The leaves are just about perfection right now in NYC and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them today. It was oddly warm and very sunny so we spent a lot of time outside and everywhere I looked it was colorful, autumnal glory – so I’m sharing with you.
This morning I was lucky enough to be a chaperone on Brady’s class trip to our local fire station. Although it’s only 5 blocks from the school we took a bus, which might have been the most exciting part of the trip for most of them. Most kids here only take a school bus for field trips.
The fireman giving the tour had a super-thick New York accent which made it all the more awesome. He went over fire safety with them first, then they got to see a fireman in full gear and touch all of his cool equipment. Then each kid got to sit in the truck and we took photos of all of them. Next they went through the ladder truck to see the hose and then got to check out the pole, complete with a fireman sliding down. It was lots of fun.
At the end we were outside the firehouse waiting for the bus and the kids were asking the men questions. Outside of our firehouse is a memorial to the nine men from the station who died on 9-11. They each have a photo with their names underneath. Most of the kids’ parents had spoken to them about this at some point, as I had with Brady. But some of them were asking lots of questions about the dead firemen and what happened to them. The man who gave the tour answered them in the best way possible, but I can’t imagine how hard it must be for him to have to answer this each time a class comes through. Tough.
Still, it was a great trip. They got a call just as our bus was coming around the corner and the kids got to watch the men put on their gear and get into the truck. A perfect ending. I felt really lucky to be a part of it. It was a great way to spend a morning.
Like the alliteration?
Sitting here on this gray and windy day with the construction droning on outside my window, it’s hard to believe that just this Saturday we were enjoying the fall leaves, picking pumpkins, petting goats, and playing outside. Now, fall in the city is pretty amazing. I do enjoy being here this time of year, but it also makes me yearn to leave the concrete behind and experience all that autumn has to offer. The husband’s aunt is living in a house on the property of a large farm in Western Massachusetts so we headed up there this weekend to get back to nature a bit. Even though the sun was hiding most of the time, we really enjoyed it.
Although social norms may deem it odd, sometimes it is absolutely wonderful when a stranger tells you what they think. Today as I was coming home with the boys, pushing Declan in the stroller with one hand, bags hanging from every possible place, a pizza box in my other hand, we waited for the elevator with a woman I had never talked to before.
I gave Brady the keys and asked him to hold them for me so I could unlock the door when we got home. “I can’t unlock the door,” he said to me. “I know,” I replied, “you’re holding them to help me out.” The woman waiting with us smiled at him. The elevator arrived and I maneuvered the stroller with all of it’s cargo and the pizza box into it. I pushed our floor and asked the woman for hers. She reached out and said she had it.
Then she looked up at me and smiled. “I don’t want to seem weird,” she said, smiling, “and I know I don’t know you, but I just had to tell you…” she hesitated, but I smiled at her so she went on. “I tell my sister about you and your husband and kids all the time.”
“Really?” I asked taken back a little.
“It’s just the way that you talk to them and the way you interact,” she told me, “and the way they behave. You’re just a lovely family.”
“Really?” I said again, smiling this time.
“Yeah, so I just wanted to tell you,” she finished.
We arrived at our floor and started to remove ourselves and our stuff from the elevator. She stepped out to help us.
“That just really made my day,” I told her. She gave me her name and said it was nice to meet me and I did the same. I hope she knows that it really did make my day. As a parent I often feel inadequate and in public, even in the lobby and elevator of our building, I often feel judged. People rarely hesitate to hand out criticisms. Just this morning a traffic cop leaned out of her van to reprimand me for having Declan’s stroller slightly off the sidewalk as we waited at a light. For someone to have noticed my family and especially to have noticed the way we talk and interact and think it was something nice to witness makes me feel sort of amazing. While I try to keep my children under control when we’re around other people, I’m certainly not trying to be the picture of a nice family when we’re coming and going from our apartment. It just blew me away that my family made any impression on a stranger and it really did made my day that she took the time to mention it to me. Sometimes, it’s good to say the weird thing to that lady on the elevator. It just might make it all seem easier.
Tomorrow morning we are leaving for 6 days in Cape May, NJ. I can’t wait to get the heck out of NYC and spend a little time in the waves. Never again do we plan our only vacation for the last week of summer. Though we’ve been able to get out on the weekends a lot, we’ve pretty much been city-bound for the entire summer and it’s just enough already! Enough dust, enough jackhammers, enough people, enough sirens, enough schlepping all of our junk to the friggin playground.
It’s time for sandcastles and wave jumping and pool swimming. I’m ready for arcade games and hot dogs and ice cream. I want to see my kids exhausted from long days of fun. I just hope I haven’t built it up too much at this point.
I’ll be on vacation from blogging as well so I’ll see you in a week.
I have some sort of psychotic need to continue my Project Optimism posts. Maybe it’s because it gets to me to write. Maybe it’s because it makes me smile every Monday. Maybe it’s because it gets me thinking. Whatever the reason, I will continue.
This week is a little bittersweet. Yesterday we went to a party at Chelsea Piers. It was a going-away party for some dear friends who are making the big move away from the NYC metro area. We hadn’t seen them in a long time. Much too long. In the time since we last saw them, they had a son, we had a son, they moved twice, we moved once, our children grew.
It was so wonderful to meet up with not only them, but so many old friends. These were friends we spent late nights with in our early twenties, when the city was a place of bars and clubs and stumbling out of a cab at 5am to buy Poptarts at the deli. These are friends who let us crash at their places for undetermined amounts of time when we had no electricity because of the blackout, or just because we were too tired to go home yet.
Now we are older, grayer, maybe more responsible, many out in the burbs, and almost all of us have children. Yesterday, they all played together in the sun as we looked out over the Hudson river. They shared trains and snacks and played pinball. We had beers like the old days, but it was distinctly not like the old days. Instead of loud music and the smell of cigarette smoke, we were surrounded by conversation and our children’s laughter. It was divine in so many ways.
The bittersweet part is that we didn’t do this until it was all ending. They are taking off to another state far away just next week and yet we didn’t get together when they were just across the river. Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram so we can see each others’ kids and watch them grow. I suppose it often proves true, you just don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
I’ll take this lesson and spend more time with the friends who are here, take the time to visit the friends who aren’t, and stop using the excuse of “well, we have kids now.” Because honestly, shouldn’t that be the reason instead?
I didn’t manage to get any pictures without our friends’ kids’ faces in them, so you’ll have to settle for Declan by the water.
By “us” I mean both NYC in general and the Upper East Side specifically. By “you” I don’t really mean you, but rather people outside of New York as a group. It’s been a long time so I can’t really remember what my ideas of New York City were before I moved here. I know that a lot of what I thought about the UES was based on Sex and the City and Carrie’s completely impossible apartment. (Everyone on TV conveniently has an in to a rent-controlled place.)
Anyway, I was just walking D\ in the stroller for his nap and came across a couple with their grown son talking to a woman walking her dog. From what I could gather, the son was looking at an apartment. They asked the woman with the dog, “What is this neighborhood like?” and she was replying that it’s nice, etc, etc. The mother interrupted the woman to say, “so we’re safe here?”
Now, these people were looking at a building on a lovely, tree-lined street. It was on the same block as, almost directly across from, my son’s elementary school. As they stood on the sidewalk, the woman with the dog walked by, followed by me with a sleeping toddler in a stroller. Behind me was a woman with her newborn and then a nanny with a little girl walking beside her and a small boy in a stroller. I understand wanting your son to live in a nice place after graduating college, but can’t you glean a little about the neighborhood from what’s around you? Small business and chain stores, restaurants and coffee shops, lots and lots and lots of families with children…my son’s gorgeous elementary school taking up half the block across the street. Was their idea of New York SO scary, that they really needed to ask a passerby if their adult son would be safe in my neighborhood?
I didn’t want to take a picture of that block since my son’s school is right there and I don’t want any creepy people out there on the internets stalking him or anything, but here are two photos of another block I walked down on my way back home. (Please ignore the stupid construction signs. We have the most horrific construction going on, that is literally driving me to drink. It is bananas. I want to write about it, but I get so angry every time I sit down to do it that I can’t go through with it. It is making my relationship with NYC a bit, er, complicated. But I digress.)
Does this look scary or unsafe? Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. I feel recently that so much that happens in my neighborhood is based on how other people view my neighborhood. It seems as if we’re either seen as the scary big city, where no child could grow up normal, with little access to things like grass and trees, or some haven populated exclusively by filthy-rich white people.
Yes, I know it’s mostly white up here. I know. But it’s still far more diverse than a whole lot of this country. My son’s kindergarten class is a near-perfect, micro-representation of the racial/ethnic breakdown of America. (I say racial/ethnic because not everything thought of as race is actually race. It’s a very complicated way of classifying people. I am talking about the major racial/ethnic groups that we look at in the U.S. population.) We are most certainly NOT all rich. It’s actually one of the most affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan. Yes, there are plenty of crazy wealthy people living here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of normal middle-class families here too.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I was just really struck by that woman’s comment. It so surprised me that someone would feel unsafe standing in my neighborhood. I like my neighborhood and I happen to feel very, very safe here. Of course there is crime, but for the most part it’s a really nice place to live. I’ve also had the subject of perception in relation to my neighborhood weighing on my mind because of the controversy over the MTS (Marine Transfer Station, Google it, you’ll get lots and lots of opinions) being built two and half blocks from my son’s school, right next to a playground that we frequent and the playing field where he will be playing soccer this fall. I WILL be writing more on that, but I need to think it out and get my facts straight first. Again, I get so angry when I try to write about it that I can’t get it out. It seems to me that the perception of where I live has led certain people to believe that we need a little more adversity in our lives. Again, I digress.
I suppose that this is one of the things that goes along with living in one of the most well-known and largest cities on the planet. Everyone knows about it and therefor forms ideas about it in relation to their own exposure and experiences. In some ways, this is amazing and good and in some ways, it can be hurtful. No matter what, it’s something I have to live with if I choose to live here.
So, what are your thoughts on New York City and the Upper East Side specifically? Do you have preconceived ideas about this place? Have you experienced something similar in the place where you live?
So, I realize I haven’t posted since last Monday and I also realize that last Monday’s post was about the terrace, but I’m stretching this one out and riding it through this week too. Here are the photos that I promised and never delivered.
The boys and I spent a lot of time out there today and we really enjoyed it. We planted our herb seeds and swept up and Brady read a book and drew a map. To each their own.
So that’s my optimism today. Last week sort of blended into this week and it’s getting very, very long. Hopefully, I’ll find a little time to write in there somewhere.
Note: Photos to come.
Last July, yes I said LAST and JULY, our terrace, our little piece of the outside world in the city, was closed for construction. There was some notice about not being up to code and the work taking approximately 4-6 weeks to complete, depending on weather. We were going on vacation when the work was supposed to start so a week beforehand we shipped our plants and grill off to my in-laws’ house, thinking we would at least have it back for part of the fall.
This was not the case. Four weeks turned into ten turned into 16. Our bedroom windows were sealed shut with plastic for three and a half months. Summer turned into fall turned into winter turned into spring. From our windows we saw other lines of apartments lose their balconies and then get them finished and reopened again and again. The weather turned warm and sunny again and still we couldn’t use our outdoor space. Our patience wore thin. It wore very, very, very thin.
We complained to management, and the super, and tenant relations. We got the runaround. Finally, I LOST it. When they were nearly finished and then stopped work on our line for an entire week I went nuts! I went down to the super sweet girl in tenant relations. I begged her to do something…ANYTHING! And then a miracle occurred and last Thursday they took down the two-by-four that was nailed across our door and removed the caution tape and we had our porch back! Just under TEN MONTHS later we have it back!
On Saturday we went to Home Depot and bought planters and flowers and seeds. Yesterday we got our grill back from the husband’s parents’ place. Today we planted petunias and grilled sliders for dinner. It may not seem like a big deal, but to us it is. And we are very, very happy to have our terrace back!
In all my excitement I forgot to take any photos! I’ll take some tomorrow and put them up I promise.