When I saw the Best Picture Argo, I was transported back to that period of time. I had just graduated from college and that was the background news that was playing as I moved into my first apartment. My daughter moved out of her first apartment over Oscar weekend and the similarities in our lives struck a chord in me. How alike we are, yet still living different lives, a generation apart.
My daughter has now moved out of her first apartment. I am relieved, as I’m sure my parents were when I moved out of mine. My cousin, who moved us both, said when moving my daughter, “Well, it’s not as crappy as yours was!” He was right, which is probably why I didn’t cry when she moved in like my parents did.
I had moved to Jackson, Mississippi for that first job and first place to live on my own. We were both drawn to those old, vintage, charming, non-suburban parts of town. The one with the old oak trees that form a canopy over the narrow streets. Neighborhoods full of beautiful homes with spacious wraparound front porches shaded by towering trees and flowering bushes in the yards. Neither my daughter nor I could afford those nice garden district homes. We both had to live in the edgier part of those neighborhoods, in the apartments that were…well, edgier.
We both had places that had charm. Mine was actually over 100 years old. By charm, I mean they had high ceilings and hardwood floors. For that charm, I didn’t need a dustpan. When I swept I could just sweep and the dirt fell onto the ground from the cracks between the charming hardwood floorboards. We both had gas space heaters to warm us in the winter. My daughter’s had flames that leapt out of it. You had to be careful when you walked by so your sleeve didn’t catch on fire. I understood this, because in order to heat my gas oven, you had to turn it on and throw a match in. When you heard the whoosh sound, you knew it was lit.
I moved into my place in February. I didn’t know that you had to call to turn the gas and electricity on. The property handyman had hangover fumes clinging on his clothes and breath as my parents moved me in. It was very cold. There was a block of ice in the toilet and an icicle hung from the kitchen faucet.
My neighbors were Iranian students who had a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini hanging on their walls. You could hear them chanting their Islamic prayers through the walls as I moved into my frozen apartment.
This is when my parents burst into tears.
I never mention to them there was a halfway house on the street behind me and my driveway was used as a cut through to the liquor store. I did tell them that the famous southern writer, Eudora Welty lived just down the street and we shopped at the same Jitney Jungle. Her stately home was on my evening walking path.
My daughter’s now moved a few blocks deeper into that neighborhood into a prettier and safer part. I’ve lived in the burbs with all the modern conveniences for decades now. I often smile when I think back on my first apartment. While looking for a picture of it, I discovered a tender note from a long ago love. Those radical Iranian students proved to be good neighbors. I have a vague memory of debating capitalism vs. communism on my front porch and I also remember that they would share the pistachios their parents sent them from Iran.
When they told their parents of a single, wanton, American woman who moved in next door, had unchaperoned men in her place, was scantily clad in the hot summer months and whose rock and roll music could be heard through the open windows, those parents probably cried too.
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