A Brooklyn goodbye

I never loved Brooklyn the way you're supposed to. I love the park -- truly a slice of perfection in this city -- but Brooklyn itself, its rhythms and noises, just never felt like home to me. And I've moved before, from apartments I've loved and some I've hated, from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing bodegas and drugstores every two years. But we're moving next week, and this move is different. It's permanent. 

Around the corner from our almost-former place. 

Around the corner from our almost-former place. 

Tonight I sat on the floor of my toddler's bedroom (this is a Thing we have to do now to get her to go to sleep occasionally) and stayed there, not making eye contact with her, for ten minutes. Ten minutes is a long time to sit silently with no phone or entertainment. So I thought about all the things I will miss about this place, about Brooklyn. 

This is the apartment where I labored on the living room floor, knowing it was too early to go to the hospital but demanding we go anyway. This is the apartment where I brought my baby home, where she learned to roll over and sit up and toddle and walk and talk. ("Let's GO! is a favorite refrain.) And now it's time to leave it behind. 

The closing of a house, the organizing of minor construction and painting and cleaning, the finding of daycares and pediatricians, the bills and bookings and phone calls -- all of it means every day has brought with it a full checklist of things to do, the kind of days that keep you up at night. So the leaving itself snuck up on me. But here we are, just a few days away, and already some goodbyes have happened without my acknowledging them.

Today I finally starting counting things off: my last commute on the F train, my last trip to the coffee shop around the corner, my last days with a New York license. Last, final, done. 

But next week starts all the firsts. 





Space and noise

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 11.04.38 AMMy mother has begun telling me how gentle I am, how quiet. When I tap my iPad, even. When I speak, when I close kitchen cabinets. I start to take notice. It turns out I've even been saving the unloading of the dishwasher for nighttime, when I can see how quiet I can be, like it's some kind of personal goal. When I watch TV I keep the volume low, so low even I sometimes have trouble hearing it. I mute commercials. Daytimes are fine, but when the sun sets noises seem to multiply. I speak in a hush starting at 7pm. I sit on my couch, baby asleep in her nearby room, and keep the remote close, finger poised over the volume button.

We are very close here in my Brooklyn apartment, and something about that closeness makes me shrink up and drop to a whisper. There are three bedrooms here but they are small, and that is being generous. I watch House Hunters and cringe at the greedy needs of the homebuyers who decline entire houses because their walk-in closets are too cramped. I think back to Sri Lanka, where I helped build a house for an entire family. They were thrilled to be getting two rooms to share between them, to be getting one bed.

I've been pondering space lately. What we need, what we deserve. Whether. I love this city but in my long park walks with the baby I breathe in the wide roads, the stretches of snow-covered fields, the frozen lake, the geese. My lungs expand there in ways they can't just a few blocks over, where the brownstones block the wind.

Last week I visited my sister's new house and got turned around coming out of her master suite. For real. Then I put the baby to bed in the guest room (a guest room!) and even downstairs kept my voice low. "You can talk at normal volume," everyone reminded me. But I kept forgetting. Normal volume, to me, has changed.


August memorials and memories

This week the shadows changed. I saw it on my street this morning, walking to the F train, the very one that's made me miss two yoga classes this week. Augusts are funny -- still sticky, but there's a cool tone to the air that wasn't there before, and everything feels just a little off center. One summer in college when I worked at a jewelry store on the island I tried to explain to my dear friend, the store's owner, how easy it was to squint just the right way so that everything looked as rosy and fresh as it did in May and June. I never wanted summers to end back then, only that's not entirely true; I think I mostly just wanted to make sure I captured them.

Anyway, my friend told me there was no way August could look anything like June, because the shadows always gave it away. They've moved a few degrees, a move that can't be hidden by a squint.

I know she's right, and I see it now. The island would always clear out in August, but we'd still be there, singing to the Indigo Girls behind closed doors, watching the sand blow by, waiting for school to start. Now, even in New York, August feels still to me, frozen. It feels weirdly quiet. The interns at work have left. It's cool enough for sweaters on early mornings.

Today B. and I went to pick up our friend's CSA share while he's out of town and passed a group of people holding a makeshift memorial service on the front stoop of a brownstone. One stumbles upon many things in front of Brooklyn brownstones -- free books from people cleaning out their shelves, old toasters and printers that say "Take me! I work!" in wobbly handwriting -- like this whole borough is hosting a neverending garage sale. But I've never seen a memorial service.

They each had fold-up chairs and there was one empty one, on the top step, with a photo and "1953-2012" printed on it. It wasn't sad. Everyone there seemed joyous, and I thought, that's the way to do those things. On a stoop in August in Brooklyn, watching the world and the weather pass by.

I guess I can't trick myself out of August by squinting. It's here, and just like that, it'll be gone.