Left: the house I just sold.  Right: the house I just moved into.

The latest in the continuing saga of my move to a smaller house and garden is that it’s DONE.  My lawnless, complicated garden and cute house sold in three weeks to people who’ll love it as much as I did.  (Well, one hopes.  I’ll be checking back.)  We’re closing this week but I’ve already moved, and will definitely be ready by spring to create my next garden.  Blog stories to follow.

But right now I’m frankly all about the interior.  Just choosing paint colors for seven rooms is enough to keep me awake until (last night, for instance) 3:00 a.m.  But I’ll resist the urge to blog about home decorating and veer off-topic just a bit today to reflect on the move.

House-wise, the change isn’t so dramatic – a move from 1,300 square feet not counting the basement to 1,070 counting every possible inch.  For one person that’s plenty of space – or it will be as soon as my new screened-in porch is completed.  The big, important change is in the size of the garden I have to take care of, particularly the number of trees that drop their leaves onto my garden (from 40+ to 2).

But the change I’ve noticed the most in my first week here is – I’ll be frank- the move to a less affluent neighborhood.  You can’t tell from the modest look of my former house in the above photo, but it’s situated in what’s become one of the more upscale close-in suburbs of D.C.  When I moved to Takoma Park in 1985 it fully deserved its nickname of “Tacky Park”, thanks in large part to the ubiquitous chain-link fencing, but today every bit of tackiness has been renovated away, and home prices are out of sight for all but the highly paid or luckily born.

My new neighborhood was created in the ’30s as a model of low-income housing and has managed to stay surprisingly affordable.  The residents are a mix of people who renovate and pretty-up their yards and let’s just say people who don’t.  So what I’m missing most so far is the prettiness of my old neighborhood – prettiness that doesn’t come as easily in neighborhoods with affordable housing.

Where I spent high school, on Westham Parkway in Richmond, Virginia. Not my happiest years.

Moving to a less upscale neighborhood has gotten me thinking about a similar move that my mom made back in the ’70s.  She was living in the house pictured above, situated in one of Richmond’s better neighborhoods.  My family had moved there from a modest middle class neighborhood at her urging because she wanted to live among a “better class of people”.  Yes, she actually used those words.

Well, we never even learned the names of our higher-class neighbors.  And I was miserable at the higher-class high school I had to attend because of the move. 

But my mother loved the house and resented like hell having to sell it and move to cheaper housing after the divorce.  She bought a condo in this community where she shared the building below.  She’d been forced to both downsize and downscale.

But the joke was on her because this modest neighborhood turned out to be so friendly and socially active, she had no time to fret the loss of status or the loss of her husband, for that matter.  Living closeby, her new neighbors not only knew each other; they partied, played bridge obsessively, and gossiped at the pool all summer long.  My mother’s years here were the happiest of her life.

Similarly, my new community is more modest but much more social.  I’ve already joined the aquatic and fitness center and hope to be gossiping with the best of them before too long.