Friday, June 29, 2012

My Regular Home

Lucia has handled this move with surprising aplomb so far. She was mellow and fun during the move; thought all the craziness and mess was funny; and really just went along with things with nary a complaint. (Much of this is due, of course, to the fact that my parents’ sole job was to entertain both girls nonstop for an entire week. They excelled at their task.)

But now that Grandma and Pop-Pop have left, and Andrew has gone back to work, and it’s just us here in this strange new home, Lucia has moments of homesickness. Sometimes it strikes when we’re doing something she enjoys, like painting rocks; sometimes it’s when we’re playing; sometimes it’s when we’re reading books or doing some other quiet thing. “I want to go home,” she’ll say suddenly. “We are home,” I say. “This is our new house.” “No,” she’ll say. “I want to go home—my regular home.”

It is so sad. I tell her that I miss it too, and that it’s hard to say goodbye and move to a new place, but soon we’ll love our new house just as much as the old one. I really don’t know how to explain it all to her. Our home in Park Slope is the only home she knows. Now we’re telling her that this new place is home—without any of our friends around, and our stuff in unusual places. It must be so confusing. I know that, eventually, this house will edge out the old apartment and become the home she loves; but I still get the feeling that she’s just waiting for a vacation to come to an end.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snippets of Our New Life

Moving day: Lucia running around yelling “What a mess! What a mess! You’re making a mess!”

Friendly neighbors: In our first few days, one family brought muffins, two brought beautiful plants, and we were invited to a cocktail party where we met lots of people from the street. It’s a real community here on our block. We feel extremely welcome.

New activities: The girls and I have been exploring. Yesterday we fed bread to ducks at a duck pond—Lucia loved it. As the ducks (and a few squirrels) crowded around her feet, she tossed the bread grandly into the air while shouting, “They love it! They love it!” Later that day, another neighbor stopped by to introduce herself when she passed by on a walk with her four young sons. The two middle boys immediately began running around the yard—and Lucia ran right after them, giggling and running with them through the bushes in her barefeet. Later, when we talked about our day, as usual I asked what her favorite part was, convinced she’d say “Ducks.” But no—she said, “Boys.” My stomach did a tiny little dip.

Today we spent much of the afternoon painting rocks on the front porch. That was a pretty nice way to spend a hot day.

New sights and sounds: On a walk this week, Lucia looked up and exclaimed, “Trees everywhere!” And whenever she hears a lawnmower, she says, “What’s that making all that noise?!” We saw some gardeners cutting grass and she was enthralled.

Letter to Greta: 8 Months

Dear Littlest One,

What a month it’s been for you! You’re so very nearly mobile, crawling backwards and sometimes managing to get yourself forward, too. You’re getting into a sitting position on your own, even using that motion—lying down to sitting to lying to sitting—to move around. You are making “ba ba ba” and “ga ga ga” sounds, trying to keep up with all the talking going on around you. You love to stand up, and you beam when we put you onto your feet and exclaim, “Standing! Who’s standing! Big girl standing!” Even Lucia gets into it and yells “Big girl standing!”, to your delight.

You have one goal in life: get whatever it is Lucia’s playing with. You have no interest in anything else, anything I might give you to play with. You have eyes only for Lucia and her toys of the moment. You are persistent and steadfast, and though I’m glad to see you asserting yourself, I foresee many a battle in the near future.

You have two teeth now, middle-bottoms, and are growing some hair (fair, still). You are in 9-month clothes, with some 6-month dresses, shirts, and onesies thrown in. You love being in the Ergo and will still nap in it if you’re tired. You no longer docilely lie still while I change your diaper and clothes—you now writhe and scream. It was right around this time that I forewent the changing table altogether with Lucia; with you, too, it’s soon to be a thing of the past.

Your sleeping, dear one, has been atrocious, and the fact that you really didn’t sleep during the big week of the move nearly did us in. You’re back to waking once or twice a night now (an improvement!), but you’ve been waking up at 5:00am. This is too early. You are cute and smiley and cuddly, but this is much, much too early.

You’re still eating purees, but Mum-Mums, too. Soon it will be time to move on to real bits of food.

The biggest change this month is that you are no longer sleeping in our room. You have your own nursery now, next door to our room, with your very own glider for me to nurse you in. It is nice to not tiptoe around at night; but I do miss having you so close, your crib so near my bed that I could fall asleep while listening to you breathe.

Letter to Lucia: 32 Months (Belated)

Dear Little One,

Because of all the craziness that went along with the move, I neglected to write a letter this month. And so I will write a brief one now, belatedly, with just a highlight or two. Forgive me!

One big thing was your mastery of the “arm slide” at the playground. You’ve loved it for a while, but I always supported you when you leapt off the platform. Finally, you pushed me away, and did the lift-off by yourself. You were so thrilled. It’s a little sad that we left just when you discovered this new great thing. I wonder if you’ll remember it.

You’ve come out of your shell even more, talking to our (now former) neighbors and often playing with other children at the playground. You take things to heart and notice everything, and when you’ve been wronged, it sticks with you; you’re just learning to talk about things you don’t like. When we were at the park a few weeks ago, two little boys in our playgroup were roughhousing; later, when we talked about our day before bedtime, you said quietly, “J was hitting.” Similarly, a little girl at the playground who wanted to blow bubbles with your tiny bottle of bubbles carelessly spilled the bubbles on the ground; later, you said a few times during the evening, “The girl spilled my bubbles.” You’re not upset at these things; you just seem to be noting how the world works, and discovering that it’s not always to your liking—much as we try to make it otherwise.

Favorite activities: painting, painting, painting. Elaborate games of pretend with your Matchbox cars (they drive places to buy food, invite one another to parties, knock each other over and are rescued by your Little People pig and another plastic pig)—you call the game “driving” and it’s one only you and Grandma understand.

Favorite books: The Little Engine that Could, Where the Wild Things Are, In My Tree

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Move


We’re here, and so is all our stuff, and if you were with us for the past few days, you’d understand that this is no small accomplishment. The past week has been a blur. Last Monday, Andrew and I went to the bank and got a certified check for the closing costs and the balance of our down payment. On the way home from the bank, we decided maybe we’d better hoard what little cash we had left—so we decided to cancel our movers. Mom and Dad thought we were insane, but the more we considered it, the more reasonable an idea it seemed. Plus, people who’d just moved into the top floor of our brownstone offered to give us all their boxes. It seemed like it was meant to be.

Tuesday, we headed into NJ for the closing, an intense two hours of signature upon signature. That morning, we canceled the movers but did arrange for another moving company to do the actual truck loading, driving, and unloading. When we got home, we started packing.

Wednesday, we continued packing. For fifteen hours. How on earth did we a) acquire so much stuff, and b) fit so much stuff into a two-bedroom apartment? It went on and on and on. And on and on and on. Andrew and Dad took a load of awkward-to-pack stuff out to NJ, while I stayed home and continued stuffing things into boxes, which became more and more eclectic and desperate as the night wore on. (Sample box: box of Rice Krispies, a flashlight, part of a bouncy chair, some pillowcases wrapped around a framed picture, a handful of magnets.)

Late Wednesday night, very late, I began packing up the bathroom. When I opened the medicine cabinet and pulled something out, somehow a bottle of red nail polish was jostled. It teetered, and then it fell. It bounced off the edge of the sink, and for a moment it looked like it would fall harmlessly onto the bathroom carpet. It didn’t. It fell, instead, into the bathtub, where it cracked open, splattering red nail polish all over the tub. I screamed for help and jumped into the tub, frantically trying to rinse it away. Nail polish was all over my feet and hands. Andrew ran in and began rubbing the puddle with his hands; his palms were covered in nail polish. We looked like we’d just murdered someone. Worse, the stain wasn’t going away. Mom and Dad came in. I began laughing hysterically. In the end, lots of Comet did the trick for the tub; our hands and feet were another story.

So that was Wednesday. After a couple hours’ sleep (Greta chose to have a wakeful night), we got up and frantically began finishing the packing. The movers arrived right on time at 8:00am and began efficiently loading the truck while we raced around, assembling still more boxes and tossing anything and everything inside. (Sample box: tangle of extension cords, one stacking cup, a pacifier, some newspaper-wrapped drinking glasses from the sink, Windex.) It was nearly a hundred degrees outside, so Mom, Dad, and the girls spent much of the day in our stairwell, eating bagels and playing games. The move went on and on and on. As the rooms emptied, Andrew and I swept and cleaned. Lucia loved going into the empty storeroom and screaming at the top of her lungs to hear the echo. For a while, Mom played with both girls on the floor of the storeroom.

Finally the apartment was empty, and it was time to go. We were too overwhelmed and exhausted to even feel too sad. We started out for the new house and undid everything we’d just done; the moving company sent an extra guy to help out. The unloading went on and on and on. I’d assembled a Bag O’ Fun for Lucia to help with the tedium, and she, Greta, Mom, and Dad sat on the porch for the rest of the afternoon, blowing bubbles and doing other fun things while Andrew and I tried to figure out where everything should go.

Then the movers left. And we realized very quickly we hadn’t packed anything to get us through that first night; bedtime was a frustrating, endless search through countless boxes for the baby shampoo.

And then Thursday was over, and, though falling-down exhausted, we still didn’t sleep; Greta was up almost every hour. Friday came all too soon, and we began unpacking. And unpacking. And, that night, still not sleeping. Oh, and on Saturday, a rash we’d thought was heat rash on Greta’s legs got a lot worse, so I had to find a pediatrician and take her in. (She was fine.) And then more unpacking.

That was pretty much the rest of the weekend, up through this morning, when Mom and Dad left. Somehow, we unpacked most of the boxes and got things in a semblance of order. There are a lot of morals to this story (don’t cancel movers the day before a move! don’t drop nail polish in the tub! don’t move anything; just toss it all on the curb!), but I think the biggest lesson learned is this: We are here to stay. Love it, hate it, whatever, we are not moving again.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Moving In

I've always loved the poem "Autumn Perspective" by Erica Jong. It's on my mind every day now as we settle into our new home. Here it is:

Autumn Perspective

Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else’s life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day . . .
in ordering our lives, we will discard them,
scrub clean the floorboards of this our home
lest refuse from the lives we did not lead
become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.
And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears--a year laid out like rooms
in a new house--the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be,
we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent
streets, arms full of books and food,
anxious as we always are in winter,
and looking for the Good Life we have made.
I see myself then: tense, solemn,
in high-heeled shoes that pinch,
not basking in the light of goals fulfilled,
but looking back to now and seeing
a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl
in a bare room, full of promise
and feeling envious.
Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward
into the future--as if, when the room
contains us and all our treasured junk
we will have filled whatever gap it is
that makes us wander, discontented
from ourselves.
The room will not change:
a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint
won’t make much difference;
our eyes are fickle
but we remain the same beneath our suntans,
pale, frightened,
dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time,
dreaming our dreaming selves.
I look forward and see myself looking back.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Goodbye to All That

Today, we are moving out of New York. Our boxes are packed; the movers are on their way. To mark the occasion, some thoughts.

***

I moved to New York City in 1999, when I was twenty-two years old. Now, twelve years later, I can’t remember what I imagined was on the other side of that move. There was graduate school on the near horizon, and maybe that was as far as I thought. I think, in the back of my mind, I planned to stay—this was, after all, where I’d dreamed of being for years; but if I did, I definitely hadn’t thought about how that would work logistically. I had no money, had never had a job besides waitressing, was young and cloistered enough to feel a measure of stability and relief when I got a work/study job with the Columbia Libraries paying $8.25/hour. I have to steal Joan Didion here: Was anyone ever so young?

I moved into an apartment in Morningside Heights, on West 118th Street, that had been assigned to me by Columbia’s housing office. I remember getting that letter, the thrill I felt at having this new home waiting, the bubbly excitement a waitress friend expressed when she said, “I love addresses that are numbers!” It seemed faraway, that new home, and it was, until I was there. Mom and Dad drove me. Fresh out of college, I had no more than a station wagon’s worth of belongings. We spent the night somewhere in New Jersey before driving into the city in the morning to move me in. I remember fearing that someone would break into our car that night, but I can’t remember what I would have worried about losing; a few Raymond Carver collections, a new pair of shoes?

I remember the day Mom and Dad left, waving to them from my front stoop and feeling like a starting gun had just gone off. I took my very first subway ride alone that day: the 1/9 to 79th Street, to a Starbucks, where I bought an iced coffee I knew I couldn’t afford, sat in a window seat, and wrote a few paragraphs of a new story. (I wouldn’t have known, then, that a few lines from those pages would one day live on in the novel my agent is currently trying to sell.)

I went to classes. I read piles of books. I wrote things. I taught. I finished graduate school with a collection of novellas, a dubious record of administrative temp work, and a history of romantic entanglements that had taught me, at the very least, what it was I didn’t want. This was no small thing.

I moved out of that apartment, eastward, to my own apartment on Manhattan Avenue, on the wrong side of Morningside Park. I took the apartment because it was the best option I could find on my miniscule budget, and it was still within walking distance of my favorite grocery store. But being on the other side of the park, looking up at Morningside Heights as though I was looking onto a previous life from a great distance, was depressing. The grocery store closed. And the teenagers who hung out on the street outside my window, screaming until the wee hours, made life there chaotic and unrestful. I got out of my lease after eleven months and moved to Brooklyn.

Finally, peace. Though my neighbors were certifiably crazy and I came to understand that the legality of my lease was shady at best, I loved my apartment on 5th Avenue in Park Slope. I loved the life I had while I lived in this apartment. I worked; I cooked; I spent hours in cafes and reading in Prospect Park. I crocheted an afghan while watching TV at night, cradled between an exposed-brick wall and a dark wood one, often falling asleep underneath the half-done afghan if I’d been to Pilates that day. I was alone—Andrew moved to Barcelona shortly after I moved in—but I was happy. This was the apartment from which I walked with a backpack to a taxi or the LIRR so many times, on my way to the airport to fly to Spain. And when Andrew and I decided to move in together in Barcelona, this is where I finally packed up my things (whatever I hadn’t sold), the place from which I drove away in a UHaul, away from the only adult life I’d ever known. For the four years I spent in Spain and then California, New York was either an ocean or a continent away.

And then—I came back. I’d always thought I would, and for the most part those years in California were spent waiting to return (until it actually came time to return—then our life in California unveiled itself as pretty nice indeed). I wasn’t returning alone, of course; we were a family of three now, and my new Brooklyn life looked a lot different than the one I’d left four years earlier. There were very few cafes in this life, and zero afternoons spent reading in the park. There were, on the other hand, countless playground trips and a new familiarity with the sidewalk cracks and stoops and window grates we passed on countless walks. Our parlor-level brownstone apartment—our final New York City residence—was easily the nicest place either of us had ever rented, and being Park Slope parents was fun. But there’s always danger in returning to a beloved place you left behind.

At some point between leaving my brick-walled, single-girl apartment and returning four years later to another Park Slope apartment just a few blocks away, New York life changed for me. Difficult had once been romantic; it wasn’t anymore. I remember being at a Laundromat once in Harlem, this must have been in 2003 or 2004, when a wild-running child knocked my open detergent bottle into my open suitcase (in which I had to pull my laundry to and from home). I had to stand with my suitcase in my shower to wash it all out, and when I recounted this incident to a friend, in it she saw confirmation that she could never live in New York. I found the opposite moral: New York was where things like this happened, and it was hard, and dirty, but all worth it in the end. Walking down wind-tunnel blocks in high heels in winter to get to the subway—relishing the subway’s warmth, the unspoken camaraderie in windswept hair—painfully cold, but part of it, too. Roaches the size of small mice; rats running across the sidewalk; preachers’ voices intensifying the noise in subway stations; hauling groceries multiple blocks; chance encounters; conversations overheard—all part of it.

There were moments when an electric bolt of love for New York would actually make my chest swell, as palpable an infatuation as anything I’d ever experienced from a love affair: when I’d be swept up in a crowd rushing to a train in Times Square, or hear an opera singer’s practice session echoing down my air shaft in Morningside Heights during a downpour, or realize that a person in a neighboring seat on the subway was reading the same New Yorker article that I was. On late-night taxi rides home from La Guardia after holiday trips or weekends away, when the city would come into view, I’d feel an intense relief at my homecoming, utterly at peace as I rode up Amsterdam Avenue, where the shops were gated up for the night and the traffic lights seemed to turn green just as we drove through them. It was home, and for a long time it was everything I’d ever wanted.

When did I-love-this-city anecdotes give way to I-can’t-do-this-anymore? At first, when we came back, things were lovely, ensconced as we were in our temporary housing at Trump Place, steps from Riverside Park; Lucia and I spent our days traipsing around the Upper West Side and dancing to buskers in Central Park just like I’d imagined we would. And if it was actually pretty impossible to navigate Zabar’s and Fairway with a stroller, well, I’d get used to it, surely. Surely I would. And $13 loads of laundry at Trump would, I knew, come to an end when we found an apartment.

So it wasn’t the beginning that flicked the switch. But maybe it was the first time I hauled Lucia in a stroller down the subway steps. Maybe it was after Lucia started walking, and I understood for the first time that the grit of the city streets would coat her from head to toe after our walks. Maybe it was our first winter here in 2010, an insanely snowy winter, when I’d bundle us out of the house out of desperation to do something only to have Lucia scream mournfully when the frigid wind hit her face. She wasn’t an eager walker that winter, refusing most of the time to even move at the playground, and once she sat promptly down in a slush puddle when I turned away for a second. Once we went out only to find upon our return that our stoop steps had become so icy that I couldn’t get enough traction to pull the stroller up. I got up eventually, tearful and terrified the entire time that I’d slip and send Lucia tumbling back down, or break one of my own limbs. So yes, maybe it was that winter.

Or maybe it was those two months we spent in Mountain View in the fall of 2010, just two months after we moved back to NYC—a reminder of what that other life was, or could be, like. Quiet. Slow. This was probably the craziest, most intense time Andrew’s ever had at work, yet somehow our life felt easier, breathable. We were supposed to be there for three weeks; we wound up staying seven, and we were sorry to leave.

But I think what really did it for me was everything that came after that. I got pregnant in February of 2011, and from the get-go city life ceased to amuse. Being pregnant while being a stay-at-home mom to a toddler is exhausting. Being pregnant while being a stay-at-home mom to a toddler while living in NYC, when getting ready to go outside, walking to our destination, managing the toddler at that destination, and then walking home requires about a week’s worth of a pregnant woman’s energy (and that occupied us only till noon! the whole afternoon remained!), is so cruel and unusual that it’s shocking Park Slope is filled with as many two-plus-kid families as it is.

Everything was harder. The summer was so hot, yet I’d slather us up with sunscreen and haul us to the park on most days. Sometimes I’d let Lucia walk the entire way there—it could take us over an hour—but walking slowly saved me. Of course, as the pregnancy progressed, even walking half a block could send me into contractions. When walking is painful, living in the city is painful. And then I was hospitalized—not so much because I was in imminent danger but because if I found myself in imminent danger, I wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital in time since I lived too far away. Park Slope is eight miles from the hospital. But in city-distance, that’s life-threatening. So maybe this pregnancy is what did it after all. There was nothing romantic about any aspect of these city-bred inconveniences.

And then Greta came home, and getting outside—an increasingly urgent requirement once Lucia hit her high-energy toddlerdom—became a feat of organization rivaling packing for an international journey. Changing diapers. Nursing Greta. Packing snacks. Packing who knows what all else. And then we’d get where we were going and Greta would start crying, or Lucia would refuse to walk home, and I’d wind up pushing a stroller with one hand while heaving Lucia home under my arm and realize I no longer even noticed what cafes I was passing, that it had been over three years since I’d strode anywhere in high heels, and that the high-rent-for-great-location equation wasn’t balancing out for me anymore.

But for a long time, it balanced easily, and I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. I have stories like this:

The winter before I left New York, the winter of 2005, there was a transit strike across the city. No buses or subways were running. The only ways to get to work were to take a taxi, or to walk. I walked. It was cold, and snowy, but I set out early in the morning and walked from Park Slope to Union Square, shoulder to shoulder with other Brooklyn commuters. It was exhilarating. I walked home, too, the winter evening dark and cold, and on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge the Red Cross had set up tables with hot chocolate, and Marty Markowitz, the borough president, was standing there with a microphone, shouting, “You’re back in Brooklyn now! Everything’s okay!” to the commuters as though we were returning from battle. I was wearing a red faux-fur coat and a fur-lined hat that fastened under my chin, and I took a hot chocolate and even at that moment knew I’d always remember how I felt stepping off the bridge that night, Manhattan twinkling behind me, so happy to be where I was, unable to imagine a better place, another life, even though my toes were numb and I’d walked ten miles that day.

And this:

In October of 2001, I attended, as I used to do every year, the Blessing of the Animals Mass at St. John the Divine. The church was full of dogs and cats and birds, every seat taken; I’d waited in line for a ticket. The Mass was spectacular, with dramatic puppetry and beautiful music, moving on an ordinary day, let alone so close to 9/11. At the very end of Mass, the pastor returned to the pulpit and announced that the first bombs had been dropped on Afghanistan. Then the church’s massive bronze doors opened, and the final Procession of the Animals began—birds of prey, farm animals, bees in a glass box, each accompanied by a robed handler who had tears streaming down his or her cheeks. At the end were rescue dogs who’d been working at Ground Zero, clad in their bright vests, with wreaths around their necks. The animals processed slowly, nobly, peacefully, as the people in the aisles sobbed over the beginning of the war.

And even this:

For a while during and after graduate school I was a personal assistant for the wife of an investment-banking CEO. From the thirty-ninth floor of a midtown office looking out grandly over Central Park, I “wrote” correspondence from her dog to other dogs. I once stepped on and off a digital scale for an hour or so to “break it in.” I transcribed the instructions she left for her assistants on microcassettes, including a long rant one day about a discontinued cutlery line that had sent her into a flurry over how she could get more fish forks. When she went away to their home in France, I packed up large FedEx packages of baked beans and Uncle Sam’s cereal. This was a window into another kind of New York life.

These are sentimental stories; but for a long time, stories like this were reasons to stay forever. Now, however, though they’re obviously not reasons to leave, they seem like brightly colored breadcrumbs on a path I stopped following a long time ago. That path led me to Andrew and Spain and California, and the path I found myself on when we returned to New York never quite lined up with that one in quite the same way.

I’m thirty-five now. I was twenty-two when I moved to New York, twenty-nine when I left in 2006. Of course the paths don’t line up. The time is split into a before and after: when I left, I was still just me, high heels and the Sunday Times at a bakery and international trips planned spontaneously and packed for lightly. Now, when I let one of my children cry for one extra second so I can grab a snack to keep me from passing out—so nearly impossible these days that I’ve resorted to spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar—what comes into my head every single time is the FAA’s guideline about putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Sometimes the days seem like fights for survival—but there’s happiness in this, too, when I can sink down on the couch after bedtime and take a second to finally feel it. It’s the ordinary days that make the life.

Maybe that’s it right there. Ordinary days in my old life—grabbing a coffee and donut from a cart then people-watching in Union Square; spending a Saturday gallery-hopping in Chelsea; catching every single exhibition to come through the Guggenheim and MoMA—were what made it New York for me. Ordinary days now—feeding, diaper-changing, playground-going, playdate-having—are, for me, made difficult by the cramped quarters and city crowds. These ordinary days need a different backdrop. These ordinary days need a gigantic, pristine, uncrowded Whole Foods, a driveway, and a big backyard.  

I trust that the day will come when I can once again make it through a day without being spit up on or hand-stamped with strawberry jelly; I trust the day will come when Andrew and I can once again plan a big, exciting trip (perhaps with two small extra passengers this time, thrilled and wide-eyed over new places, new experiences). But even when the girls are older, the base of our life will no longer be New York; this isn’t just a move for the baby years. It’s a permanent change. Our life will involve New York—it is, after all, just a thirty-minute train ride away—but at the end of whatever nice day or evening we spend there, we’ll hop on the train once again and come home.

From 1999 to 2012, I had thirteen years of city life with a four-year blip of expatriatism and suburbia in the middle. And now this is it. I’m heading out of New York for good this time, a dog-eared chapter finally closed. Oh, maybe Andrew and I will come back one day, after we’re done spending our money on goldfish crackers, college, and weddings. Maybe we’ll rent a lovely little apartment on the Upper West Side and spend Sunday mornings reading the paper on a bench in Central Park, smug middle-aged urbanites. Who knows where we’ll be three decades from now, what we’ll want? Who knows what New York will even be like?

For now, we’re leaving. It’s the end of something, the beginning of something. The end of everything, the beginning of everything. The girls won’t remember their time in New York, but I’ll remember mine. I’ll remember all of it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Land Where Fire Hydrants Look Like Kneeling Children

It’s our last week in New York. Last week, Andrew drove the girls and me to PA and then took the train back to New York, leaving us to spend the week with Mom and Dad. Though it was a fun week for Lucia (The hose! Watering flowers! The playground! Bubbles! Chalk and Pop-Pop’s stones-and-squares game!), it turned out not to be the relaxing getaway I’d assumed it would be. I’d unwisely taken on a very large freelance editing project, which would have been fine—but Greta got sick mid-week and threw everything into an uproar. She had a high-ish fever, which I managed with Motrin, and a trip to a local pediatrician to rule out an ear infection (there was some ambiguous ear pulling) revealed an eye infection instead. She was uncomfortable, and teething, and unable to either settle herself to go to sleep or to stay asleep. She slept with me most of the week, which was great for her but not so great for my own sleep.

By the time Andrew returned, I had past the point of zombie-land and was inhabiting a world where fire hydrants began looking like kneeling children as I drove my car. Oh, and when I was lying in bed with Greta one night, I couldn’t figure out where the door to my room was, or how the bed was oriented. I’m not sure when I’ve been so tired. And, because of my freelance project, I felt unable to either nap or go to bed early.

But there were lots of brighter spots to the week, too. Lucia, Greta, Molly, Luca, and I were all able to go to Dad’s retirement luncheon—and the three kids were perfect for the entire two and a half hours. The babies slept, and Lucia played quietly with some tins of candy. It was incredible. Molly and Luca were there with us for a couple of days, which was great, even though Greta showed an alarming determination to grab Luca’s eye sockets. Greta demonstrated her new mobility—not yet crawling forward, but inching backwards and also scooting around on her bottom. One morning, when she rose at 5:00am, I closed my eyes for a moment while lying on the couch; when I opened them, she’d scooted off her play blanket and was chewing on the side of a recliner. Fun times.

Now we’re back, and we have exactly one week until moving day. I am finishing up my epic goodbye-New-York blog post, currently an epic 3,500 words long. Stay tuned.