Impressions of New York City After Having Moved Away

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Three months ago, when our twins were nine months old, my husband and I moved away from New York City in search of an easier life. This weekend I went back for a friends’ wedding, which was my first time away from the babies and also my first time back in New York. Following are a few of my thoughts, not on being away from the babies (more on that later), but on returning to New York where I lived for fourteen years.

After driving for hours in the dark, I first realized I was approaching the New York metropolitan area because of the sky. It wasn’t black anymore but a sort of wan maroon. The pavement was suddenly full of potholes, too, and I struggled to stay on I-95 as I looped over and below interchanges. The thought occurred to me that it felt like entering a rat’s nest.

The next day, at Grand Central, I made my way to the subway and caught the 4 train. It was dank and the lighting made everyone look greasy. People bumped into me as passengers jostled for a spot to hold on. The whole visit, people would continuously bump into me, brush past me, nudge me as they went by, and I’d realized how my sense of personal space had expanded in just a few months away.

At Fulton I switched to the C train, which flew through the tunnel, rattling as if it might fly apart. Everything seemed worn down to a germ-ridden nub. Two women, one with slicked-down bangs and wearing bright lipstick, the other very large and with a beautiful smile, laughed together about something and I found it amazing that until recently riding underground had felt normal to me, too. When I got out of the train I passed a couple lugging their stroller with toddler up the subway steps and it struck me as a sad place to see a baby. The walls were covered in soot.

Then I made my way to a small restaurant for my friends’ wedding. The restaurant was just perfect. A restaurant like you can only find in New York. Cozy, bustling, full of sparkling, intimate conversation and interesting people elbow to elbow, waiters who are also Independent movie buffs. The ceremony was beautiful and made me cry.

As I left I walked by one of my favorite bookstores, still open at that late hour and brightly lit. In the subway, two men were playing lively music. I walked by and stopped halfway down the platform. The music was really, really good–so good I made my way slowly back toward them. The singer wore a black vest, he had a fresh-looking face with a scruff of beard. The other man was playing percussion by hitting his hands on the hollow wood box he was sitting on, controlling a tambourine with his foot. They were singing love songs, rocking out, hitting everything exactly right. People up and down the platform crept closer and closer. Three young men started dancing to the beat. A woman in hospital scrubs got out her cell phone and started filming. An older woman in a flowered blouse and a young hispanic man threw in a dollar, both smiling. The growing crowd formed a circle, everyone bobbing their heads. When they finished there was applause. “Thanks for your good vibes,” the singer told the three dancing men. The subway came, and everyone boarded with a smile.

And then I remembered why I love New York City. There amidst the grime and unpleasantness was this moment among strangers of all backgrounds and walks of life, people who had no reason to know each other, brought together for a magic moment by art. I felt lucky to have been just at that place at that time.

I’m sorry I doubted you, New York.

 

 

Play Hard, Sleep Hard

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Every waking hour these babies are working: reaching, chewing, tasting, fingering, craning around, exploring. And if not working they’re out like lights, pink cheeks pressed to the crib mattress, soft baby hair, sleeping like angels (or babies). I’m sure there’s some lesson I should take from this.

Munchkin is now officially crawling. It is very deliberate and amazing to watch. Right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg, repeat. Each appendage lifted higher than necessary and placed carefully. It’s amazing how we have to learn to control our body in this way, like a machine. 

Also, suddenly her whole body shape has changed. Gone is the soft roly poly baby; now she’s tall and wiry. When you hold her she’s a ball of energy, constantly twisting around looking for something new to explore. Just last week D and I could relax with the twins in our laps in bed in the morning. Now suddenly it’s more like trying to keep them on the bed, them scrambling over a terrain of legs trying to launch themselves over the edge. 

And their emotions, they’re all over the place. They have the giggles, then they cry, are disgusted, amused, ecstatic, shocked. Munchkin has a new expression. She lifts her upper lip so her mouth is kind of squarish; I think it expresses something like, Oh My Gosh Heck Yeah! Also, lately when they’re sitting in the high chairs and Munchkin cries, Bean seems finds it amusing and starts laughing. Then M laughs, too. I don’t know what that is. It’s a roller coaster. 

And then they sleep for twelve hours. It’s tiring being a baby. Or a parent of babies. 

 

ps: I forgot to mention that Bean has a tooth now, too. She got one on the bottom a few days after M. Got two snaggletooth babies, here. Look out.

Things I Lost in the Move

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We’ve mostly unpacked all the boxes at this point after our move from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh, but a few things have just gone missing. Here’s a list of them, in no particular order: 

1. The vacuum cleaner head and post. Now you can only use the vacuum if you want to bend down and suction one thing at a time right into the hose. Having a filthy house is really helping me get my head in order.

2. My breast pump kit. I had two. I just have no idea…

3. All my earrings. Except for one very fancy pair of studs I kept in my jewelry box. And one pair that was mysteriously in with the office supplies. 

4. A mixing bowl. 

5. The broom. 

6. The mop. I think there’s a conspiracy. Yes, that’s why the house is so gross. 

7. A few nuts and bolts. 

8. My friends. 

9. A Space Monkey. No wait, there are just two and they both made it.  

10. My car. Wait, what? 

11. My head. 

That about covers it. But all is not lost. Tomorrow I will make a trip to Target and solve at least half these problems.  

Your Sparrow

Discombobulated

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Moving is so disorienting. I feel a bit like I’ve been thrown off the merry-go-round. There are no longer any mindless tasks; everything takes mental energy. You want to mail a letter–where’s the mailbox? You want to make a salad–where did you put the olive oil? You want to take a walk–which way? But more than that, now that you don’t know any of these things, who are you?

I used to be a Brooklynite. Or maybe I was a California transplant living in Brooklyn so long it had become home. Now I’m in Pittsburgh. This is of course not the first change in my life. We’re constantly changing…surroundings, circumstances, attitudes.

I used to live in California’s Central Valley; then I moved to New York. I used to be a conscientious student of the humanities; then I graduated. I used to be the youngest in a tight-knit family of five; then my parents separated. I used to be single and dating; then I got married. And suddenly I’m a frazzled non-working twin mom living in Pittsburgh.

My stuff is around, but it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. The more I think about it the more I realize how fragile our conception of self really is. Our brains must have to work pretty hard to maintain anything as constant.

Luckily, even though those past iterations of myself now seem utterly foreign, some things remain constant. I love and have always loved the arts. The people I love are still around me. I have probably always been a home body, which is maybe why moving is so disorienting. But I will get all this stuff we hauled in boxes into its right spot. I’ll create a new mental map, like roots.

And really, it’s good for me. People aren’t trees. We’re meant to move.

Hello Point Breeze, Pittsburgh!

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So somehow we landed in a pretty amazing neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Or maybe every neighborhood in Pittsburgh is this awesome? What do I know. Anyway here are a few pictures from my walk around trying to get oriented. Above is the entrance to Frick Park, which is just a few blocks away. Birding, here we come. And maybe we can actually motivate to go running again when the weather improves. I remain ever optimistic.

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Here’s a picture of our bodega. Okay fine it isn’t a bodega. I think it might be Italian. Anyway it’s a corner store! It’s a few blocks from us and we can get a quart of milk! Or some Italian Wedding Soup. Or some candy for 10 cents. That’s all we need, really.

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Here’s what the houses around here look like. I’m pretty much in love with the houses. Porches! And the blue sky down to the horizon is nice, too.

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Also, our neighborhood has a little downtown. There is a cafe and restaurant within walking distance, and they both look great.

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Finally, here’s the adorable snowman now gracing our front yard courtesy of my niece and nephew, who live nearby (which is pretty much the best thing).

So all in all, yay Point Breeze! Yay Pittsburgh! More soon on the house, the twins, and everything. The babies have not taken the week off, despite being squeezed amidst a sea of packing material and boxes with some very distracted parents. They’re now babbling (ba ba ba, da da da, bla bla bla). Also just today M started smacking the buttons on the exersaucer with real purpose, clearly knowing that would make them play, whap whap whap (“moo”, “meow”, “cat”, “gato”, “duck”, “woof”). They’ve also developed necks–much easier to keep clean. And in the mirror, they’re looking back and forth between me and my reflection–it’s all beginning to make sense, this mirror thing.

A lot happens in a week! I’m so happy to be back blogging! And so happy the move is behind us and now the fun part can begin.

 

Movin’ and Groovin’ Babies

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I think I mentioned that M is all roly poly now, rolling here and there and the other place getting into all sorts of trouble. As of yesterday she is also pushing herself up on all fours getting ready for a proper crawl. D went in the other day and found her that way in the crib, and all day she’s been pushing herself up, not moving from there yet, but strengthening her muscles.

The Bean doesn’t seem as interested in rolling around or crawling yet, but she can’t get enough of standing! When you try to put her down in a sitting position her knees lock so that you have to hold her up standing. And she beams. She is so darn happy with herself about standing. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. Today I stood her in front of a little bench so she could support herself. Her smile is contagious.

This afternoon both babies were fussing, so I put on some Jack Johnson and took a turn dancing around the room with each of them. Bean especially can’t get enough, though M seems to prefer bouncing games in my lap, “This is the way the ladies ride, the ladies ride, the ladies ride…”

They are discovering all the amazing things their bodies can do. They lift their hands in the air and rotate their wrists, waving like Miss America. They reach up and rub the hair on top of their heads, then grab their toes. They grab a slippery piece of banana between thumb and forefinger. And mouths! Mouths are awesome. Bean was making farty mouth sounds the entire day. Throat clearing noises, lip smacking noises–it’s amazing what lips and tongues can do! They are completely delighted with their bodies, with life.

 

Hello Babies…Goodbye Plants?

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Jasper the Dracaena Marginata has been with us for about ten years. At over five feet, Jasper has presence. He is dignified at the same time his goofy green poofs remind me of the trees from Doctor Seuss’ The Lorax. I just found through googling that this type of plant is also called a Dragon Tree, which makes perfect sense. He is our dragon.

With his three heads, Jasper is a combination of what were previously two little identical Dracaenas. One I gave to D for Valentine’s Day shortly after we started dating, and the other my sister left with me when she moved across the country.

Jasper is now a massive being who has adapted himself perfectly to his current location in the bay window. WIth his three heads, he looks simultaneously through each of the three panes. At the same time, he guards our bed nearby, watching over it with his shaggy green mane.

Before the twins were born I had built up quite a collection of plants. They took up the large living room windowsill, and overflowed onto the tables and bookshelves. One much-beloved specimen had deep purple leaves on thin white stems; it looked like a flock of butterflies had just taken off from the pot. Every evening at dusk the butterflies shut their wings for the night.

After the twins were born I didn’t have time or energy for the plants. It was all I could do to remember to water them sometimes, let alone fertilize or repot. One by one they died. But Jasper, the oldest and largest, persevered.

I remember one winter, wheeling him in a granny cart from one apartment to another on the coldest day of the year. I put a garbage bag over him, which whipped off in a frigid vortex right in the middle of an intersection. After that all his leaves turned black and fell off. Another, weaker plant I had transported at the same time never recovered, but Jasper regenerated. After that, on the bark of each of his spindly stalks was a rough scar, like a knobby knee, allowing me to chart his amazing growth.

Another time I transported Jasper on the subway. He was giant and unwieldy. D was embarrassed to be seen with me as I whapped people in the head with him each time I turned around.

Shortly after the babies were born someone pointed out that some house plants are poisonous. Sure enough, Jasper doesn’t take being eaten lying down. Though not lethal, he won’t go down without some vomiting and pain. He is a Dragon Tree, after all.

Today I realized that even if we could find a place for Jasper away from the babies in our new house, he wouldn’t survive an eight plus hour drive in the unheated back of a moving truck mid-February.

So we will have to say goodbye to Jasper. I’ll miss you. May you find some new sunny windows and an owner who tends to you better than I can. Goodbye, old friend.

*The title of this post is inspired by a great post at Olivia FitzGerald’s blog, “Hello babies…Bye-Bye Friends?”

Brooklyn, a Love Story

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Since we’re leaving Brooklyn, I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on these past ten years, the Brooklyn decade. This is a love story.

After graduating college in Manhattan I found an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, my first apartment in Brooklyn. It was a share with a couple who would soon become engaged. Lovely Orange Street. My room barely fit my full size bed, but it had its own half bath.

Soon after I moved in I met D. He was living in Red Hook. We took walks to the Pier. Such a quiet, peaceful place, water lapping against the old sugar factory, that perfect, secret view of the Statue of Liberty. We cooked our first meals together. Every morning I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to work. Some days it was so foggy you couldn’t see the city at all.

My second Brooklyn apartment was with a friend in Park Slope. Again, my room just fit my full size bed. D and I split our time between this apartment and his apartment in Sunset Park. I remember the constant carrying back and forth of clothes, toothbrush, deodorant. Feeling like an imposition. The sound of birds early in the morning, the fire escape out the window. How chilly it was getting out of the shower. We fell in love.

We moved into our first apartment together, in Prospect Heights. Having our own space was amazing. Everything felt settled. And the bedroom, much bigger than the bed, felt cavernous. I began a love affair with Prospect Park, just a ten minute walk away. D and I took up birding. Then we got married. We had a wedding party in that apartment.

From Prospect Heights we moved further into Brooklyn, to our current apartment in Sunset Park. We had a small extra room. Every morning I walked through Sunset Park on the way to work, gauging the air quality from that panoramic view of Manhattan.

Then came pregnancy. On bed rest, I watched spring arrive on the street trees outside the window. My water broke in that apartment. Our little office became a nursery with two cribs, and the babies grew from preemies to chatty eight-month-olds.

It’s been a full decade. In the future, I see us showing the babies pictures of Brooklyn, telling them the name of the hospital where they were born, how we walked from our apartment to the NICU to hold them, stroke their tiny arms. But they won’t remember this place.

Brooklyn has been our city. This decade the story of our meeting, courting, somehow becoming adults. Now we’re moving to Pittsburgh as a family of four. It will be a new story.