Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: New girl on the block

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Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

I have never been the new girl in town, in school or on the block.

But, there is something refreshing about being new. It gives you a new step in your walk, a new twist in your dance, and a new brightness to your smile.

Much like a new car seems faster on the road because it is new, or a new outfit makes you more confident for your day ahead, being the new girl on the block makes me fearless in taking on this new territory.

Even though around every corner is another opportunity for exploration in this neighborhood, new discoveries have presented themselves in my very own home.

I am used to being the local in the neighborhood, where I couldn’t trip over a crack in the sidewalk without my old babysitter, former boyfriend or basketball coach seeing me and waving.

Now, I am just a stranger on the sidewalk. My walks to the bakery for a fresh French baguette to the quaint wine shop for their newest pinot noir or to yoga for a much needed deep breath sometimes feel lonely and foreign, but I am starting to become familiar to the cracks and the chips of this new sidewalk.

Every day it seems that I find a new treasure that makes me feel cozy here. I see glimpses of the lives that have been touched by this home. And, it reminds me how difficult it is to leave home.

As a family, we helped build our ranch. My favorite part of this process was the fresh concrete. For my parents and us kids, this slick slab of concrete was imperfect flat and untouched.

It needed something — our handprints.

For every new driveway, sidewalk or porch that we poured, we left our mark. Every time I go back to these handprints, I press my hand up against the indentation.

My hand still has the same lines in the shape of an M on my palm, and it still has the scar on my index finger where I dropped a bowling ball, and no matter how much it has grown, it will always be mine. So will our home.

The small and delicate handprints on the back porch of my new home that read “Ciel” will always be theirs, and so will a part of this home. They will always hold a special place and memory in their heart. If they should return one day, I hope that they will measure their growth, too.

Although I don’t know those handprints, they make me feel at home.

Whether it is an envelope addressed in a foreign name or a forgotten poster in the closet, I can’t help but wonder what they looked like, which Sundays they spent on the back patio relaxing, and what welcome mat they put at the front door. I can’t help but wonder in this curious mind of mine if they would like what I have done with the place.

At first, the boxes seemed never-ending, as well as the quirky trinkets that filled them. The boys wondered how I would make these assorted items and non-matching color scheme come together into my bohemian chic eclectic style.

They even laughed when I told them that I had coined my decorating style as “bohemian chic” and even did extensive research on this genre.

Now the boxes are all emptied, my bed is made, and my basil, tomato and oregano plants are thriving in the sunroom and it is real.

I moved.

I looked for more to do because I knew once I stopped, I would feel her void. I asked her to come with me as I parted ways with my hometown. I knew she would, but I never thought her presence in my new home would be as clear and prominent as if it was the home we all grew up in.

From the front porch looking in, you can see my Yia Yias old record stereo, you can see my mother’s elegant and trendy vases and you can see me.

You can see the essence of me. You can see everything that makes me whole. For me, a home is so much more than the walls and the foundation that keeps it standing.

My home is the welcome mat to my heart, the doorbell to my experiences and the window to my future.

So welcome and please, make yourself at home.

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