Monday, April 30, 2007
Sorrows and small joys
Early this morning the historic building which has housed Eastern Market for 134 years burned, leaving only the exterior walls and part of the roof. This market was truly the heart of Capitol Hill and the neighborhood is shocked and sad.
I think we've brought every out-of-town visitor--and some in-town visitors--to Eastern Market over the last five years. It's a bit of a local secret, just off the beaten tourist path but well-known enough that the weekend crowds are large and vibrant. Even during the slower weekdays I often passed the Market on my way to errands on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is only six blocks from our apartment and really served as our "convenience store" in a lot of respects. Every special occasion we walked up and down the main hall picking up delicious foodstuffs from vendors who had been in business for decades. Canales Meat Market had incredible bacon. The Calomiris family always gave Joseph a free banana even if all I'd paid for was a bunch of parsley. We could never tell if Mr. Bowers, the "Cheese Man", remembered us, but he sure acted like he did as he passed around slice after slice of gourmet cheese samples to actual and potential customers. If my pancakes weren't the best in the world, we might have often joined the long line of locals and visitors each Saturday for breakfast at the lunch counter. To those of us who live in the neighborhood, Eastern Market is The Hill.
Our sadness over its destruction is all the more poignant in the wake of the last several days. The doors all seem to be closing for a job in Brooklyn. It may be that Eric could land one of them still, if the stars aligned just right, but this last round of interviews brought much into perspective for him. We love Brooklyn and, if the job didn't matter, we would probably more there in a heart beat and raise our family there. The job does matter, however, and well it should after all this education! Eric needs time to finish up his dissertation and then needs a job that will advance an academic career. That means probably--though not certainly--staying in Washington another year. We are exploring several options and know ourselves too well by now to get over-excited about any one of them.
We are very, very sad about the loss of Brooklyn. In every way it is what we want for our family. Staying in Washington has always been Plan B--but even that is a bit uncertain now. We've just said goodbye to our last group of students and are trying hard to stay on the Hill. The loss of Eastern Market might seem trivial to some but to us, and to many of our neighbors, the Hill, too, seems lost.
I walked by this afternoon with the kids. Out doing errands as usual and I felt like I had to see it. I wanted to look and grieve, in a way, with my neighbors. It was good to be there with Joseph. Kids have such a way of not letting us take ourselves too seriously. Joseph isn't quite old enough to realize what had happened and he was jumping out of the stroller with excitement: "Towers!" (for TV crews) "A crane!" (clearing rubble) "Firetrucks!" (Full of very sad firemen). I didn't have the heart to finish my errands and we passed by again on our way home, partly to see it again and partly because I knew it would be so much fun for Joseph. So many simple joys in his life despite all the stress. The picture below if him kneeling at our windowsill. He went over to watch the garbage truck and stayed for an hour, looking at books and enjoying the fresh spring air.