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:


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, The Pleasant Mom. Follow her on twitter @thepleasantmom.