Home is Where the Heart Is

The view from my patio.
The view from my patio.

I have a house.

Well, it’s not technically a house (it’s a townhouse, part of a larger building that contains four units), but after a decade of apartment living, this is certainly more house than I’ve had in a very long time. I have a garage, 3 bedrooms (one we’re using as an office), walk-in closets in every room, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a pantry, a…the list goes on and on. Certainly I had most of these amenities growing up; my parents lived in (many different) houses after all, but for the first time in my life, these amenities are mine.

Peppermint patty brownies.
Peppermint patty brownies.

One of the first things I did when we moved in was bake. As all my previous roommates are well aware, I am no cook, and I am especially no baker. But we were entertaining Bear’s mother (visiting from New Jersey) and his sister (visiting from London) almost as soon as we arrived, and I figured I should try and step into my new hostess role by breaking in my new kitchen. I took inspiration from one of my old colleagues at St. Martin’s Press and decided to try my hand at peppermint patty brownies (from scratch!), which turned out remarkably well. I also made peach sangria, because the South, and also because I had peach brandy leftover from the last time I made peach sangria (which, incidentally was at another moving-in celebration).

Of course, after that massive endeavour, I’ve hardly lifted a finger to cook since. Still, having a kitchen this large and shiny and new is making me quite eager to spend some time in it, which a completely foreign feeling. Perhaps Housewife Genes only kick in when you move into a place you want to actually keep house.


The shock of having a House has certainly outweighed the culture shock of moving from New York to North Carolina, or at least, it has this week. This California-Girl-turned-Yankee-now-Southern-Transplant hasn’t found living in North Carolina to be especially different from anything else she’s ever known, except perhaps the preponderance of accents proliferating the place. I can actually feel my own vowels becoming twangier by the second, but my accent always walked along the edge of twang anyway. Or so I’ve been told.

Cheerwine, which is, as far as I can tell, a Southern version of Mr. Pibb.
Cheerwine, which is, as far as I can tell, a Southern version of Mr. Pibb.

Still, every once in a while, little things happen that remind me that, no, I’m not in Kansas1 anymore. The soda thing, for one. I am apparently in Pepsi country, so very few soda fountains at a fast food restaurant serve Coca-Cola. Also, the refills at sit-down restaurants keep coming, even before you’re halfway finished with your first drink. I’m not much of a soda drinker, which apparently makes me an anomaly in this town—well, aside from the most obvious thing that makes me stand out.

I haven’t seen a single other Asian person since I’ve been here. I thought I might have seen one in a parking lot in one of the billion strip malls around here, but I couldn’t get close enough to confirm my sighting. I’m fairly certain my moving here has raised the Asian population from 0.001% to 0.005%. It doesn’t bother me all that much; I went to schools that were predominantly white (well, preppy, really), I worked in an industry that was predominantly white, and let’s be honest, the majority of my friends are white. Still, I’ve never quite been in a place where my physical Otherness was so pronounced. People are very friendly here, so I don’t feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, but little children do stare at me. They also smile and wave at me a lot (especially in grocery stores, go figure), so it feels a bit like I have an enormous neon sign flashing Shiny New Thing Here! above my head.

Welcome to North Carolina, full of intimidatingly friendly people!
Welcome to North Carolina, full of intimidatingly friendly people!

The friendliness is a little hard to take in sometimes. Our neighbours introduced themselves almost immediately. After five years, I didn’t know a single other tenant in my New York City apartment building, but now I know Sam and Kelly and Nick and his Nameless Wife from New Jersey. People just…up and talk to you without provocation. For an introvert like myself, it’s both alarming and fascinating. New Yorkers tend to leave you the fuck alone, which suited me just fine, but here, people just like to say hi and smile. I’m bad at faking both smiles and greetings, and I feel as though I am being caught constantly off-guard. Wait, what? You don’t want to assault me? Or swindle me? Or con me into donating money to Children’s International?

Nevertheless, everything seems to come back down to my house again. Despite being not very like a “prototypical Cancer”, I am at heart, someone who needs a home. The urge to nest—to make this cookie-cutter townhouse mine—is very strong. I grit my teeth as we accepted furniture from his parents not to my taste, donated plates and dishes that were dated and did not match, I want everything just so, but I am no longer living alone. I share this place in a way that I did not share my apartment back in the city, despite the plethora of roommates. Bear and I have had arguments over how to do things; he likes things Spartan (I say “boring”) and I like things tastefully decorated (he says “overly ornate”). The last time he and I lived together was over 7 years ago, when we were in college. We haven’t learned to live together as adults yet—that is, grown-ups who compromise. Or maybe that’s just me. 😉

Some Assorted Pictures of My House

Still, I look forward to starting this domestic chapter of my life.2 Everything’s an adventure!

There are wild raspberry bushes behind my house. I take this as a sign of good things to come.
There are wild raspberry bushes behind my house. I take this as a sign of good things to come.
  1. Metaphorical Kansas, of course, which is either Los Angeles or New York City, for me
  2. File under: Things I never thought I’d ever say.
2 Responses
  1. Bubble bath!

    As for being one of the few (or only) Asians in sight, I wonder how you’ll feel a few months or even years from now. No guesses, just curiosity. Personally, diversity is pretty important to me — I feel like growing up in Houston and having a group of friends that looked like a United Colors of Benneton ad was really formative for me — and now I live in the Midwest, which is, ah, not diverse, to say the least. On a daily basis, it doesn’t really impact my life in noticeable ways, especially since Midwesterners are friendly. But when you delve deeper (into attitudes, awareness, etc.), sometimes the subtleties add up.

    Sometimes I wonder/worry about how that’s affecting me. And more importantly, how that might affect my future child/ren, if I’m still here when I become a mother.

  2. Hi JJ,
    Welcome to Winston-Salem, City of the Arts. I think the focus on arts and downtown festivals is the best thing about Winston.

    I’m sorry you’ve arrived at a lousy time in NC’s legislative history. I used to brag about how we were a liberal southern state. For a NYC transplant, you may find this seemingly backward slide shocking. I have. But Winston has many, many progressives. Heck, I moved here from Key West, and I’ve survived for 9 years which should tell you something.

    I’ve come to enjoy the easy conversation of strangers. It used to drive me crazy because I felt like I needed to add time to my travels to allow for these spontaneous chats. Now, when I spend days isolated here at our cabin gardening, cooking, and writing I miss such casual connections with the community. Sometimes I go to the grocery store if not to talk with another being other than my husband and dog, at least to listen to a live human voice.

    It sounds like you can find and make the best of a place wherever you are.

    Here’s hoping we meet sometime soon.

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