend with and nothing else better to do we flipped the globe over, shook vigorously, wound the knob and listened to the bell songs of Pilgrim Christian Church overlaid with the soothing purr of snow blower engines while eating Congin’s Pizza on a table made of U-haul boxes. Life was strange, strange and good.
For the past 11 months my main goal in life has been to familiarize myself with the snow globe and become one of its eccentric characters. Well, a girl can dream. Instead of pushing the boundaries I’ve reinforced its edges making connections with more and more residents in an ever widening circle whose outer reaches on the average day stretch all the way from Chardon Middle School to the Woodie Brook shopping center and from King Kone to Home Depot. It’s a bubble I never want to leave unless to visit family out of state or when I’m in desperate need of something from Homegoods in Men-TOR. Call me old fashioned but I’d like to get to know my butcher, my baker, my maple syrup purveyor, my local mayor, my nextdoor neighbor, and what the hell, my pastor, too, even though it doesn’t rhyme. To know them is to love them.
There’s a secret underbelly to Ferris Avenue but you didn’t hear it from me. We exchange covert messages in plates of baked goods, packets of taco seasoning, rolls of tin foil, half empty bottles of children’s Ibuprofen and between sheets of multi-colored construction paper. Everyone plays their part. Having lived on the street longer than all of us combined, Bob and Beth are in charge. John is handy and owns tools. Laura has a playset, Kristin, a trampoline, Jules, a fenced yard excellent for trapping wild things, Kristin-at-the-corner maintains the sanctity of Ferris Avenue with her ferocious guard dog and a cat willing to risk life and paw laying across the double yellow lines to keep out the riff raff. Now that’s dedication. I have a printer and an iron and a daughter nearing babysitting age. These make me useful and versatile.
But in all seriousness, as if that’s possible, we do take care of each other. We watch over each others houses through finger printed picture windows, noting the sounds of cars pulling out of driveways relative to the sun’s position in the sky and think morning shift or date night. I’m up with Bob at 4am. Lights turn on one by one as if to say hello neighbor and good morning. I warm up my muscles as he warms his passenger van which he uses daily in his job as an Amish taxi driver. In the evening I read to the kids before tuck-in and turn on the hallway light signaling to Beth we’re headed to bed.
The snow globe is the place from which I write, from which experiences and inspiration are derived. It’s become part of my new identity. Ray Oldenburg says, “If an individual ‘has’…a place it also ‘has’ him.” If that’s true then you can have me, Chardon. Sing to me your sweet song. And when it begins to get a little too comfortable around here, go ahead and give that snow globe a good shake.
Now, how we ended up living in Ohio is an entirely different story. I’d be happy to tell it to you. Another time.
PS. Seriously, can someone please make a snow globe of Chardon Square??? We’re missing out on a very lucrative opportunity here!