Last week Jane and I walked down Fifth Street and the whole sidewalk was over run with tourists trying to get onto those horse drawn carriages. I always feel bad for the horses with those giant feathers on their heads. I mean, give them some dignity why don’t you? The air smelled like street food and that weird subway smell that comes through the grates. Men wearing suits that cost more than my old Civic walked down the sidewalk shoulder to shoulder with men covered in tattoos, and I thought, “Whoa. I live here.”
It’s a huge combination of awe and culture shock. I feel like a goldfish that flipped itself out of a bowl.
I was having an intensely hard time with things last week. I’d taken Jane to Central Park, gotten lost, taken her to the wrong playground, she got kicked in the eye, and then I didn’t have the cash to buy her the ice cream I promised and she cried her eyes out. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed chocolate gravy, even though I rarely ate it in the first place, but still. I missed knowing I could get it if I wanted to. Same goes for grits. Never eat them. Now all of a sudden I want to make them my mascot. It makes no sense. I find myself saying “ya’ll” just for spite, like, I feel aggressively southern about it.
So I went up on the roof deck to get some air one night. It was windy, and the entire city of Manhattan was just across the water, sparkling and beautiful and almost breathing like this giant living thing, and I started crying. It was weird, to be in awe of being in a place and also simultaneously homesick. But the weirdest part was the fact there were people up on the roof, a small group of them, clustered over in the corner having some wine. They looked up at me, “hey there’s a crying girl” expressions on their faces, and immediately went back to talking with each other.
That was the weirdest part of living here so far. Because on one hand I was happy to be ignored. I was happy for the anonymity of sitting in a deck chair with my knees under my chin without having a stranger get all up in my grill to help.
But on the other hand, it also made the home sickness a little worse. Because in the south? You cry in public with mascara running down your face like an accidental Alice Cooper and someone is getting up in your grill with a “honey, are you okay?” whether you like it OR NOT.
There’s a park that Jane loves. We walked there on a very hot afternoon. I hadn’t packed a thing for her to get wet in, and we had no flip flops or towel. But I took her shoes off and said, “Go for it.” And I sat there on the park bench, watching that beautiful girl dart in and out of the spraying water, fully clothed in her shorts and Minion t-shirt, and it was good. Very good. The red brick apartment buildings rose up around us, and there were bees buzzing around the sunflowers, and she ended up walking home in completely soaked clothes, so happy.
Then when we got home she waved at the door man (who she knows by name and has to stop to talk to every time) and told him all about the “playing in the water in New York.” And she stood there dripping all over the floor of the lobby while he smiled and listened and responded with the appropriate “oohs and ahhs”, every now and then glancing up at me to smile too. It was a good moment.
Our doorman is good people.
Over the weekend the three of us tackled Costco and Ikea and Micheal’s and a regular grocery store (where we parked on the roof). This all happened with no deaths or arguments, so basically a huge family victory. I have dreamed of having an Ikea close by my entire adult life, but now that I have it I’ve learned a very important lesson. You better seriously hydrate with some Gatorade beforehand. Maybe pack some protein bars. At a certain point I very nearly curled up on the bed in their 250 square foot apartment set up. Fayez’s eyes glazed over. Jane took advantage of our mental state and seized the opportunity to talk him into buying her yet another stuffed dog. Her room is turning into a stuffed pet kennel.
Fayez and I have unpacked and organized and unpacked and organized again. Our apartment is looking more apartmenty rather than a storage unit. In the picture of Jane above, you can see three tea pots on top of the vent hood in the kitchen. That sort of sums up what combining two households is like. There are double and triples of everything, and deciding what to get rid of and what to keep gets all Sophie’s Choice at times. But. We have a big kitchen with regular appliances (for NY standards). We have two bathrooms. We converted a small entry closet into a legit pantry (thanks Ikea). My lamps made it safely and there are curtains. And ya’ll know how I feel about my curtains and lamps.
Yesterday we went to Dylan’s Candy Bar. We got ice cream upstairs, and sat next to a British couple who both had blue hair, and Jane thoroughly approved. She told the waiter “I want blue ice cream” and then pointed to their heads. They smiled at her. Then we made it back onto the subway and to Macy’s on 34th street (thanks to Fayez’s text-instructions, so much better than Google maps). It wasn’t Gimbles, but I was still having all kinds of Natalie-Woods-classic-movie-love feelings, and they still have the vintage wooden escalators. I was simultaneously charmed and suspicious of their safety ratings.
We made it home on the right subway (WIN), and Jane napped in my lap (WIN, nap times have been seriously compromised lately). Two women with babies sat near me, and we ended up talking and smiling at each others children. There was no use of the word “ya’ll” and not one person in that subway car knew what chocolate gravy was, but it was okay. I was reminded there is a universal mom club that transcends accents and culture and grits. It was really, really nice. And I thought to myself, “This city will feel like home. It doesn’t yet. But it will soon.”