ARCHIVE FOR May, 2012

The Turtle Always Wins…2

Posted by Deirdre // 05-16-2012

 

The turtle always wins, because he carries his home on his back

Post by new contributor Maggie Rogers

 

Home.  We figured we’d know it when we saw it.  We just didn’t know how to get there.

We tried everything on.  Does this Port Chester condo make my butt look big? Is the commute to this Fort Greene floor-through too tight? Does this fixer-upper in the ‘burbs clash with my skin tone?

Each choice had its convincing pros and cons.  Our heads were spinning and our hearts were broken.

We knew that our current situation in Carroll Gardens was untenable: two adults, three cats and one walking 11-month-old in a 600 square foot space where 90% of our belongings were stored on the walls.  And yet anything other than our current situation felt like a compromise.

That’s what Brooklyn does to you.  It gets into you and makes you think you can’t live without it.

Here’s how we described our Brooklyn apartment while we were living in it:

“It’s great.  It’s got a yard!  Well, outdoor space.  Yeah we found an oven buried back there, isn’t that nuts?! So we stay on the patio area.  Except when the crazy neighbor is out then we stay inside.  We’re so close to the subway!  Directly under it in fact.  But the thing is, you get used to it – and it’s not even as loud as the fire engines and trucks that come by – I mean, those shake the building.  No stairs to climb!  Yep, ground floor, baby- you can’t tell from the bars on the windows now, but we think it used to be a storefront.  Oh that’s rice paper glued onto the windows.  Yeah, read that tip online!  We need the light but don’t need to see passersby checking out the grocery cart locked to the tree.  It’s actually a great space for a baby because we are always in the same room…no monitor required!”

Et cetera.

When we moved out we took a picture of the empty space.  It looked like a pretty nice garage for a rich person’s car.

Brooklyn living

In the end we picked a house in a town called Pleasantville.  We didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe at that moniker.  Was it a sign that our journey had finally ended in the promised land? Or could it be a warning that we had truly lost the last somewhat-hip piece of our minds?

Pleasantville - the promised land?

At the time we didn’t know much about the town itself.  We were just happy to find a quaint house in our limited price range that spoke its charming potential to both of us.   It also didn’t hurt that as we mulled over on offer, we walked into town and saw the train,  an Indian restaurant, a cute coffee shop and even an independent film theater.

So it came to pass that on a chilly December day nearly five years ago, the baby and I waited for the moving truck at the new place.  I took a careful inventory: 8 bookcases, 50 boxes, and 2 chairs. At a complete loss, I directed the movers to just put everything in the finished basement.  It was dark and quiet and no one could see us down there – it’s where I spent most of that first week.

Bit by bit I emerged.  I ordered blinds and started to shake the creepy goldfish-in-a-bowl feeling.  I stopped jumping when someone yelled “You Who!” at the door.  I figured out how to talk to the neighbors.

By all accounts we had made a good decision. Our lives were better, I knew it – I had a litany of improvements to prove it.  This list was my mantra for those first few winter months:

Driveway

Washer and dryer

While washing my hands, I am looking at trees

Quiet, civilized commute

Great schools

Nice grocery stores that have all food items that you’d reasonably expect at all times

While washing my hands, I am looking at trees

Affordable childcare

Beautiful roads that lead easily to the country

While washing my hands, I am looking at trees

 

But I still felt like a third party observer and not a first person beneficiary.

Then Spring arrived.  I was pushing the baby in her stroller on a quiet street and was overcome by a smell.  It wasn’t just the blossoming flowers.  It was a specific sweetness in the air.  It took me a few moments to place it:  my own childhood.

It was an honest-to-goodness sense memory.  The gentle breeze tickled the light sweat on my arms and every now and then the peaceful pink twilight was punctuated by a child’s laugh or cry.  I felt faint.  I parked the stroller, sat down on the curb, and accepted that I had found my home.  And, with absolutely zero irony, it felt very pleasant indeed.

When we drive back to Brooklyn now, I can’t even imagine why we were so conflicted.  What we were so worried about missing?  The loud BQE looming over us? The scrap metal yard? The questionable litter?  What I miss are the hours that we spent trying to decide if we should leave.  I want those hours back.

But then if we manage to conjure up all the required elements: the right parking space, the right bar, the right drink, the right people – and if we are successful in avoiding all dog shit and drugstores – well then I remember why we couldn’t bear to go.  Then we’re home again, there, too.

Maggie Rogers is a writer and comedic actress living with her husband and two young girls in Pleasantville, NY.  You can read more of her adventures in her column for Patch.com, The Pleasant Mom. Follow her on twitter @thepleasantmom.

 

Just a spoonful of sugar…not sickly sweet4

Posted by Deirdre // 05-10-2012

 

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so dead-set against being a “regular mom” that I went out of my way to be different. I guess I assumed that I’d somehow lose my edge (that growing up in Manhattan was necessary for survival) and identity and become – essentially, soft. So in my quest to be what I considered different, I did countless ridiculous things. I bought this horrific Maclaren that was their first reclining stroller that was so heavy and bulky and sucky that I ended up selling it on craigslist a few months later and just getting the Bugaboo I had fought so hard against (albeit the “cheap” Gecko). I stayed up until 3 o’clock in the morning a few nights while very pregnant driving myself crazy picking out custom crib bedding instead of getting something off the shelf. This is not crazy for some, but I am just so bad at making decisions that it was insane for me.

I was also vehemently against joining a mommy group because I just didn’t think I would have anything in common with anyone, besides of course living in relatively the same neighborhood and having a newborn the same age. Which actually, is kind of a lot and actually would have helped me – a LOT. I lost out on making friends during that crazy time for not just me but my son. And I think meeting some other women who had to go back to an office job after a measly three month maternity leave would have been incredibly good for me. Of course parenting is never what you thought it would be, and things that seemed so important aren’t and those you thought you could easily go without end up being the most useful and helpful to your sanity.

makes. my. skin. crawl.

Never the less, I had an equally naive view of “mommy blogs” which I assumed were all about pink and blue and yellow and green and gingham and basically would be like an episode of Caillou – bad style, bad humor and filled with people who were just not like me. I didn’t know there was an entire world where a gazillion awesome men and women were writing about parenting in a funny, stylish, frank and at times raunchy way. Thank GOD. And yes of course there was – I was a loser and basically a snob to assume there wouldn’t be. And even the ones that weren’t exactly my style still had a great deal of wisdom and humor and most of all, there was a sense of camaraderie.

Yet when I first heard of Mommy Poppins, I bristled because of that ‘mommy’ word again. But it was from a member of the list serve whose company had been recommended by the site. I trusted her taste and intelligence so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to find dopey craft projects and excessive monogramming (sorry-that snob thing is rearing its ugly head again! I have good friends who monogram). Whatever the name, the site is a treasure trove of information, with gross cutseyness (if any) pretty well hidden.

Theo and the Beluga whale checking each other out at the Mystic Aquarium

There are four main sections; one dedicated to each of the three tri-state outposts – NJ, CT and LI – and one for NYC (actually separated by boroughs). Plus, they have information by county that goes well beyond suburban limits. There are day trips, like strawberry picking in NJ; restaurant and shop reviews, like this list of places to go for Mother’s Day brunch on LI; things like 120 things to do with kids in CT, including a trip to the Mystic Aquarium, which my kids LOVED (see evidence at left). There’s also recommendations for all manner of parental needs – like finding camps, classes or museums — and kid-stuff calendars by area. Like a Time Out Kids, but for points burbs and beyond. For researching towns or finding stuff to do once you’ve moved, it is kind of a must.

And when I think about it, what is not to love about Mary Poppins?

Mary Poppins, hanging with Dick Van Dyke and a cartoon band, is actually pretty bad-ass

 

Between Home And Another Home2

Posted by Deirdre // 05-06-2012

 

Check out this inspiring piece by writer Thomas Beller from today’s T Magazine. This guy and his young family split their time between his mother’s apartment on the Upper West Side and New Orleans, where he’s a professor at Tulane. In In-Between Days, he talks about the lure of being almost always at the ready, to get up and go – again.

Thomas Beller and his family in New Orleans, via NY Times

“…beneath all this motion is a kind of craziness. It’s not just circumstances, it’s us. Our crazy need for motion. Feeling the next transition looming before us like a surfer spotting a huge wave…The Departure Zone, when everything becomes precious, and you have energy for superhuman feats of experiencing. And the Arrival Zone, when you strain to fill a place with your spirit, and marvel at the beauty and oddness of the new surroundings… It’s a reunion. You see everyone, and they are all happy to see you. Then you settle into life. A sense of normal returns.

And one day you look at the calendar. You are halfway to the next transition…A world of fantasies springs anew.”

It got me thinking. Not about splitting our time between two places – I’m just not organized enough and probably too neurotic. But about the thrill of the ‘new’ – whether it’s really new or just new for a time. My husband always talks about going on a sabbatical – not that either of us are teachers or professors or have the kind of work that might pay you for time off. I’ve always bristled at the idea of picking up and going with our two kids – what if they have a tough time with the adjustment? what will they miss here? how will we get back in the swing once we’re back? –  but now I’m starting to get it.

What about you? Do you have dreams of just taking a break from Brooklyn to see about life on the other side? With the idea that you’d be back?