If it has not happened already, there will come a day when you’ll be struck with the realization that life has its own designs, that the place you thought you would be at 30…50…80 is not exactly as you had pictured it, and you will reflect on your story looking for the sweet spots, the turning points, the common chords where it veered from your plan to bring you to this day. The people with whom you’ve interacted, the places you’ve visited, and the choices you’ve had to make, these will be your history. In retrospect, the circumstances will give you pause, and the minute choices that have shaped your life will make you dizzy.
Like many, my personal history includes being a transplant to Fredericksburg, though after many years here I claim it as my home. I was born in Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C., and I grew up comfortably amidst NOVA’s suburban sprawl. When I was a kid, my father and I often rode our bikes along the W&OD Trail from Falls Church to Reston and back. We walked to 7-Eleven across the mud fields that would become the Westmoreland Street exit of Route 66, and we traveled to National Airport to eat white chocolate and watch the planes fly in and out over the Potomac River. My mother and I caught movies at the Vienna Theater on the weekends and wore holes in our shoes shopping at Tysons Corner. As a teen, I navigated the Metro with friends and mastered the Beltway ballet of Route 495 in my first car, a Mercury Topaz. After moving to Blacksburg for college, after my boy was born at the end of my final year there, and after a short period of living in Kent, Ohio, I moved to Fredericksburg to support my mother and spend time with my father as he battled esophageal cancer. That was 1998. That was sixteen years ago.
Since that time, I’ve made a career of teaching English to middle school students in public school. Of any job I have ever had, teaching has by far provided me with the most opportunity to change lives, and in return my own has been altered as well. If you want to experience life’s penchant for steering the course, become a teacher, because every day is a surprise. For thirteen years I have spent close to 135 hours with my students over the course of each year. I am keenly aware that I am a part of roughly 1,800 histories, for better or worse, in a small role or large. It’s quite a responsibility that we have to each other. But then, shouldn’t it always be so?
My son’s personal history has been written in Fredericksburg. With the exception of yearly visits with his father in California, every milestone has taken place here from the time he turned three years old. When we first moved, we lived in a townhouse on the corner of Amelia and Prince Edward streets, allowing us to walk everywhere. We frequented favorite kid-friendly shops, like the sorely missed FUNdaMentals, Jabberwocky Books, and what my son referred to as “the train store” (officially Quilts and Treasures). His childhood in Fredericksburg wouldn’t have been complete without visits to the soda fountain at Goolrick’s for milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches, or the corner Cards and Cones for hard-packed ice-cream. We often ate at Roma, which is now Poppy Hill, whose spaghetti marinara contained so much minced garlic that we would wake up the next morning smelling like bulbs mashed into the ground. We would grab slices of pizza at Castiglia’s and read our Sunday Post at Hyperion, much like I see young parents doing today, sharing hot chocolate and muffins or cookies. He’s been in college for a year now, writing his own history, rolling in life’s waves.
Like my family, each of you has a story to tell, whether to your inner circle or the wider public. Each is a piece of our community’s history. Such a simple, seemingly obvious thought at first, but the intricacies of our interactions are nothing to scoff at; though subtle, they are far-reaching. The stories recorded in Front Porch Magazine over the past eighteen years have impacted multiple histories – those of the subjects, of the writers, and of the audience. Front Porch has introduced us to each other in unexpected ways, encouraging empathy, spotlighting commonalities we share, and broadening our perspectives beyond what was written in our past. Front Porch sends us into the community in pursuit of new adventures to add to our stories. Whether those adventures go as planned is not always up to us, and where they will take us next is what makes life exciting.