Sidenote: how much do we all miss SCRUFFY DUFFY'S??!! *sigh*
I’m glad that we’re moving during the summer; I don’t think I could bear to part with this city in the fall.
My parents, former New Yorkers, took us through the tunnel or over the bridge and into the city frequently during my childhood: a museum, the zoo, a Broadway show, dinner, a visit with their friends who still lived across the Hudson.
My brother and sister held no love for this place (they still don’t.) They saw grit and grime and crowds, crowds, crowds.
I, on the other hand, fell hard and fast. I felt like I could breathe here. Like I’d never be bored (correct, it turns out). Like this was the place where it all happened (also correct).
I’d quicken my pace, distancing myself from my family as we walked. I’d pull my peacoat tight, lift my chin and pretend I was one of them. A city dweller. An urban warrior. A New Yorker.
I officially became one on January 1, 2004. A five floor walk-up on 88th & 2nd, above a Thai restaurant, to be shared (platonically) with my best friend’s brother. My best friend lived across the hall, Friends-style. We never locked our doors (sorry, Mom.)
I had an extremely tight budget due to an extremely low assistant’s salary. I remember putting up my half of the rent each month and thinking it was astronomical. The windows in my bedroom looked out upon…another building (it was always nighttime in that room). I spent my days toiling away at a small production company and my nights dancing on bars with my friends to late ’90s rock anthems. I sometimes subsisted solely on lattes and vanilla & peanut butter ice cream sundaes. I spent weekend days walking, walking, walking. Miles and miles of Manhattan, iPod in hand, thoughts in my head. I showered in rain boots when construction in the building meant mice in the apartment. I sent my laundry out. I took pride in the fact that I never, ever cooked.
I thought I had it all. It was everything I had pictured. New York in my early 20s.
The story has been told before. I was in a cab headed uptown from the Lower East Side. I was tired, aching for bed. Then a text from a high school friend: “hey, we’re all out at Scruffy Duffy’s. Come by.” We’re all meant the sportswriting crew of the Post. I looked out the window of the cab and noticed we were…passing Scruffy Duffy’s. “I’m actually going to get out here,” I said and the cabbie pulled the screeching-tires-across-lanes-of-traffic move that only New York cabbies can do without killing someone.
I got out. I went in. I met him.
Nothing was ever the same.
Our first apartment together was here, “near Columbus Circle,” we’d say, because really, it’s a no-man’s land between Midtown and the Upper West Side. I had lived a floor above with a friend but after our engagement, we merged: his Patriots garbage can and my West Elm sequined throw (“THIS IS SO UNCOMFORTABLE, WHY WOULD YOU EVER BUY THIS?”) attempting to co-exist.
This is where I taught myself to cook, fell in love with cooking, saw it as free therapy. This is where he slept the night before our wedding and where we returned as husband and wife, basking in the afterglow of our dream wedding in Tribeca. This is where he got through law school. And The Bar. This is where I fretted about upcoming plane-travel business trips and returned, suitcase in hand, all in one piece. This is where I spent endless hiatus days, enjoying the freedom but worrying about when the next job would pop up (it always did, thankfully.) This is where we went from seeing the overnight doorman on a regular basis to…very rarely. This is where we entertained friends, including the Great Pizza Throwdown and a party that revolved around dips and desserts. This is where he came home to me holding a positive test and us jumping around the place like loons. This is where my mom, the Taskmaster, came in to help us prep for baby. This is where we brought him home. A tiny little thing who slept and ate and had us wrapped around his finger from the get go. This is where we learned to be parents (and are still learning, every single day). This is where I sat on the couch and cried, awake at 3am with a crying newborn, overwhelmed by everything. This is where I have sat and stared, countless times, at his face, overwhelmed by unconditional love in its purest form. This is where he first smiled and laughed and crawled and walked and talked and lived out that amazing, awe-inspiring first year. This is where I cried out of frustration because it—this one-bedroom just not suited for three—just wasn’t working anymore. This is where we had discussions and fights and made lists about properties, none of them The One. This is where I screamed so loud I scared the baby when I found out that The One was going to be ours.
This is where it all happened. The beginning of a life together. The seeds were all planted here, 17 floors up and across the hall from the garbage chute.
The nostalgia hasn’t hit me yet. It trickles in sometimes when I walk through the park or realize that I’ll have to say goodbye to the doormen and Luke’s girlfriends (the cashiers at the grocery store) and our favorite saxophonist in the park and all the others who have made up our little community within this big city. But, for the most part, I’m in go go go out out out mode.
But I know it’s coming. I can feel myself denying it, willing it away, not yet.
There’s nowhere else I’d rather have spent my 20s, gotten married, started a family.
This place shaped me in ways big and small. It will be a part of who I am for as long as I am.
The love affair isn’t over; we’re just going to be long distance for a while (until I convince my husband that we should be those cool retirees who move back in their 60s.)
I know that some cool fall afternoon out in the suburbs, in that perfect little 1930s renovated bungalow that has been hell on earth to actually acquire but will soon (hopefully) be ours, I will think of New York in the fall.
Central Park, at its most glorious.
Pumpkin drinks, carried by New Yorkers in all of their leather-and-scarf fall layers.
That definitive change, that smell in the air.
A favorite comfort food dish at a favorite restaurant.
The switch to red wine, the chilly walk home, the breaking out of boots and knit hats.
And I’ll think, I was so lucky. I was so, so lucky to have that.
But hopefully I’ll also look around and think, but it was very much time for this.