Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City Memories

I thought it would take me forever to find a parking spot.

Four storms worth of snow had fallen and been plowed off of the streets up the Upper West Side of Manahttan and then iced over, causing four foot solid snow drifts to build up along the sides of West End Avenue, all but obliterating what little parking there was in the first place.

But, as luck would have it, someone was leaving a spot just as I passed 72nd Street, and I slipped my car in easily. So the extra half hour I left to find a spot before I was supposed to meet my friend for dinner was now mine to do with what I pleased. With more parking up in the 80s and 90s, I don't often find myself strolling in the 70s these days, now that I have moved to the suburbs and drive my car to get into the city on the weekends. It was oddly warm after weeks and weeks of seemingly endless subzero temperatures, so I decided to walk the 20 or so blocks to the restaurant instead of taking the subway.

I made the right turn onto 72nd Street and found myself standing in front of my old building.

The same weekend doorman was sitting at the front desk, and the same woman from the 14th floor with all the dogs let herself out and headed towards Riverside Drive, just as I saw her do every night over the years I lived in the building.

As I stood on the sidewalk in front of the building the treated me so well, a tide of memories washed over me. 

Going up to the apartment with David after our fourth date - seeing where and how he lived when I was already sure that he would be mine. Letting myself in with my own key after we had been together for awhile, watching his big TV on the couch and waiting for him to get home from work to watch with me. Getting engaged on that same couch just a few years later. Moving in officially just days after our wedding, and trying to fit both of our things into an apartment clearly meant for just one. Walking out of the building as dawn was breaking over the silent city, heading towards the park for my morning runs. More fun than fights. More laughter than tears. Packing up the apartment when we decided it was time to move on. Driving away towards our new life, trying to look backwards and forwards at the same time.

I waited to be sad, but I wasn't. I was something else. Something I can't pinpoint exactly, but that felt a lot like grateful. Grateful that I had the time I did on this street, and for the life that it gave me. That I lived in this incredible city long enough to make it my own. To know that even though I don't live here anymore, it will always be mine. 

Some people say that New York can be rough and it can be mean. And I guess sometimes it can. But it wasn't to me. When I first came here almost nine years ago for law school I thought it was temporary. A place I would come to live and to learn and then to leave. It never occurred to me that it would become home. New York gave me a life, a career, a husband and friends who are my family. 

I am forever grateful to New York.

And I'm grateful for whatever twist of fate moved us to a place where we can have the best of both worlds. Where can have grass and trees and endless closet space, but that is close enough to head into the city not just for work, but whenever we miss the crowds and the lights and the buzz of energy that suburban life just can't provide. 

And at the end of the night, even though we leave and head north towards our new home, the city will always be here for me when I need it, its lights gleaming in welcome.


  1. Occasionally my husband and I find ourselves back by our old building, scanning the windows for our favorite old doorman.. it was such a wonderful time, and our building was good to us. i remember it all so fondly, but i'm not unhappy when we wave goodbye and make our way back to the suburban side of the midtown tunnel. new roads.. new stories... all good. :)

  2. Oh, sigh. I miss New York. I wish I was lucky enough to have lived there.
    And I recognize that same nostalgia for places in which you lived and loved. I feel that when I drive by every place I lived in and been happy.