‘Baltimore is going to hurt your heart’

Anyone who has been “in love” knows that the experience is a lot like being drunk. People in love behave rashly and impulsively. They ignore glaringly obvious warning signs and charge headlong into the unknown with the confidence of a bull seeing red. Being in love is a form of psychosis.

Love, on the other hand, is what happens  (hopefully) after the “in love” passes – when the dust settles and reality returns home from its little vacation in the land of pheromones, hormones and mutual admiration.  “In love” is the feeling we get when the object of our affection  makes us believe, ever so briefly, that we are amazing, beautiful, talented, funny, mini-gods capable of anything. That feeling fades as soon as the object of our affection notices, with a crinkled nose, that we fart.

Only when the object of our affection disappoints us, and we them, can  we begin to learn the true meaning of love. All this profound wisdom came to me as the moving truck pulled into Baltimore.

I had spent the entire month prior to moving day in a rose colored haze of infatuation. I strolled up and down The Avenue introducing  my old D.C. friends to my new love. Day after day I walked into the the enchanting shops and galleries, chatting with the charming store keepers who welcomed me with open hearts. I took my family and friends to poetry readings at The Minas Gallery. We laughed and marveled at the unique selection of items at Mud and Metal. We sipped tea in The Common Ground and strolled through the neighborhoods of stone mill houses and artists gardens. My friends agreed, I had chosen well. I beamed with pride at my thoroughly adorable new home.

When my daughters came to the house for the first time I was sure they would be as thrilled as I was but they were protective of me and eyed my new love with suspicion. Through their eyes I became acutely aware of  the litter, the pregnant teens, the drug addicts and I began to wonder, with a feeling growing into panic, what I had done.

“Mommy, you can’t live here,” Shannon said. “Baltimore is going to hurt your heart.” I winced because I knew that on some level she was right. This world was different than the neat and tidy suburban world that I grew up in and where I raised my girls.

I denied it, like any person in love would do at such a time. I made excuses and assurances that what she was seeing was a fluke, a random event not at all representative of what was really happening. I played the down side down and extolled the virtues of city living. I showed them how many art galleries were right on my block, how I could walk to anything I could imagine wanting. I introduced them to musicians, fire dancers, puppeteers and more. We toured MICA, the BMA, The Walters Gallery.

They were impressed but when we came home there were police lights  flashing on my block as three cops handcuffed a young man who was face down on the ground  right in front of my house. My girls exchanged a knowing glance.  When they left I was crushed and more than a little frightened. I had just given up everything I knew and understood in exchange for the possibility of happiness, but now that I was committed I realized that my love had flaws and some of those flaws were dangerous ones. I had what we in the real estate business call “buyers’ remorse.”

When things are difficult for me I find it helpful to think of others. As in, “Others are feeling the same way” or “What do others do when faced with this problem?” Making a problem less personal makes it more manageable. It occurred to me that there were probably others who just moved to the neighborhood and, perhaps they, too, were sitting in a stunned silence with tears in their eyes. The good news was that I was a real estate agent at the time and I knew just how to find out who they were. I went to the MLS system and looked up everyone who purchased their homes in the last 19 days which is exactly one day less than I had been there.  I went to each house and dropped cards in their mailboxes inviting them to my house for a Welcome to the Neighborhood Happy Hour.  Every single one of them came to that party and over the next few months we, as a group,  explored, embraced and learned to love each other and Baltimore in the truest sense of the word.