Moving To Town, In The Midst Of COVID

MaryLou Roels is used to moving.

In 35 years of marriage the Chicago native has lived in Dallas, back to Chicago, Phoenix and — from 2000 to 2020 — Seattle.

Her husband Chuck manages assets for computer resales. She’s taught psychology, sociology and classical flute; been a realtor; started a non-profit that provides clothes for people entering the job market, and served as Washington director for the Sarcoma Foundation of America.

Along the way, she raised 3 children. They’re now scattered around the country.

So when a recruiter called Chuck and offered him a job with an East Coast hedge fund, he and MaryLou said “sure!”

They figured theirs would be a normal goodbye, to friends and colleagues they’d grown close to over their 20 years in the Pacific Northwest.

But they lived in Redmond. They bordered Kirkland: ground zero for the first coronavirus outbreak in the US. When MaryLou, Chuck and their cat got in their car to drive east, they left in the midst of a pandemic.

MaryLou and Chuck Roels, leaving their Washington home …

Of course, the full crisis had not yet hit much of America. By Montana, MaryLou says, most people said, “Wear a mask? What are you talking about?!” She went to the gym for the first time in a month.

It was the same all across the country.

By the time the couple reached their new home though — Westport — “it was like the first day in Seattle.” Our town was in the throes of COVID-19. Dozens of Westporters had been infected. Twenty or so had died.

MaryLou and Chuck had brought plenty of masks and hand sanitizers. They were in short supply.

The couple was used to moving to a new, unfamiliar place. Yet they’d never done it when that new place was unfamiliar even to longtime residents. Everything here was shut down.

… and arriving in Westport.

“We read ‘06880’ to get a sense of the town,” MaryLou says. “But every story was about what used to be.”

She walked Compo Beach alone. She loved it. But she had the place to herself.

Slowly though, the town has been opening up. Just as slowly, MaryLou is discovering what Westport really is like. She likens it to a child making sense of the world.

She enjoys learning the town’s history. She marvels at the stone walls, deer and foxes (and was fascinated to find the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald connection. She looks forward to going to Italian restaurants.

Life in the Connecticut suburbs. (Photo/MaryLou Roels)

She and Chuck meet neighbors on walks. They ask if they’re “the new people. Everyone is so nice. They say hello. It’s nothing like the ‘Seattle freeze.'”

That’s as far as it goes, however. “We can’t really do much socializing,” MaryLou observes. “There are not really any barbecues.”

Still, MaryLou says, “I love Westport! I know that’s odd, because I don’t have anything to do yet. I’m sure I’ll have a project soon.”

That was our conversation last week. The next day, she emailed me with news.

MaryLou had already landed a job. She joins an educational firm, discussing the online K-12 model with superintendents, curriculum directors and other personnel.

She’ll work from home. So she’ll still have plenty of time to walk at the beach and around her neighborhood. She’ll watch the wildlife, and sample our restaurants.

Welcome to Westport, MaryLou and Chuck! There really is a lot going on here — even with the pandemic. Enjoy!

5 responses to “Moving To Town, In The Midst Of COVID

  1. Diane yormark

    Welcome to Westport There used to be a welcome wagon. Ask your realtor if it still exists. Westporters really care for one another and should be a model for the rest of the nation. We embrace and respect our differences…and we don’t care if you don’t wear socks, have a bit of sand in your shoes, actually like plaid and always say hello to passers by. And be forewarned, there are so many amazing causes to get involved with such as the green village initiative, the hole in the wall gang, circle of friends CT, and hundreds more. You’ll find something you’re passionate about and then, it will be too late. You’ll be involved, meet new friends and forget you haven’t lived here for years. Enjoy the best kept secret in the whole northeast.

  2. Welcome to Westport MaryLou & Chuck,
    If you’re out for some fun please stop at our art gallery to view some of our artists works! We would love to meet you.
    Thank you, Sandy

  3. Welcome to town! We can’t wait to meet you here at the Westport Library when we re-open (for limited in-person services starting July 13). Meanwhile, we have a plethora of digital resources for you to dive into while we are all “stuck at home.” Here is a link to apply online for your New Westport Library card: https://westportlibrary.org/services/library-card/ . Happy Reading!

  4. Welcome to Westport! MaryLou — you appear to be a public-spirited person. Westport has many opportunities for volunteering. One group you might enjoy is the Westport Woman’s Club, a non-profit philanthropic organization, which raises funds for many community organizations, including a Food Bank, scholarships based on need, cultural activities and health. Due to Covid-19, the club is taking a breather, but please consider it and its activities when the pandemic is over.

  5. Jacques Voris

    Did someone say stonewalls? I might know a thing or two about that.