Sunday, January 06, 2008

When One Well-Worn Cliché Just Won’t Do: Anywhere I Hang My Hat/Where the Heart Is/You Can Never Go [There] Again

It's a two-post kinda day.

My brother, in his infinite wisdom, gave us a year. One year, he said, in the city with the girls, and we would be high-tailing it out of there. He was giddy, I think, for us to see and feel just how different life would be, how stir crazy we would get, feeling the walls of our apartment closing in on us and our new family. In a good way, of course. Ha, we thought. We will endure because we a tenacious and intrepid. And besides, how much space can two little people with starfish hands that smell like peaches take up?

Well, turns out they take up a lot of space, physically and emotionally.

It is hard, being in the city, in an apartment, without a yard our instant access to sunshine and fresh air, or a washer and dryer or a grocery store with aisles our stroller can fit down. And then there is our stuff. Nicole’s beloved-but-unused Mercedes sits in my mother’s garage on Long Island, undriven in two years. We pay a ridiculous amount of money to keep our other car in a garage a few blocks away from our apartment, only to find new scratches, dents and even footprints on the hood when we take it out (which is why the other car sits untouched on Long Isalnd). We have boxes and boxes and boxes of my treasured books, taking up space in non-heated garages and damp basements across the Tri-State area. Random crates of decorations and pieces of furniture scattered here and there.

And while I would love to reunite all of my books into One Giant Collection and stop paying garages to beat up our car and have storage places in our own home where all of our Things would reside together at last, I keep remembering that it isn’t about all that. It is not about me and Nicole and our stuff and our convenience and what we want. It’s all about the girls now.

There are no right answers:

• We could move to a place where the girls will be guaranteed a decent education and a yard and lightning-bug chases and capture-the-flag nights with other kids. But Nicole will have to commute into the city for work and say goodbye to her 20 minute walk-to-work, thus relegating her time with the girls to only weekends. That’s a big minus for the girls.

• We could stay in the city, but move to a bigger apartment for a ridiculous amount of money. But the girls still won’t grow up with a backyard or with neighborhood friends and maybe without a good formal education.

• We could stay right where we are, in our two-bedroom apartment, in our great neighborhood with only a semi-bad school, and buy a vacation home. But then we remember that the girls will have a semi-bad education. Adding to the fun we discuss everything on the education spectrum from private school (starting at 50K a year for both girls) to home schooling (zero-ish per year, barring supplies, but it lacks socialization for them).

So there is this new plan being bantered about in regards to our future. Plan Number 514. The plan du jour, one that involves life outside the city. It developed naturally in the course of one of our daily talks about What Are We Going To Do. And it has me all worked up, in both good and bad ways.

Even though I have lived in this city for almost twenty years, I feel like I am not done here. I bitch and complain about New York all the time—and lately I have noticed the bad more than the good—but the second I think about leaving it, I feel like I am going to hyperventilate. Right now, as I am typing this, I feel like something is sitting on my chest. Which is impossible because I am sitting up. And I feel like tomorrow I am going to walk through Central Park then go to the Met then stop at whatever café and after the girls are in bed, I will head out and take advantage of everything the city has to offer. A stroll through Times Square becomes appealing only when I think I won’t be able to do it.

It comes back to, how can I leave this city? It is a part of my identity. It is who I am. It is where I feel most comfortable in life, where my non-republican views are replicated in others; where families like mine exist; where I am a part of the scenery and a part of the life. I live and breath its pace and vigor. And I love being a part of its (oh this is so trite and cliché, sorry) colorful tapestry.

Yet, yet, yet, as I said to Nicole tonight, I have lived here for almost twenty years (eighteen to be exact) and she has lived her for a little less than that. We have had our chance to go to the museums and the opera and see the shows and walk through the streets complaining of slow-moving, picture-snapping tourists from the vantage point of People Who Live Here. We’ve had enough time do all of the things that we feel like we should do, even though we don’t always do them. In other words, we have lived the life of Riley and have had our chance to do what we want when we want. Whether we squandered that chance or lived life to the fullest, I guess only time will tell. But don’t we all feel remorse and regret on the cusp of change?

It’s a great plan for the girls. For us, well, it is good for us to, but let’s be honest: We would never pursue this plan if we didn’t have the girls. Leaving the city on the weekends, going to a place where the pace was slower and the air was cleaner, that was our plan. Leaving it for good, that was a plan for down the road a bit.

There is no perfect answer to what to do. Staying put and not thinking about what to do is absolutely the wrong choice. This new just-hatched “plan” is best for the girls. And another person (not us) would be tremendously impacted in a positive way as well. And there are some great pluses. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it scares the hell out of me, this new plan, even in its abstract form, even though nothing is happening yet. Moving to Washington DC, that was easier for me to swallow than this current plan.

Leaving the city. Nicole only seeing the girls on the weekends. Me seeing Nicole less than I do now. Being away from the life I love/hate. And living somewhere that I never before seriously considered living, which has some serious consequences. I’m started to breathe faster just thinking about it.

I hate omitting details but I need to keep the logistics under wraps for now. I know, it's annoying. But things are starting to happen faster now.

And I am so, so grateful, as I sit here at midnight on Sunday, with the two reasons why I am writing this post sleeping soundly nearby. It still doesn't escape us, how lucky we are to have the girls and these issues. I just wish we knew what the best path was. Forward forward forward.

Pictured above, the one that got away. The sheer potential of that place....


nuttychemist said...

Part of doing what's best for the girls is doing what's best for you. If you go with a plan just because it has all pluses in the girls column but all minuses in yours you probably are ulitmately going to do what's worse for the girls because they are going to have an unhappy mother.

Remember that saying if mama aint happy aint nobody happy? That is so so true.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ the above commenter regarding momma being happy; the research in that area supports such a claim too. On the other hand, I don't hear you saying you would be unhappy. Change would occur even if you stayed in the city. I've noticed that we all generally measure "what is right" by asking what feels good. Not so sure that's the right question. Change is always uncomfortable. Wishing you the best!

Shelli said...

we're in the EXACT same Quandry.

Exact. Our options are Chicago, Portland, San Francisco.

Oh but MAN, that house - SEXY. Yeah. If I had the chance to get my hands on a house like that, I'd move in a blink!

K J and the kids said...

Good luck. although I agree with the keep yourself happy...I'm also of the mind set that people need to start considering their children more (not the case with you girls)

I can't WAIT to find out what you decide to do. Whatever it is, it will be the right step forward.

The picture. that's a crying shame that it got away.


I gag a little each time my gf mentions having "a house next year." Or her comments about looking in the fall again for a house.

We also miss nature. I catch myself on vacation- when I see actual stars. Oh yeah -those things. We have a storeage unit in CT and pay for parking what people in some places pay for rent. It can be absurd.

But then I get scared- will other families look like ours? Where will I get good bread? I would miss the crazy people of new york city, and there are no other people as nutty/eccentric as the people here. I breathe for that.

Thanks for the stroller ideas. We did check out the baby planet one at real birth. My rocket science degree (and your blog) has lead me to conclude you live nearby. I am nyc nuts- but not like stalker nuts. Actually- I think we might go back and check that stoller out again.


Anonymous said...

I know I want to move. We've always planned for nyc to be a stopping point (a long one I guess- it's been 7 years). We don't have money for a big house, but even a little one would be a palace compared to our little Brooklyn apartment! It's just tough to know when/where to go, get new jobs, etc. I'm not sure when it will happen.

Anonymous said...

I meant more like a "layover" than a stopping point. Sorry.

gold star said...

We're at the exact same place at the moment. I'm not down with commuting, though. I feel like it would take all the fun out of the city for me if I just worked here.

Right now we're thinking Burlington VT in 2009. I'm sure we'll change our minds before then, though. Good luck with your plans...I'm so excited for you!

Thanks for the comment re: cysts. It's really reassuring to hear of cases where everything was fine.