Courtesy of our blogger Danielle Gamiz

“I want you all to take a look at these trees up here on the left,” the teacher said, directing our mass of toddlers and parents toward a group of trees with thin, black branches just off the wooded trail.

“I know this tree!” I spontaneously announced to myself. No one took notice, but I remembered these trees. I’d seen them along the parkway that leads from D.C. to our suburban neighborhood.

I urged my 3-year-old son, Henry, to touch the slippery-looking bark, then pulled back his reaching hand upon second thoughts of poison ivy. I set him down on the pavement and he poked at a light grey feather instead. Miss Nancy continued the teaching moment. “Do you see the tan leaves on them? These are beech trees. They’re the only ones that hold their leaves throughout most of the winter.”

“They’re my favorite!” I declared, again mostly to myself as the group wandered past the beech grove to take a look at some native evergreens.

Favorite? The idea that I could have a favorite anything in this foreign place sounded preposterous. And to pin such importance to a tree I’d never met until just one winter ago seemed contrived. But it wasn’t. I really meant it. I imagined the beech trees scoffing at me a little as I grabbed Henry’s gloved hand and we made our way past them to inspect a Virginia pine up ahead.

That was Monday.

On Wednesday we spotted a gray fox lingering near the parking lot at my older kids’ school. I related our wildlife sighting to some moms on the playground that afternoon. “I think the fox had mange,” I warned. “You should be careful around it with the kids.”

The words felt out of place in my mouth. What do I know about gray foxes and mange?

Then on Thursday at promptly 10 p.m., I heard great pops and booms echoing against the sky just to the southeast of our house. “The fireworks at Mount Vernon,” I thought to myself, and continued flipping light switches and latching doors in preparation for bed. The night-sky fracas hadn’t startled me that night for the first time in the dozen or so episodes I’ve heard over the 16 months we’ve lived here. It was the first time my mind hadn’t jumped to terrorist attacks or sudden, tree-splitting hurricanes.

That was the day — Thursday — when I realized what’s happened to me. I’ve grown accustomed to my environment.

It’s been a year-and-a-half and suddenly northern Virginia isn’t new anymore. The learning of a new place is giving way to the knowing of it. Dreams of staying awhile now weigh against my desires to go home. I never know for certain where we’re going each time the Navy moves us, not even once we get there, but after some time the surroundings always do become familiar.

It’s much easier now. I’m glad for that.


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