I spent most of today at our old house, sweeping floors and making piles. We're slowly settling into small town life: books have made their way to their shelves, the piano is firmly in its place, and pillows are fluffed and on the new couch. I've walked to work a couple of days over the past week, and we've visited a new church and held hands while sitting on our porch swing.
Somewhere in there, I turned 28.
My birthday is always this huge celebration, if not in reality, then in my imagination. I love my birthday. I love it because it means I survived another year in this crazy roller-coaster of a life.
And while I was sifting through piles of junk in our old home, our home that I loved, but that I've said my good-byes to, I found calendars. Calendars from 2004, 2001, 1998. They were color-coded, friends' birthdays circled in gel pen, reminders about book fairs and library visits. It made me laugh until I almost cried, these glimpses at childhood Annie -- who, as it would turn out, is not all that from different from 28-year-old Annie.
On certain dates, I'd written reminders to myself to write friends. Write Ashlee, write Morgan, write Henita. I smiled to myself, since this year's planner holds the dates of the bookstore's new Letter Writing Club, an idea I instituted in January, determined to send snail mail to people I loved, but also to make my mark somehow, on a store people already love and associate with someone else. That's been one of the hardest parts of inheriting this business, this town. I can tell some days, it's going to be a fight. Starting over, planting yourself in a place where people have been planted for decades and generations? It's hard. So hard, I think it might look foolish from the outset, but Jordan and I are nothing if not determined and stubborn.
We are giving this our best shot, and I can't wait to see what comes of it.
So, at 28, I'm not all that different from who I was 20 years ago. But I am tougher, I think. Stronger, braver. I really do think moving to a small town is a whole different kind of moxie. Eighteen-year-old Annie desperately wanted a tiny, cramped apartment in New York City, and instead, grown-up Annie has gotten an old, quirky, beautiful, tiny cottage in a small Southern town. It's not the dream, not exactly, but it's part of it. It's got a bookstore, and a dog, and a husband, and a family. And this uprooting ourselves and starting over, this rebuilding and buying a home and a bookstore and planting ourselves in a brand new city, away from our families and friends? It's brave, and it's bold, and it's something I think my old self would be proud of.
We blog in snippets. Even the honest bloggers don't blog everything, and that's as it should be, I think. There's a lot I haven't said about this new town where we live, but it's culturally different from my hometown, from the capital city we called home for five years. It's a 45-minute trip up the road, but it's a land of plantation homes and fox hunts, rose festivals and old Southern traditions. Jordan and I both realize we're entering new territory, and we acknowledge every night that this is hard. It's good, but hard. Twenty-seven prepared me for the hard things.
Last Sunday, I turned 28. I worked a book signing at the local university, and we watched the Super Bowl at my parents' house. I didn't host a party, didn't go out to dinner with friends. It's just a different kind of year, one in which most of my presents and cards and well-wishes come from miles away, land in my mailbox or on my telephone. It's a year meant for rebuilding, for starting over, for striking balance.
I'm sitting on my couch, in my living room, watching the dog sleep, listening for the oven timer, waiting for Jordan to come home. There's a bookstore up the road that has my name (kind of sort of) on it. We can walk to dinner, and some days, I get to come home for lunch. I read four books last month, and visits with friends are beginning to speckle my calendar. Our front door is painted, and I'm planning my spring garden and looking for the perfect spot for a lemon tree.
At 28, I'm starting fresh, but I'm still the me I've always been. Tomorrow night, I'll host a letter writing club, and on Valentine's Day, the little bookstore that causes me so much stress and angst will host couples and friends for a You've Got Mail movie night.
My life is good. Even when it's hard, and bittersweet, and friends are far away, and change is around every corner, it's just really good.
At 28, I am grateful. I am hopeful. I am -- I think -- content.