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November 2017

Month One

It’s been a month since we began our new life in Washington, DC. We have definitely faced challenges (more than we anticipated) as we navigated a totally different way of life in our continuing-care retirement community. The people who warned us that it would take six months to feel at home here were probably right because we still think “Cambridge” when we say “home”.

We do love our apartment. We have enough of our former home’s stuff to make it feel like ours. We don’t have to run up and down stairs for everything, and when something isn’t working, we can just call maintenance.

Since one meal a day is included in our fee, if we are not out, we eat dinner in the common dining room, during fixed hours that are earlier than we are used to. I don’t miss asking Peter what he wants for dinner every day. On the other hand, I liked our cooking better.

The people here are, in general, very accomplished and friendly, but they are not our friends of fifty years (and never will be). The District of Columbia is harder to navigate than Boston was. We are, however, getting quite skilled at finding out way to our grandchildren’s house.

The weather has been lovely and warmer than we are used to. That’s a big plus.

On the other hand, we don’t have three different grocery stores within walking distance, and it’s been difficult to find one we like.

This is still a work in progress.


We expected our first Thanksgiving in Washington, DC to be slightly different just because it wasn’t in Cambridge. And because our new apartment is not big enough for cooking and serving a feast, we had it at the kids’ house in Maryland.

Our daughter-in-law Katrina and I shared the preparation, and that worked out fine. Although it felt strange to be in a different venue, it included the people we love and our traditional menu. (And there was no eight-hour drive from Maryland involved for Jeremy and family!)

There was one amazing addition. Seth and Jeremy had videotaped interviews with many of our dear friends from home, saying good-bye and sharing memories of their long friendships with us. It was a complete surprise, one that took a lot of planning and a lot of driving around Greater Boston by Seth to interview everyone.

It was a bittersweet Thanksgiving because seeing our friends on the video made me miss them. But I shall cherish that video and those friendships forever.

Family Ties

When we rented a house in Bethesda, Maryland last January to “try out” living near our grandchildren, our cousin Judy found it for us through her neighborhood listserv. Having a first cousin nearby was a huge plus.

More recently, we learned that a first cousin of Peter’s, whom we last saw decades ago, lives within walking distance of our new retirement community (walking distance that involves some hills, but still...) She was the brave woman who shepherded me through my nightmarish day at the DC Registry of Motor Vehicles. And she is now my friend.

Today we celebrate a new tradition, our first Thanksgiving at our children’s home instead of our own. We are in a new place far from what was our home of over fifty years, and there are challenges associated with that. But Peter and I have managed (at our advanced age) to make this happen, and we are grateful to be able to start a new chapter together.

Where's the Pastry Cutter

A pastry cutter was an often-used part of my mother’s arsenal of baking tools. She used it to combine flour and butter for her spectacular piecrusts.

I have a pastry cutter. I use it about once a year. I know it moved with us from Cambridge to Washington, but when I needed it yesterday to make a Thanksgiving dessert, I couldn’t find it.

I have a smaller kitchen here, and it’s not clear where I put everything as I hurried to get rid of boxes. But I did find my pastry cutter, along with all the other tools I needed for my apple-cheese crisp. And now Thanksgiving dessert #1 is in the freezer.

I suppose I’ll know where “everything kitchen” is when we’ve been here for a year, even if it’s in the closet in the den. Which is where I found my pastry cutter.


We chose to live in the District of Columbia knowing that, if we wanted to drive here (and we did), we would have to deal with the nightmare of the D.C. Registry of Motor Vehicles. My goal was to get it done in one visit.

In Massachusetts, there was a registry office ten minutes from our house. With free parking. And I knew how it worked. In D.C., it’s in a busy part of downtown (Georgetown) in the lower level of a shopping mall that has no parking.

Our cousin Andrea offered to accompany me. She has lived here for years. She went on-line to make sure we knew exactly what to do and called the Registry to make sure she had it right. I, too, looked on line. I brought my passport and two items with my new address, my car title, my passport and a ton of other stuff. But it wasn’t enough. They refused to accept my second proof of living here so I had to go home and print a credit card bill that I haven’t received in the mail yet to serve as a second item with my new address.

I had to wait in line for an hour and a half, but when it was over I had a temporary driver’s license and license plates. Then I had to drive to another part of Washington to get my car inspected. Thanks to my GPS, we got there, and miracle of miracles, there was almost no wait.

So, at the end of an exhausting day I have an inspection sticker, license plates and a driver’s license for the District of Columbia.

Yes, it took two visits to the Registry and lots of waiting. But I got it done in one day.

In the District of Columbia, that’s a triumph.


The other day I received a comment about our big move from 70-something reader, Rachel Gallagher. With her permission, I share her thoughtful words.

Dear Judy,

I have followed your moving with great interest and appreciation. Ten or so years ago I moved after four decades of living in the same place. The moving preparation was much as you described it. Now comes the hard part!

 I want to urge you and Peter to cut yourself a lotta slack. 

You may feel all turned around. 

You may burst into tears in the supermarket. 

You may feel confused and disoriented, especially if you awaken

in the middle of the night with a compulsion to find an object

that in your mind is where you once kept it in the old house.   

You may feel like a refugee in your new house.  

You may feel a strong urge to take the next

plane back to Cambridge. 

Don't worry. You're in mourning, and time IS on your side in this

case. The first six months are the hardest!

It will pass. You will acclimate. 

And you will have the joy of proximity to your 





Thank you Rachel.

Getting Around

Thanks to Google maps, we are able to get where we are going in our new city. As we exit our retirement complex, Google always tells us to “Head southwest on Broad Branch. In 500 feet, merge onto…” That much I know by now.

But I did miss the turn back into the driveway once. Peter gently asked, “Aren’t we going home?” after I whizzed by.

Getting around is different here. We are in a lovely neighborhood with lots of single-family homes and plenty of kids on the street. But there are four-way stop signs on most corners, and I’m not used to having to stop so often.

On our first long walk to get to know the neighborhood, we found the recorded “do not walk” warnings on busy corners annoying as, unlike at home, the message repeated over and over for the whole time we waited.

Food shopping is a bit more of a hassle here because nearby grocery stores are on busy thoroughfares so that instead of pulling into a large parking lot, we have to go to a garage, take a ticket and get it validated in the store for free parking. It seems like a small thing, but until you get the “hang” of it, it’s confusing. The two times we’ve done it, I’ve sighed with relief when the machine took my validated ticket, wished me a good day and raised the gate.



Nothing is perfect. And that includes our adjustment to this very different life. But there is progress. Our pictures are on the walls, and our bedroom door no longer squeaks. We have cable and Internet. All good.

The gym (called the “fitness center” here) is not crowded. The weather doesn’t feel like a dreary Boston November. The other night, we heard Professor Peter Edelman talk about his new book, Not a Crime to be Poor at a nearby bookstore and the next day went to a Ai Weiwei’s "Traces" exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum, one of my favorite D.C. destinations.

Best of all, we were invited to our grandson Grady’s 11th birthday dinner on Wednesday, which we left with a handful of the boys’ generously-shared Halloween loot.

Not bad for our first ten days.

A New Chapter

When our realtor called the morning our buyers were to take the final “walk-through” of our Cambridge house, he told me that our basement had flooded overnight. I almost fainted.

He was kidding, but I wasn't amused.

When he called the next day to say that the closing had gone well, it was as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was also a moment of sadness because the home we had loved for twenty-three years was no longer ours.

The first week in our continuing care community with its hundred and fifty residents marked monumental change to our lives. Although our apartment is beginning to feel like home, it’s strange to be new where everyone knows everyone else and you don’t. It’s also strange to eat dinner in a “restaurant” with institutional cooking. On the other hand, I no longer have to ask Peter, “What would you like for dinner tomorrow?”.

We feel welcomed. A lovely couple that has taken charge of our “orientation,” had wine and cheese for eight before last Saturday night’s dinner. Every one there has also had an adjusting-to-moving story. One couple said that it took them six weeks to get someone to come set up the grandfather clock that had been dismantled for their move. They said that when they heard its first chimes, they finally felt “at home”.

Today, I have many fewer packed cartons than I did a week ago. I know my way to the gym and the garage. I know some names. It’s a start.