On a hot summer day in 2016, a little family rolled into Old Town Alexandria after three chilly, lonely years up north in western New York. When we decided that Buffalo was not the right fit for our family, we narrowed down our possible move destinations to two options – Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado – and agreed that the first job opportunity that came our way would be the decision-maker. I diligently sent resumes to law firms in both cities, but deep down I think I knew that D.C. was calling me home. And it did, and when that day came there was really no debating neighborhoods. We’d lived in Alexandria – albeit south of Old Town, in the Mount Vernon area – for three years before our sojourn in Buffalo. We couldn’t imagine being anything but Alexandrians. Old Town had been our stomping grounds when we lived here before, and we had fond memories of strolling the waterfront and trundling baby Peanut in her BOB stroller over the cobblestones. There was no question – Old Town it was. We didn’t even consider any other neighborhoods.
We’ve been here four years now, and we have loved pretty much every minute. (The last few months have sucked, but that’s not Old Town’s fault.) It has been four years of living in a quaint rowhouse, walking out the door and being within a few minutes’ stroll of favorite restaurants, playgrounds, soccer fields, the library, boutiques, coffee shops and ice cream parlors and – of course – our beloved waterfront. Countless hours have been spent running barefoot in the grass at Founders Park. We’ve slurped ice creams from The Creamery, run and walked miles on the Mount Vernon Trail, and finished off many a date night at La Fromagerie, toasting our good luck to live in a place that makes us happy every day.
These narrow, winding streets and chevron brick sidewalks welcomed us home after three years of exile, and they’ve given us a place to learn, grow, stretch our wings and bond as a family of four. While there have been sleepless stressful nights, opportunities missed, and losses suffered during our time here, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
And now – we’re leaving.
We’re not going far! This isn’t another multi-state move. Just one county over. The main impetus for the move is the schools – the one, maybe only, drawback to Old Town is that the schools are spotty. There are two public elementary schools in the neighborhood; we happen to be zoned for one that (for many private reasons) we weren’t comfortable sending our kids. So they’ve spent the past four years at a private school and, on top of the costs associated with sending two kids to private school in the Washington, D.C. area, our experience with the school has been decidedly mixed. We had one great year. The others have ranged from middling to horrific. I won’t go into detail on here, but staying in that situation after this year was just not an option. (One of the kids was fine there – the other was very much not.) So about a year ago we decided that once our lease expired on our rowhouse, we would shove off for Fairfax County and its nationally renowned public schools.
The public schools are the main impetus for the move. But there are other reasons to go, too. There’s the simple fact that our lease is ending and our landlords want to sell the house – and while we’ve loved our time here, we do not want to buy this place. And I’m looking forward to having (a little) more space – including a guest bedroom! – and a yard in which the kids can run around. My new place has a garden that is choked with weeds right now, so I’m also anticipating many happy hours with my hands in the dirt.
Perhaps the thing I’m most looking forward to – other than watching what happens to my savings account with the lower rent and free school – is the hiking riches. The town we’re moving to, while it’s an easy commute into the city (once things open up again, anyway) has a very rural feel and is surrounded by parks and green space. So while I’ll miss not being able to walk out to my favorite restaurants, a ten minute drive to spectacular hiking is decent compensation.
Fairfax County Perks
- Gorgeous natural beauty!
- Wealth of nearby trails for hiking, running and mountain biking.
- Family movie nights on an honest-to-goodness village green.
- Outdoor space to stretch, run around, and garden.
- FREE SCHOOLS! And cheaper rent!
- Guest bedroom – visiting family won’t have to pay for hotels anymore.
- A sunroom! Will I become a crazy plant lady? All signs point to “yes.”
- New neighborhood restaurants to discover.
- Room for EVEN MORE bookshelves.
- Tall, tall trees.
- A playroom for the kiddos, and a workspace for Steve.
But I’ll Miss ALX…
- No more playgrounds and restaurants within walking distance.
- No more boats within walking distance, either.
- Actually, ALX is just way more walkable in general.
- There’s no Buy Nothing community in my soon-to-be new neighborhood.
- I’ll miss my pretty yellow kitchen so much.
- The whole town is just way more quaint than anywhere else.
- And there are no McMansions here.
- And there’s public transportation! I’ll miss Metro so much.
- I can’t imagine not seeing the world’s sweetest next-door neighbors every day. No one else compares!
It’s time to go. The moving truck rolls in next week and then it’s on to new adventures. It’s going to be bittersweet in many ways, but we’ll still be here all the time and we’ll carry all the gifts these four years have given us. It’s funny that I feel so mopey about this move, because I know that on balance it’s going to be an improvement in our quality of life, and we’re only moving about 25 minutes away from our current neighborhood! But Old Town has a huge piece of my heart, and I will definitely leave some of myself here. I hope that one day, I call these streets home again. For now – off to experience the life in Fairfax.
Have you ever gotten nostalgic ahead of a local move?