As you read this, we are packing up the last of our belongings and getting ready to make our way to our new home in Burlington, Vermont. I am so excited for our new beginning and new adventures.
But, of course my heart is breaking a little. Fifteen years in this fine city. Ten fabulous years in Brooklyn. It’s so strange to think of these streets, people, buildings, faces, places that make up our neighborhood not being familiar any longer. Knowing all the shortcuts. Navigating the subway without even having to barely look up, so sure of my way, my route, my city. Knowing when a “good morning” greeting is just that and when it needs to be ignored. Having those fabulous serendipitous moments of meeting friends when you least expect it: ask anyone who’s lived here, those New York moments happen more often than you’d believe. Having all your favorites that you’ll defend to the death: where to get the best bagels, the best pizza, what the best subway route to take somewhere is, the best coffee shop.
When I first arrived in the city, I was 22 years old (a baby!) and like all good New York stories, I was going to be here for two months. Two months later, I extended it to a year and a half. A year and a half later, I met a boy. Ten years later, I almost lost that boy. Fifteen years later, I’m leaving New York for good with him and our two beautiful children.
When I first arrived in New York in June 2000, it was the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day parade. On Sunday, I took the subway from my apartment in Chelsea, to check out what my commute the next day to MoMA would be like (I was here to do the MoMA summer internship). Of course I got lost – I took the C train instead of the E train. It wasn’t until I got to 81st Street that I realized I’d made a mistake. I got off and sat on the steps of the Natural History Museum and unfolded my map just a little, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t a local. A guy came up to me and asked me if I needed help with directions. Believing everyone in the city to be a murderer or a rapist, or both, or worse, I almost ran away as I declined.
Rather than screw up the subway again, I decided to walk back home. On one of the hottest New York days of the year. Now here’s how green I was to the city; to the States in general. Once I got to 53rd Street, the barricades from the PR parade were still up on Sixth Avenue, blocking traffic onto 53rd. They read, “Police Line: Do Not Cross.” So you know what I did? I didn’t cross them! I stood at the barricade, gazed down at MoMA, decided I could find my way there in the morning, then continued on my way down Sixth. Bless my little cotton socks.
Image via flickr/Ingrid Richter
By the time I got to Times Square, I was SO hot I ducked into a store to soak in the air conditioning – quickly, because this was Times Square, so it was probably full of murderers, or rapists, or both, or worse – before I slogged on.
Finally I made it to Chelsea and was so hot and thirsty I almost cried when I saw a McDonalds and happily stumbled in to buy a Diet Coke (this was back when I patronized McDonalds and drank Diet Coke, ha!). As I left, feeling almost human again, I heard someone say, “Miss! Miss! You dropped something!” I whipped around to see what I’d dropped and saw a homeless guy in a wheelchair holding out an empty hand. “You dropped my number! Here, take it!” He started laughing and I bolted.
Bless. My. Little. Cotton. Socks.
Anyway, twice today I had little cosmic reminders that everything is going to be okay. Two places that have been around and neighborhood staples since we moved to this particular apartment five years ago shuttered their doors overnight. Brown paper up on the windows, signs directing where the mail can be left. It reminded me that sometimes you don’t get the goodbye. Sometimes you don’t know that you’re in the middle of a “one last time” even as it’s happening. It happens all the time in NYC. And I am all for that. I’ve done the goodbye where you’re not even really enjoying your time or experience because you’re so sad and sentimental that this is your last time there. I’d much rather leave it open-ended…maybe this is my last run in Prospect Park…maybe this is my last coffee here…maybe this is the last time I say hi to this neighbor.
It doesn’t mean I don’t get a little choked up watching Roman bolt up our street, ‘racing’ us to get to the top of the stoop first. He grew up here. He’s a little Brooklyn boy. I know when I’m watching a “one last time” in real time.
To new adventures!
To a new home!
To a new life!
Goodbye New York City. I will never forget you.