(Before we get started on the emo part of this post, I would like to please draw your attention to the shirt that I am wearing in these photos; it is my absolute favorite shirt of the moment, and I am so pleased to be able to inform you that it is from the Gap and on sale rather than “thrifted” or Saint Laurent. The rest of the outfit info – including the fuzzy bear sweater that my daughter is wearing, oh my goodness, is all the way down at the bottom of the post if you’d like to check it out.)
Now that we’ve taken care of that piece of business…
The Choices We Make
There’s this beach somewhere north of Santa Cruz. It’s the beach we went to a couple of weeks before I gave birth to Goldie; we’d just eaten breakfast at a spot a reader had recommended, and afterwards we wandered down to the waterfront. Our son took off all his clothing and crawled around like an alligator, and I wrapped my scarf around me, burrowed down into the sand, and accidentally fell asleep. When I woke up, I knew that I wanted to live here. Almost to the moment.
How someone grows up smack in the middle of New York City – just four blocks away from where the world watches the ball drop every New Year’s Eve – and doesn’t feel wholly committed to staying within its walls is a mystery to many people I know; my parents and myself included. It’s true: there is nothing like New York: no place on the planet (or at least no place I’ve ever been) that’s as diverse and vibrant and exciting and alive.
I hear that if you grow up in a small town, you feel like you know it inside and out; New York City is my small town. I love that I when I order an egg-and-cheese-on-croissant the guy I order it from is the same guy I flirted with when we were both ten and he was playing behind the counter of his parents’ deli. I love that I can navigate through Chinatown towards the underground restaurant that has the best scallion pancakes in the city without even looking at street signs, and that I have a different memory associated with what feels like every single rock pile in Central Park. I know my city – and I do think of it as my city, which I’m aware is a feeling that I share with virtually everyone who was raised there and with many who moved there later in life – more than I will ever know any other place on this planet; I’m certain of that. I may grow to understand San Jose; I may learn some of San Francisco’s secrets, but New York City is like a piano I can play with my eyes closed.
I know I’m never going to feel quite this at home anywhere else on the planet. And sometimes I miss that; that sense of belonging.
I think often about what we left behind. I miss my mom and dad what feels like every minute of every day. I agonize over bills, over the enormity of our Silicon-Valley-sized mortgage. I read article after article about our local public schools, not-so-unconsciously comparing them to the fancy-pants private school I went to and wondering whether we chose wisely. I wonder whether our choices – meaning all of them, from career paths to geographical locales to investment funds – have been the right ones.
Sometimes I even wonder whether we should go back to Westchester (which is at least New York City-adjacent; the city itself being too prohibitively priced to even consider). I look on Homes.com to find houses that we could live in (usually half the price of ours; usually twice the space). I daydream about fireplaces and snowy Christmases and hot chocolate and my dad pulling up our driveway on his motorcycle just because he felt stopping in for dinner.
But even so: I love what we have here more. I know what it is and I know what it’s missing, and still: I love it. Kendrick loves it. And our kids are still so small that I think they’d love it anywhere, but I watch them running through the tall grass with their brown little legs, plucking bugs from branches to stare at them up close, kicking soccer balls down the middle of the street with other children who are two, or six, or twelve, because here where we live all of them come out on these summer nights to play together. I sit on my step painting my front door and my neighbor stops by and sits down next to me to help without even being asked, and I think how different this is from how I grew up; how much I couldn’t even imagine this kind of life when I was small.
I love how I was raised. It was solitary and massive and exciting in the way that only city life can be, and for better or for worse it made me this thing that I am – which is a thing I’ve become increasingly okay with. But this world that we’ve found out here, where people are starting to know our names, and call out to us to say hi when they see us walking our dogs at sunset? This is what I want. For me, for them, for all of us.
This. Exactly this. A place where we can drive towards the ocean and end up climbing down a bluff of rocks built before anyone was even there to see them. Houses; school systems; water bills and mortgages and fears about what we’ve done and what we have left to do: it all comes down to this place, this moment, crawling into caves with our children and watching the water draw back from the land.