I miss New York City.
I miss our well-worn apartment, its ramshackle window AC units and impossible-to-regulate radiator heaters. I miss its tiny kitchen, even tinier bathrooms, haggard floors, barred windows and all.
I miss our Mahmoud, who runs the Middle-Eastern food cart on our street corner. Once, at bedtime, Cam and I were discussing family and what it means. Cam listed, “Momma and Daddy and me and Katie and Mahmoud.” Mahmoud is probably the only other person in the city who Cam saw and talked to on daily basis. He left his family in Egypt, his own two-year-old son, to live in the US and make money to send back to them so that they could live a decent life. He’s amazing with Cam and so happy and so positive and so friendly every single day. We would stop in front of his cart as we ran our daily errands and Cam would hold out his right hand. Mahmoud would kiss it and say, “Marhaba habibi,” or, “Hello my beloved,” which Cam would repeat quietly, and with a shy grin, back to him. He has my heart.
I miss our super, Derrick, who would supply Cam with flashlights and let him play with his tools as he’d disassemble his old SUV in front of our building. He’s direct and not very warm, but he’s reliable. And he has a special place in his heart for Cam. And I love it.
I miss Saleem, who runs our corner deli, where we would buy bananas and coffee every morning. His eyes would secretly light up when I’d bring the kids in, and he’d give them lollipops. He would ask about them when they weren’t with me.
I miss the stockers at the Hispanic grocery mart below our apartment. They’re on the sidewalk and energetic every morning at 6:00 am joking with each other and unloading boxes from delivery trucks. They–also–are full of life. I miss the store owner who would greet me, “Hey baby! How are you doing today?” every time I’d walk by with the kids. He knew us.
I miss the old guy who was eternally sitting on the stoop next door and would talk of having remembered my bringing the kids home from the hospital as newborns (they were actually 6 months and almost two years old when we moved to New York).
I miss Mike’s crappy hours that were actually not crappy at all compared to what he’s been working this summer, when the kids were actually still awake when he’d come home from class or studying and they’d jump up and down in the foyer outside our apartment, waiting for the elevator doors to open and for Daddy to be standing there.
I miss Central Park–our giant backyard–so familiar yet bursting with new discoveries all the time.
I miss the delivery option. From every restaurant.
I miss constantly feeling awe-inspired by the brilliant, ambitious, creative, talented person who is pretty much every New Yorker.
I miss the unique high the city shoots through your veins in the form of your first time successfully navigating the subway alone with both kids; or your first encounter with the Greek and Roman galleries at the Met; or your passionate, vampire-esque confrontation with bloody MacBeth during a performance of Sleep No More; or seeing Central Park bloom into bright yellow daffodils and purple magnolias and pink cherry blossoms and tulips in spring,
and then transform into breathtaking burnt oranges, yellows and reds in the fall; or a special date night with your husband at an immersive goosebumps-inducing dinner theatre.
I miss weekend coffee and playdates in the park and wine in the evenings with my special friends.
I miss the energy, the buzz, the beat of the city streets.
I miss the intense, ubiquitous dichotomy of emotions that New York plagues all of its dwellers with. A friend posted this quote on Facebook months back and it’s so perfect:
“New York City is the most fatally fascinating thing in America. She sits like a great witch at the gate of the country, showing her alluring white face and hiding her crooked hands and feet under the folds of her wide garments–constantly enticing thousands from far within, and tempting those who come from across the seas to go no farther. And all these become the victims of her caprice. Some she at once crushes beneath her cruel feet; others she condemns to a fate like that of galley slaves; a few she favors and fondles, riding them high on the bubbles of fortune; then with a sudden breath she blows the bubbles out and laughs mockingly as she watches them fall.” -James Weldon Johnson 1912
I’ve only been gone for three months and already I’ve forgiven New York for all of the cruel ways she treated me, for all the stress she bestowed on me while we were living there.
I felt broken many times. I felt like she was constantly attempting to attack my marriage and parenting abilities, attempting to bear all of my vulnerabilities, and with such ease. Mike and I no doubt faced our toughest year together there. I think each of us often felt like the city’s galley slave, and yet, her favoring and fondling are what have lingered with me while we’ve been away.
And I’m really really excited to go back, to face her familiar intensity. Out of all of the places we’ve lived, I think I’ve felt most like myself in New York. I felt most comfortable with who I was there. But I constantly felt humbled, too. Every day, actually. In avenues additional to the way being a parent will humble you.
But when we return, I know I’ll miss Seattle.
I’ll miss the laid-back, even-keel pace of the city.
I’ll miss the wide open space and the endless outdoor adventures. I’ll miss getting my hands dirty with the kids and exploring new worlds any day we choose, discovering inconspicuous treasures together.
I’ll miss the emerald trees everywhere you look, and watching the sun rise over the peaks of the Cascade mountains from my window each morning, or sinking below the horizon from our rooftop in the evenings.
I’ll miss watching the kids dig and splash and build driftwood forts on the beaches here, the beaches that have become so familiar to us, our go-to spots on the mild, sunny summer days.
I’ll miss weekend adventures to the breathtaking national parks and mountain ranges that rest on either side of Seattle. The Olympics keeping watch to the west, Cascades to the east.
I’ll miss the way the quiet and stillness of the outdoor scene and pace here, the often lonely time I’ve spent with the kids, have challenged me to dig deep to search for inner tranquility as well.
It’s funny how hindsight tends to be so kind. As time passes, the good things, the beautiful things, are the memories that stick with us. And often times, they’re the moments we took for granted, even wished away, as they were passing.
I read the following quote a few months ago and it really resonated with me, “Normal day, let me be aware o the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you as you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth or bury my face in my pillow, or stretch myself taught, or raise my hands to the sky and want–more than all the world–your return.” -Mary Jean Iron
No matter where we are, what we’re doing, the moments are ours to seize. Moments we’ll never be given back. To steal Liz’s words, there is only now. (Mommas, this is a must-read, also featured in Huffington Post.)
When I watch my babies giggling with each other or dancing or asking for a snuggle fest, it’s easy to be present, to have a love affair with those moments. When I flip through my photos of even the simplest, most fleeting moments with my family–no matter the location–my heart is happy. I know how lucky I am. And I’m just so grateful.
But I think it would be even more amazing to have love affairs with more moments, to remember as they’re passing to cherish and find gratitude in them. Ones that look like these, even.
So I’m going to sip as much nectar as I possibly can from this beautiful Northwest flower today and in our last week here (my brother, Danny, is visiting us later today!). And when Saturday comes and we return to NYC, I’ll work on cherishing our time there together; really nourishing my relationships; being inspired by every person, my surrounding, each moment; chipping away at our bucket list with the babies; traveling a bit more; and making time for going forward with writing. I have some exciting ideas in the makings and just need to work on the bravery component of going forward with them. Luckily, there might not be a more appropriate place to to do that than in the City of Dreams.