Now that I’ve been away from New York for six months, as I reflect on our last night in the city, it seems epic and representative of the stark contrasts of ups and downs that can only co-exist in such a unique city. The weeks prior to the move had been spent with friends, staying up late on school nights and taking time to smell the roses (or in NYC terms, walk home over the bridge rather than take the train). Our decision to move in some ways was very sudden and in other ways had been mulled over for ten years since the day we arrived. But when the time came, it all happened very quickly. We finally made the decision to take the plunge on Thanksgiving and moved on Christmas Eve.
With all the choaos and exhaustion, I overslept on my last day at work. For the first time in two years, I took a cab from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. I had planned to leave my belongings in my office and deal with them when I returned for a visit in the Spring. I would be working remotely and this seemed to be the best choice. But on the last day, I started to feel that my things would disappear, as things often do in a school. So I made a split decision to pack them up. Ultimately, my last day on the job was spent moving six very heavy boxes of books in a silk shirt and heels down four flights of stairs and hailing a cab back to Brooklyn. When I screamed at a tourist for "cutting" in my cab hailing area, I could feel myself unraveling. I never did things like that and tried to pride myself in being a "helpful" New Yorker. I planned to go to a good friend's annual birthday/christmas party that evening on the Lower East Side. I had never missed it in ten years and promised myself I wouldn't miss it this year, even considering our huge to-do list. All in all, I took four cabs that day across the Brooklyn Bridge. I had also begged my husband to take family photos to document our life in Brooklyn, which were scheduled early the next morning.
The photographer had her work cut out for her with our under-eye circles and pure exhaustion.
Two days later, it was our moving eve and it may come as a shock, but we weren't ready. We were both up until 3:00 in the morning packing. It’s impossible to pack efficiently in a small New York City apartment because of the lack of space. We had emptied our storage unit (and now also my office) into the hallway of our brownstone. Our neighbors were very kind but I'm sure it was terribly annoying.
While NYC makes things difficult, I'll admit that packing with me is also an added challenge. I’m so sentimental that I get stuck on each item I find, remembering the moment I wore a particular dress or when a certain picture was taken. But on 'moving eve,' I tabled my emotions and nostaligia that had run high for weeks (I'd even started video taping common activities, like my walk to work.) and promised my husband that I would focus and help get the job done.
The next morning, we woke up at 6:00 and cleared some space. Adam kept packing and I went out for coffee with our daughter, Vera.
The driver arrived soon after and explained that he had to park at the end of the block because there was no room on our street. This would, of course, be an added charge. After taking a look around our tiny apartment, he explained the overall cost would also be much, much higher than expected. At this point, we just wanted to get on with it and enjoy our last night in NYC so we didn't argue and just agreed. We were ready to sign the papers. But the movers were not New Yorkers and they seemed in no hurry. They took an hour and a half before finishing the paper work. When they were ready to begin, I asked the man who introduced himself as the driver, “So where are the movers?”
"It is me and my friend here," he said, pointing to a short, tiny-framed man of about 5 feet tall. "This is it," they explained.
So Adam got to work with the movers and I kept the baby out of the way and tried to keep everyone fed and hydrated so they would continue working. By noon, the truck was still mostly empty and the rain was coming down.
At 3:00 p.m., the men hired someone off the street to help. Around 4:00, I decided to take off with our bags and check into our hotel. I took all of our suitcases, the baby and also my mother, who had stayed the night with us, and her belongings into a black sedan from Eastern Car service, which I had on speed dial and selected the rent-a-car-seat option. As I climbed in the car, I looked up at the brownstone and wanted to capture the moment but the rain was pelting and the baby was crying. My husband was sweating in the bitter cold. I kissed him goodbye and told him to take care of himself and to please hurry so we can have fun.
In the car, I again, tried to reminisce but I was incredibly nauseous from not sleeping or eating. My large black coat was making me even sicker from the heat and all of the windows were steamy. I remember the cab driver had NPR blaring and the woman was discussing the “poor little girl who died from a tonsil removal.” I closed my eyes and tried not to throw up.
We arrived at the hotel. Adam and I had planned to stay at the Excelsior Hotel, where we got dressed and ready for our wedding day. We hoped the evening would be fun and allow some time to walk around the Upper West Side, where we lived the first four years of our marriage. But at this point, I was just hoping for a shower before the plane ride. We sat our bags down and I got my mother settled and then headed out to mail my wedding dress (which I couldn’t pack and didn’t trust with the movers), buy diapers for the plane ride and go to the bank. I don’t remember what I had to do at the bank, but I remember the woman at the counter being frustrated with me, thinking I didn’t have my stuff together. I thought, “Lady, you have no idea."
When I left the bank, the rain finally stopped and although only 6:00 p.m., the sun was completely gone and it was pitch dark. In desperation, I bought Chex Mix from a magazine stand and searched for a place to buy diapers for the plane ride. I walked around for ten minutes before realizing the grocery store that I was picturing in my mind was in the opposite direction. In the store, I was so overwhelmed, I just started at the diapers for what seemed like 20 minutes. When I finally came to and realized that I must have diapers for the plane, even if that means spending $25 for a 20 pack. I stopped into to Ricky’s and bought a curling iron. I wanted to look pretty for the evening and remember thinking to myself, “I bet these sorts of things are only available on Amazon or Target in Texas.” I made a reservation at Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto. Adam arrived at the hotel only twenty minutes before the reservation, starving and exhausted, but in good spirits. In true New Yorker fashion, he had insisted on taking the train from Brooklyn with all of his bags. Even after the day he had, he said it would be faster than a cab. He quickly showered and we walked quickly to dinner.
When we sat down, I finally stopped and breathed in the moment. We ordered a bottle of wine and my New York life slowly started coming to me in waves. We finally had our chance to take it all in. I saw my life there for what it was – a true experience. We talked about our disappointments and accomplishments. I realized that we had come so very far but yet, in a city where anything is possible, we questioned if we had limited ourselves. Had we taken enough risks? I wasn’t regretful, but for the first time, I was clearly seeing what a privilege living in New York is and had been to me.
We finished the bottle and decided to order just one more glass. Then, as if to prove all of my points, Bernadette Peters and Joel Gray were seated right next to us. They appeared hesitant and scared to be recognized by tourists. The tables are incredibly close so we were literally brushing elbows and our coats are sitting on top of one anothers. Instead of taking the opportunity to introduce ourselves and have one last celebrity moment, Adam and I just drank our wine and toasted to forgeting our disappointments. We moved on to our favorite New York moments, funny horror stories and the moments that defined us as a couple. I could be assuming here, but it seemed possible that the Broadway stars were a little taken by our conversation, intrigued by the drama of a last supper of sorts.
On the way back to our hotel, we walked past our very first apartment together at 143 West 74th Street. The apartment building looked exactly the same. The door was still smudgy and old. The trashcans in front were still smelly and disorganized. We laughed at how I gained about ten pounds in our first year of marriage by frequenting Levain Bakery, which was just steps from our front door, for an iced coffee and a chocolate éclair.
After taking pics of the apartment building we walked in silnce. There were tingly slow flakes floating and the rain begin to drizzle again. There was noone out on the streets and the lights gleamed on the slick sidewalks. We walked faster to keep warm. We were silent but held hands and although we didn’t say it outloud, we realized our next chapter would be far less glamorous, maybe even boring at times. But I could tell that we were both content with the decision. We were hopeful that moving would bring a slower lifestyle and more family time. Six months later, I realize that we were right. There have been a ton of bumps in the road to adjusting to Texas…a ton. But now instead of enjoying dinner next to Broadway stars or meeting friends at Strong Place, we invite the second grader from next door to join us for dinner to help entertain Vera. Instead of walking to Pier 5, we feed the ducks at the nearby park and visit cousins. Less glamarous, yes. But worth it, definitely.
The next morning, I crossed the street for coffee and took this picture. As I waited for our cab to the airport outside of the hotel, I noticed the crosstown 79th street bus. It's the bus I took to work for three years. It seemed to be pummeling towards us. As I entered the cab, I felt the (very) cool air on my face and felt an honest and sad internal goodbye to New York City.