On Going Home

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Someone asked me the other evening if I ever saw myself anywhere but New York.

We were out with a group of my friends from high school, crowded round a small table in such a way that all of our knees knocked no matter the angle at which we stretched.  This break was mostly an endless parade of visits with high school friends; I haven’t been home to stay with my parents for more than two days in quite some time, and I was well-aware I needed to take advantage of the opportunity.

His question had been inspired by a particularly amusing quote by John Updike, which I had posted to my Facebook profile earlier in the day.

“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”

So at its core, his question was a challenge – how heartily do you believe that?  How much are you willing to stake your future on a city so very far removed from the cocoon of the suburbs?

And I did give it serious thought before answering.

This break has been quite good to me. This time of year, the boulevard sparkles with light-up Christmas angels attached to lampposts, their benevolent faces shining as you make your way to the bakery or the hardware store. The houses down the block from ours have tangled displays of Christmas lights in their hedges, and garland haphazardly wrapped around iron railings.

The church has a nativity scene up.  There is something good in this.  I can say many things about my faith but in the presence of a nativity scene, I am borne quietly away by a sense of calm.

Yes, I will admit I grew quite nostalgic for Decembers spent in my hometown as the week passed.  Decembers spent chasing cats from the tops of Christmas trees, spent hanging stockings on the banister in our living room, or making cookies two weeks before the holiday simply because the urge struck.  So when asked if I truly believed in Updike’s slight, I couldn’t answer immediately.  And I was reminded of another quote from one of my favorite novelists, Amor Towles, which I believe sums up my feelings succintly:

“That’s the problem with living in New York. You’ve got no New York to run away to.”

In other words, sometimes I just have to run away home for a bit to return with a renewed understanding of why it is that I chose this city.  I cannot make sense of my present or my future if I disregard the foundations laid by my past.

So I turned to him and said truthfully, “Yes, I’ve considered it. And maybe when I’m ready to have kids, I’ll move. But for right now, New York is where I am meant to be.  It feels right.”

And it does feel entirely right to be sitting in my bed on this Monday morning, cup of coffee in hand, smack-dab in the middle of a city that welcomes me back regardless of the time that passes.

Happy Monday, everyone.

Happy Monday, New York.

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