I spent several days in New York recently, and like almost every other time, about a dozen in the last 25 years or so, I had the time of my life, but sure was glad to get home. But I miss it. I miss it like I miss an exhausting, crazy friend that I can’t live with or without—a friend that I love, curse, almost die with and don’t quite understand, on the daily. I had a great time—one of my favorite trips to the Big Apple ever—but I was ready to go.
I took this trip to New York with my youngest daughter, to look at colleges. It was the first time I’ve traveled solo with her for any length of time in more years than I care to count. But how does a large-ish family pull off one-on-one vacations during the child-raising years? Mostly, they don’t. But now that they are getting older and college visits are happening, the need is there, thankfully. Note for the next life: “more one-kid getaways.” They’re important; they’re just not practical.
But within 24 hours after returning home the East Coast and back to my desk of despair, I felt a longing for my humid, sticky, drizzly, smelly, stunning New York City that I was so relieved to escape from. I miss waking up and wondering where she was taking me today. Uptown? Downtown? Japanese or Cuban (food…get your mind out of the gutter). Uber or taxi? I miss those moments when, standing on a corner trying to figure out the motherfucking maps program, and whether we need to cross this way or that way, I look up and see a guy walking five dogs at once. I stare as one of them, the brown Scottie dog, plants his front paws about every ten steps or so and refuses to budge, skidding along as the other mutts don’t miss a step and the dog-walker simply reaches back with his left foot and gives the Scottie’s butt a nudge, and I realize they’ve all done this before. I miss the moments like sitting in the backseat of a cab at a red light, and noticing an Upper East Side-type couple, who don’t realize that cars are whizzing around them in the cross walk, arguing loudly; they’ve stopped to discuss whatever it is that couldn’t wait, about five steps from the curb. Hmm. Must have been very important. The lady was pointing at his head, then her head, then his head again, then back at her head. Most of all, I miss rounding a corner and being totally surprised to find that I’m exactly where I wanted to end up, just when I thought I was hopelessly lost and completely pissed off that I was too stupid to know which way was south.
For me, all the honking and the sirens, the blinking lights and unidentifiable smells and endless choices of which way and where to cross and whizzing cars and speeding couriers on bikes you are so thankful still exist in this day of electronic delivery of information, create a Frankenstein-type creature with a pulsating heart rhythm that you just simply feel the absence of when it’s gone. When you are gone from the city, totally at home in your quiet office and there is absolutely no pressure on you to try and stay alive or not get lost while you feed the dog or start the coffee, you realize there is something missing. It’s not all the individual components you miss, it’s that compilation, that complicated yet lovely mess of a friend, New York City. You feel the absence of that swirling, smelly beat of the city, like a river of 10,000 simultaneous currents that you’ve been popped out of, back to the gentle flow of a predictable, comfortable life. You’re relieved, but a little sad at the same time.
“I get so tired of all this concrete. I get so tired of all this noise. Gotta get back up in the country, And have a couple drinks with the good ole' boys.” —Ray LaMontagne, “New York City’s Killing Me”
I miss my time with my daughter, too. We woke up next to each other every day except for the one night that we spent upstate. Because we stayed in AirBnBs in the City, we shared our sleeping space. Beds come at a premium in NYC, and like I told her, sharing a bed means more money for food (and a tiny bit of shopping). She was more than happy to accommodate. Sleeping with her at 17 worked a little differently than when she was two, when she’d run down the hall and fling herself up onto my bed in the pre-dawn hours. Back then, she had to be physically touching some part of me, preferably her head, to mine. She would scrunch up in the softest, squishiest little ball of baby and wiggle over to me until our foreheads were touching. After about 30 seconds and enough long breaths that I thought it was safe to do so, I would ever-so-gently edge away from her by about an inch—even a millimeter—just to create a little sleep space. She’d wiggle forward to me again. After a couple of these magnetic forehead moments, never even opening her eyes, she’d put her little hand on my cheek, like a tiny, gentle latch. Later, when I woke up with a bare baby foot in my face, I knew then, and only then, it was safe to move away and claim my zone.
Well, we sure didn’t sleep like that this time. She is a silent, perfect sleeper, willing to give me all the space I need. Apparently, with the exception of one issue, I am a perfect sleeper, too.
“Look at this comforter,” she exclaimed one morning as we woke about the same time and reached for our phones on either side of the bed.
“I don’t have any!”
“Ha ha. Dad says that’s my burrito move. I turn over and seem to tuck the covers under me.”
“You’re garbage.” (One of my favorite expressions from the current teenage lexicon. I’m pretty positive it’s a term of endearment.)
Anyway, I’m glad to be home, but I miss New York, and I miss my sleepy little girl curled up to me, forehead to forehead, or even back to back.