The call came about 14 minutes after I had fallen back to sleep. I almost didn’t answer, but it came in quick succession between the home line and my cell phone and my first thought is always something about the kids. So I slid the phone into my fumbling hand and croaked out a hello.
“Anna, its Paul, Paul Bohne.” I had known who Paul was at the first syllable. I went on to decline his invitation to sit on a committee for Shelburne and talk briefly about an engineering report. I asked about his retirement timeline and told him I was moving away.
The other half of the conversation was going on in my head alone.
The mayor of Denver is extraordinarily unlikely to call my cell phone and invite me to sit on a committee.
Rewinding to the beginning of the weekend Steve and I left the boys on the spur of the moment with a sitter they have known since infancy. She calls them her little bros and takes them for adventures in the woods. In a single text we arranged for rock solid care for our kids for three days…starting the next day.
It will be a long time before we can leave our kids for days in a new city. And it will never be with someone who has known them forever.
So we flew to Denver and decided to move to the house in the urban neighborhood. We drove around in literal and figurative circles checking out suburbs of Denver, Boulder (holy teenage version of Burlington), and suburbs of boulder. We had dinner with our Vermont friend who was visiting Denver and our Vermont friend who had relocated to Denver. We toasted our plan.
The next morning we packed our bag, thinking about how to tell our kids and drove to the very last house showing in the Shelburne of Boulder.
The house was 1/3 of a mile from an excellent elementary school and had wind-sucked-out-of-you mountain views. It was for sale by owner and he showed us around pointing out its quirks. It was built in the 70s and had the wide plank diagonal siding over the full width stone fireplace in the living room that is a hallmark of that era in the West. It had glazing to the catherdral ceiling, and strange indoor windows between the master bedroom and the living room. It had a kitchen that needed updating. In addition to its late midcentury vibe it sported an indoor swimming pool. Not a glorified bathtub. A nine foot deep with diving board heated indoor swimming pool. And a sauna. And a tennis court/basketball court. Which they flooded in the winter to make an ice rink. He apologized about the quality of the ice reminding us that with the 300 days of sun it was hard to keep it smooth enough for anything but nighttime skating. Under the lights.
From every single one of these places there were rocky mountain views.
As we drove away to check out the town I was sad all over again. We had chosen to leave Shelburne. And here it was presenting itself to us again in a sunshine-y tech job filled package. We stopped at the Niwot market where they roast their own coffee and a woman introduced herself. She had overheard us talking as we walked in and she wanted to pitch the town. The family that owned the market had handwritten signs about local produce and a free lending library of books. Our brand of cleaners were on site.
We drove down Main Street. It had antique shops and a tavern, a few coffee shops and a florist. Everywhere fit people with dogs walked and biked and jogged. Each one of them waved at us through the windshield.
We had lunch at the local lunch spot. Around us teenagers greeted each other across tables, tall boys mostly. We popped into the liquor store to check out the beer selection. It was excellent.
We drove away in silence.
We had already chosen Denver.
Someone had tied a bow on Shelburbia and dropped it at our feet. Or tied a bow on us and dropped us in Shelburbia.
Steve drove us to the airport and we were completely silent. We had said it all already. What do we choose, the idyllic family life or the unknown?
The Denver house is in a neighborhood too, but it is part of the city. There are places to walk, but also traffic. The lots are small, and the houses historic. They don’t have storage, or pot fillers or pools. The kitchen is just three feet wide. Forget the pot filler, the cabinets might not even fit a pot.
We could discuss it all again, but we had already decided.
So we got on the plane, bumped into a friend from Burlington and told her we were moving to Denver, not Shelburbia West.
This morning after my chat with Paul I headed to the Shelburne supermarket. I know there are supermarkets in Denver, but I hadn’t found one, and it seemed unlikely that it would feel like Shelburne market. I walked through the aisles picking up a Misty Knoll chicken for dinner, not even looking at the price because we only have so many misty knoll roast chickens ahead of us.
As a unloaded at the register I realized that for the first time in years I hadn’t bumped into anyone I knew. For the hundreth time in years I had forgotten my reusable bags, and as I loaded apples and animal cracker into the brown paper bags I heard my name. The next person had slipped into line.
And I knew him.