Thursday, July 25, 2013

Denizens of New York


I miss this city most when I am about to leave it, even to journey to the place where I am more surely from. I am not a natural traveler, although I did pick up and leave the land of my birth to move to an entirely new country when I was 18. What's more, I knew when I was 5 years old that I would do it. I visited my Aunt Winnie and Uncle Charlie here that year, and that's when I decided. The city felt like a pulsing thing. There were so many different sorts of people, every one of them with a story. I made up stories about the rainbow of humans who surged past me on the street and silently I decided. This was my true habitat.

At 5 I already felt out of place in my everyday circumstance, a feeling that miraculously vanished on the streets of New York. Here, I was just another one of the city's denizens, a chubby child in navy blue jersey shorts that rode up over my chubby thighs, and lacy ankle socks that sank inevitably into my brown leather Mary Janes, but no one quibbled with these shortcomings. I was folded in, unquestioned. I felt freed. So all through my childhood I waited, knowing what came next. And when it was time for me to apply to college, I sent off just one application, early decision, to a school in New York City. I knew I would get in. I can't explain. I just knew that my moving to this city was inevitable and going to that school was how I would make it happen.

But now, one the eve of traveling to pack up my mother's house in a beachy place, I wonder: Do I want to grow old here? My uncle is long gone and my aunt, at 94, seems so alone to me, even with our family just across the courtyard. Perhaps that is just the province of old age. My mother seems lonely too, despite living in her son's home in Jamaica now, her two grandchildren coming and going throughout her day. I imagine when I am old, I will want to be near to the two cousins who are like sisters to me, both of whom moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Am I, very late in the game, starting to feel the pull of another place? And where will our children settle? Where will they raise our grandchildren? Surely that will have a bearing. Such brooding thoughts for an ordinary Thursday.



8 comments:

  1. Oh yes you captured it perfectly. New York is a pulsing thing and I love your random shots of a city I have loved since I was a young (young) girl. I haven't given up on my dream to return.
    xo

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  2. So important to keep an open mind as we get older...never say never to anything. The best way I heard it described is that our mind is like a photo album and sometimes we get to change the pictures..

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  3. this is so interesting, as i sit here and think about whether new york is even for me at all. i can't imagine living back in my hometown, but i have this overwhelming feeling of restlessness and exhaustion here....

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  4. I've never been to New York, although I have family there. But I know what you mean. When I visited Atlanta for the first time, I knew I wanted to live, work, and grow old here. I think this kind of self-query we find ourselves doing is simply a requirement of aging, a rite of passage. It's a beautiful and good thing. Safe travels, my sister!

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  5. Awh yes. I LOVED visiting NY growing up. We'd start in Brooklyn, then visit relatives in the Mt. Vernon and Mt. Kisco area. I thought my cousins were SO smart to be taking the bus and subway alone. They could go anywhere they needed to go and didn't have to wait for parents to take them like we did in the south. I also loved the diversity of so many cultures. It was my little glimpse of the world for a month each summer.

    Angella, I think you were very brave to move so far from home. When I was 18, I moved 3 hours from home and thought it was something to brag about. Never thought about leaving the country. Ha Ha guess it's not too late ;)

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  6. You've described my own experience of wanting and then actually living in New York City for many years -- the city "folding me in." I think I've never felt that way since, to tell you the truth, although I have no desire to live in a place that has winter, again!

    I look forward to hearing about your visit home. I look forward to knowing you as you come and go, travel here and there, grow old, even.

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  7. I'd say it's early to think about those types of decisions for yourself. As you said, a lot more life will have to unfold -- especially regarding your kids and their lives -- before you can decide where you want to be. I think as we age our "cosmic loneliness," the aloneness that just comes with individuality, steps more to the forefront, perhaps as our communication skills weaken.

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  8. I love how we mentally prepare ourselves for the future so far in advance. I guess the important thing to hold onto at any stage is the excitement and sense of belonging.

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