Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beyond and Back Again

It never ceases to amaze me how I end up learning and then re-learning the same lessons. Take, for example, the summer when I was 8 years old and I refused to wear flip-flops (or oolies, as we called them) around the apartment complex. I have scars on the ends of both big toes from stubbing them over and over and over again on the paved sidewalks that connected our front door the the swimming pool. After I limped home leaving a trail of blood behind me for the fourth time my mom asked in a concerned-slash-annoyed tone, "when will you ever learn?" Apparently not that summer since I kept doing it.

Another lesson I am still learning is that people are much more the same than we are different. For example, when I travel to another place I have very clear pre-conceived notions about how the people will be. In London I expected all of the women to look like Mary Poppins, Princess Di or Boy George. I thought that Parisians would all be dripping with undeniable style and romance. In New York I expected everyone to be oozing sophistication and creativity from behind all that black clothing. But they weren't. They're normal people just like me living their lives in some other place. In spite of all the time I spend working myself up to thinking that I'm not good enough to fit in to this or that place I inevitably find that I am plenty good enough because essentially we're all pretty similar.

We just got home from a weekend in New York.


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It was a whirlwind tour that left all three of us exhausted and disoriented. Of course, the last time I visited New York City I was all "Oh! Wouldn't it be awesome to live here?" I was young and single then. Now I'm faced with the reality of relocating my family and life. Exciting? Yes. Many other feelings too.

The original intention of this trip was for me to go decide if I could live there before Tim accepted the job. Since he has already formally accepted that job this trip was more about wrapping our minds around what we are about to do. We've spent a lot of time reading about neighborhoods and looking on Craigslist and trying to figure it out. Being there is and seeing things and feeling the neighborhood and the light in the spaces is something else.

It was like this before we moved to San Francisco too. While we were still in Florida we spent hours on Craigslist looking at apartments in the outer Richmond, an area that is supposed to be good for families and have reasonable rents. Then we got here and started looking around. A couple  of weekends ago we were driving out there and Tim says to me, "Can you imagine if we had lived out here? We would have been absolutely miserable." The disconnect between fantasy and reality is often vast. One more lesson to learn repeatedly.

We spent all day on Friday in Manhattan learning that it's unthinkable to consider renting anything under 1000 square feet for 4 humans and 4 cats. The more valuable thing we learned is that our child was absolutely overwhelmed in this environment. She spent the whole day begging to be let up from the stroller and carried by one of us. The only time she seemed remotely normal was time we spent freezing on the playground. The rest of the time she was falling apart. I can't even tell you how many times I looked around this weekend and thought, "that would be an awesome picture" but my terrified toddler needed me and I couldn't get to my camera. No ten on 10 for me this month.

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That night after we got back to the hotel room Tim, who was previously all "I always dreamed of living in Manhattan" was suddenly all excited about the surrounding boroughs or suburbs. What? WHAT? I was thrown. I even left the first apartment that morning thinking, "We can totally do this. She'll be fine, I'll be fine, Tim will be fine. We will be fine here."  I was psyched up and ready to embrace this thing my husband totally wanted and now he's changing his mind? So my husband is having a change of heart and my kid is freaked out by Manhattan. The only one left to come around was me. I tossed and turned all night thinking about it. So, I did something I almost never do: I prayed on it. I really did. I asked God to please show me what the right thing was for my family.

Saturday we went up to Riverdale.

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Check out the look on her face. She's one or two fears short of wonder. Grand Central station was pretty busy but so, so very beautiful. 

Riverdale is a city on the Hudson River. It's technically the southwest corner of the Bronx but it totally doesn't feel like that. We were on the metro north, the three of us, and as the train sped north the buildings became fewer and farther away the sky opened up, the river came into view and the bare deciduous trees took over the horizon. Ada settled down, Tim took a deep breath, the corners of my mouth softened and I knew God had spoken. We are headed for the sleepy suburbs. And that's that.

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I was looking at my sleeping, nappy-headed toddler on my lap Sunday after we got home to San Francisco. It's funny - New York City is a muse to so many people but my muse was sitting right in my lap feeding me cheese crackers. We would be just fine in Manhattan if we needed to be. Luckily, we don't have to. Instead, we can and will move out a bit further to preserve the sanity of our collective family. No city is an experience so amazing that it's worth ignoring how it made your oldest a little bit crazy. What's great is that we have this worked out now and my imagination is off like a rocket. Finally I feel it - this is going to be good.

5 Lovies:

Lisa said...

I love that last picture. Her face is so precious.

Good luck with the move, the finding a place...

christina said...

oh i love this. i'm SO glad you all were able to get out there and really get a feel for it. and i'm SO glad you decided on the burbs. Manhattan is such an amazing city but just too chaotic for the every day IMO.

Ty's Girl said...

I love that last picture. Totally precious. What is this about 4 humans?????????

Serendipitie said...

I am so woefully out of the loop. I took far too long to get myself together after the last few months, and I have to say that this post made me a little sad. Until I remembered that I will now have someone to show me around New York. I wish we would have time to visit before you leave, but the sad fact is that time is hard to come by. xoxoxo Good luck my daring, in your new adventure!

Hi! I'm Aitch said...

Sounds awesome So glad you guys made it out there and that it was awesome!