I’m not a person who’s been able to come out of a day of travel with my kids and have a positive outlook on things (yet), so as we stepped off the plane after what seemed like an endless morning of flights, a layover, and delays, my perception of our approaching life in NYC was far from rose-colored. After we arrived at the airport, packed our exhausted and relentlessly whining kids, their carseats, three suitcases, a pack-n-play, and a diaper bag into our car, we drove the hour-long commute to the city. It was scorching hot and clouds overhead suggested an impending storm, which, at the time, seemed as if it were an omen for what lie ahead.
As our driver turned the corner to our street, dilapidated buildings defaced by bar-covered windows loomed across from our complex. And my jaded point-of-view only worsened as we entered the unit. We rode up to our apartment in a rickety elevator that was pungent with the smell of urine. As the doors opened to our floor, the words “People who do drugs go to hell before they die” crept off a bumper sticker situated above pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on our neighbor’s door. We walked into our apartment sweating and ready to fall over. The floors were covered with dust and crumbs, the bathroom looked like something out of a horror movie, and the air was heavy and sweltering. The place didn’t have central AC and the hardware stores down the street were sold out of window units. I was on the verge of a meltdown.
The first few days were admittedly rough. But it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and a sunny forecast can do for your spirit. Because, now…
I can genuinely say that we’re falling for this life and this city. Although I’m not sure the architecture across from us will ever look inviting, the Children’s Aid Center, playground, and basketball court directly in front of it pops with color and welcomes visitors, and sounds of whistling refs, squeaks of high tops, and cheers from an always spirited crowd drift up to our window each evening. And then again from a tad rowdier crowd around 2:00 am during late night pickup games.
The bumper sticker on the neighbor’s door was apparently placed a couple of decades ago by her then-preteen son. Our floors are now presentable but definitely jump with personality, and an ivory and blue tweed chevron shower curtain spruces up the bathroom a bit. And we’re very gratefully cooled by borrowed AC units from Mike’s dad. The high ceilings, tall windows, airy rooms, and long hallway give the kids space to roam, and unique details like the chevron-patterned hardwood floor tiles and the glass-paned door that opens to our living room exude character and make this place our home.
The elevator still smells like a urinal most of the time, but surprises us once in a while when the doors open and it smells like someone had just been hotboxing in it (not that I would know from experience what that means). Ahem. But, it’s amazing how easy it is to get over the imperfections of living quarters in this city. As much as I’d have loved to have spent our past month here site seeing, we really haven’t made it very far past our ten-block radius.
We’ve done a few cool things like visiting the American Museum of Natural History, which, by the way, is absolutely massive and overwhelmingly grandiose (like much of the city). We bought a season pass which will be a blessing in the winter months.
And we took our first family subway ride downtown to High Line Park, which was such an adventure for Cam (he thought he was riding Thomas the Train; who wouldn’t be elated?).
If it hadn’t been so crowded I’d have taken a picture of him–tiny him–holding the pole in the subway car so tightly with his little hands. It was one of the cutest things I’ve seen. We arrived in Chelsea and stopped so he could play at a waterside park and explore Chelsea Piers. He was enamored by the boats and breadth of the water.
And then we made it up the cool yellow elevator to the High Line, an historic freight rail line turned public park, elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s west side.
We didn’t get to walk the entire length, but it was 100% worth the exhausting morning trekk–a must if you’re ever in NYC. The buildings, the artwork, the skyline–breathtaking.
Mostly, though, we’ve been exploring the little nooks and crannies of our area. Central Park is basically and luckily our back yard, so we spend our time splashing in its plethora of sprinkler parks and playgrounds,
discovering the rocks and waterfalls and ponds hiding around every path’s turn,
and strolling to Columbia’s gorgeous campus to roam freely. If you haven’t been, it’s also a must if you’re in the city. Its space just breathes grandiosity and academia. It’s a feeling of magnificence to stand between its two giant libraries decorated with towering columns, the names of infamous philosophers, authors, and play writes inscribed above them. Cam loves to play on the steps, splash in the puddles along its brick paths, and check out the sculptures that keep lookout over the area.
And, of course, we’ve been hanging out at home trying to establish some sort of schedule amid the whirlwind of changes. Turns out, routines and naps are pretty important for parents who have only two bedrooms and whose daughter is asleep in theirs kids especially when their lives have been turned upside down.
Mostly, though, we like to be venturing the streets. And may I please mention that I love–love–not having a car. Plopping the kids into the stroller and heading straight out the door to get anywhere we need to be, in my eyes, totally beats dealing with car seats, waiting for the car to cool down or heat up, filling up with gas, etc. (although I might be singing a different tune on a biting cold winter day or on a walk through a torrential downpour).
It is purely delightful, as any parent knows, to watch your child learn. And there is just so so much to experience here. Cam was definitely overwhelmed by it all for a few weeks, but the songs and sights of the city are becoming second nature to him now–the red flashing firetrucks, the squealing of the braking buses, the hot lingering smell of garbage, the chatter of dozens of languages being spoken along our block, the bustling deli at every corner, the jazz or rap blaring drifting from our neighbors’ parked cars on the street. It’s all becoming a familiar scene. Are there flaws? Yes. But I think we’re learning that they’re part of NYC’s character; the opportunities and experiences make it easy to accept them. We’re falling for this city.
So, now that we’re settled, it’s time to start the grueling process of preschool applications for Cam. I’ll post soon, but I’ve been warned that it’s basically on par with the work that goes into college applications. Wish us luck!