Friday, October 7, 2016

When I was a bohemian

My two are beginning to talk about moving into their own places come the new year. My daughter is salivating at the thought of making her space exactly as she wants it. She has Pinterest boards full of design ideas and color schemes. All of this makes me remember my own first apartment in New York City, a railroad flat on 120th Street with great light, and an endless hallway and two tiny rooms stacked one on top of the other. I moved in there the week before starting my first job as a reporter for a magazine. It was my first time living alone. The refrigerator was in the living room. The kitchen sink and stove were tucked into a dip in one wall. I put shelves above them to store my few mismatched plates and glasses, and the crystal lemonade pitcher my mother had given me. My cutlery lived in painted cup. Somehow, I made the place bohemian adorable.

I obsess so much about my children's safety, yet I hardly worried about my own when I was their age. The building had long corridors with alcoves in which two doors were tucked at right angles, leading to two small apartments that had previously been one spacious one. I always thought those alcoves offered perfect cover for a person with nefarious intent. But there were no such incidents. The basement laundry room was down a long narrow cobwebby hallway with dusty low hanging water and heating pipes. I only went down there when I had to, sure the place was haunted or else I'd meet some intruder and no one would ever find me. And right next door to me, so close that our front doors almost touched, lived a drug dealer. We said hello cordially as we came and went, and I pretended not to notice his clientele banging on his door at all hours of the day and night. I never told my mother.

That apartment was where my husband and I lived when we were first married, until we moved to a larger place. If the walls of that little railroad flat could talk, I'd ask them to be quiet and keep my secrets. So much happened in those rooms. There were years I was so lonely and desperate there, and yet here I am, still standing. And this is what I want to tell my children: Gather all of life in your arms, cherish the joys and don't be afraid of the hard passages, because you will come out the other side. That's what we do. We survive.


That's me with a dear friend in my first apartment. We were footloose reporters in our twenties, traveling for weeks at a time. And when we were in town, we worked till all hours and then stayed up even later in each other's homes. Oh, the stories we could tell.



17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Lesley, I don't want to give my children the idea that any of it was remotely ok!

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  2. I would love to hear some of those stories.
    And WHY do we think it should be any different for our children? They need stories to remember and marvel at when they reach an older age, when their lives seem so calm and straight in comparison. This is the way it is, it should be. What a lovely post! So evocative!

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    1. Ms. Moon, one day we will sit together in rocking chairs and share our stories, the ones we don't go into to detail about on the ole blog!

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  3. I love the mystery and mystique of you and your fascinating life. More!!!
    Love
    Rebecca

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    1. Rebecca, we, too, will sit and share our stories in greater detail one day, maybe while sitting in the middle of a forest on an island, with the sun on our faces on an expansive deck! It could happen!

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  4. I loved reading of your first apartment! Brings back memories of mine, too. I cannot imagine renting in New York. Our rents are so measly compared to what I've read about there. I would be shell-shocked by the amount, I'm sure!

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    1. jenny_o, we have no idea when we are young of the dangers around us. we think we're invulnerable. the good thing is, the dangers i now imagine are no doubt quite overblown, and despite the news, the world is far kinder than portrayed.

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  5. Thank you for sharing some of your stories here. I hope your son had a wonderful birthday.

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    1. e, he had a great birthday, AND he passed the last of his clinical scenarios with flying colors this week! I have to write about that! I'm so proud of him. thanks for being here!

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  6. It's fun to look back on times like that, isn't it? And how exciting that your kids are on the threshold of creating those types of memories for themselves!

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    1. Steve, it is fun to look back on those time. These times can seem mundane by comparison although I remember a good bit of angst back then. I think it's how I'm made, because that part I've carried into the present with me. As for my kids being on the threshold, I think they crossed over it a while ago!

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  7. It's not exciting, it's terrifying.

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    1. Lesley, I see you think as I do. Terrifying when contemplating my children having such experiences, yes. Then again, I probably won't even know about them, as my own mother never really knew about mine. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. It will be fun when your kids have you and your husband over for a meal - especially your daughter because of her culinary skills. And they will have so much fun and make so many wonderful memories for themselves. As a young adult, you never think of your parents being worried. They'll be ok. All will be well. You were beautiful at that age!

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    1. Ah Joanne, we are all beautiful in youth. If only we knew.

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  9. First of all, I adore that photo at the top (as well as the one of you at the bottom of the post!). Secondly, I love how this sweet post stirred up my own memories of my single apartment in New York on 90th Street and Columbus. So tiny -- with a little loft and a window that cranked open onto a courtyard with a tree. I was so happy there, making chocolates in my galley kitchen on my days off. I, too, lived next door to a drug dealer, but I don't think the place had a laundry so I had to either pay for it to be done or drag it to the laundromat. Still, they were rich and good times.

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