Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quality Street

I woke up several times in the night wondering where I was. In the past seven days, we've spent six nights in four different beds—we were in Boston last week for a book-signing event at the Paul Revere House, followed by a couple of days visiting relatives in two locations on Cape Codso I guess it's not surprising that I'd open my eyes in the dark and have that gasping little intake of breath: "Where am I?"

Then I'd realize: I'm in New York, in the loft, in the double bed with the futon mattress we bought together on Broadway and 19th Street. And a warm wave of relief would wash over me. And then a second wave of relief as I realized that my gut reaction—spontaneous, instinctive, can't fake it—to finding myself in New York was Phew, I'm home.

I've been coming here, to this loft, for nine years now. First as a visitor, surrounded by the touchstones of two people's life together. (Two people, neither of whom was me.) Then I became a...what would you call it, a visiting resident? A resitor? A visident? I bought a toothbrush and left it in the bathroom. I bought a pair of shoes and left them in the closet. I brought some clothes from L.A. and let them live in New York. Soon I didn't have to pack anything when I came here, because I had enough t-shirts and turtlenecks and jeans and underwear to get by on for a week at a time.

And after a while, it began to feel homeish. We rearranged the furniture and set up a working space for me. We bought a new bed, and went on Craigslist to find a small dining table, which we got from a dance instructor/antique dealer off Herald Square and transported home in a cab. My life was still in Los Angeles, but I could travel to New York as someone who belonged here. Sort of. (Outside the apartment, I felt—truthfully, still feel—like an impostor; as if everyone I pass on the sidewalk can tell at one fast glance that I'm so not from here.)

On most of these trips, my beloved and I would come by ourselves, but it was important to me that The Child feel she had a place here, too. We brought her for her first visit in December of 2001; she was 10. It was cold, and my little L.A. girl bundled up so thoroughly that only the tip of her nose showed. She counted thoughtfully and announced, "I'm wearing eleven layers of clothes."

And her most familiar refrain: "Do we have to walk? Can't we take a caaaaab?"

But after a few more visits, she could guide the way from the subway back to the apartment. A couple years in, I let her walk the two blocks down to D'Agostino's supermarket by herself (fretting the whole 20 minutes until she returned with a bottle of ginger ale). Now she's been here in springs and summers and winters, and we'll meet here this Thanksgiving for the first time. It's homeish for her, too.

In the beginning, I was in pretty much a permanent state of giddiness over my new New York existence. A couple of years later, as the move east became less theoretical, I'd sometimes lie on the bed after a long day of concrete and asphalt and wonder, "How will I feel about this when I don't have pillowy-soft L.A. to return to?" I worried a little that I'd start complaining about the heat or the cold, the crowds, the long treks on hard sidewalks. Can't we take a cab?

But four weeks ago, when The Child and I flew into JFK and took a taxi into the city before heading up to college, and again yesterday, when the beloved and I trained in from New England, all that giddy excitement came right back. We rounded a corner and the famous skyline rose into view—the Chrysler Building, the old Pan Am building, and the Empire State Building, my personal North Star, guiding me back to where I wanted to be all along.

My life is shifting east, and I'm starting a new act, just as Miss Hepburn said.


Tina Cockburn said...

Well, then. Welcome home!

I hope there's room for me when I come to visit. I've never been to NYC. Evah. And soon I'll have an even more compelling reason to finally go.

Miss Whistle said...

I am so glad you're settling in.
Rather miss you here.
xx Miss W

irene said...

So glad to hear you are feeling at home.

Karen said...

Yay for you! I've never lived anywhere but outside of Boston (plus college in CT and summers in NH), so I'm very impressed by a cross-country move! Sounds wonderful.

I occasionally regret that I never did the live-in-NYC thing when I was young, but you're showing me that it's never too late.

Susan Champlin said...

Tina: You BETTER come! I'm counting on it.

Miss W: I miss you all, too. I haven't moved, moved yet, but even after I do I'll be back in LA often. Hope we can have a standing UmamiBurger date.

Irene: I really appreciate that!

Karen: Thank you! I used to regret not having done it sooner, too, but maybe I wouldn't have been ready for it then. (P.S. You ARE young.)

one of 365 said...

I am so happy that you are settling in and that you can get into your bed/futon--open your eyes (and though a bit disoriented at first) sigh with relief that you are finally home. How wonderful to feel in heart and spirit after so long that you have finally come to the place where you belong. I am so jealous of you and your adventure. I am a nomad still trying to find her place in the world and you give me tremendous hope that one day I will find my little space somewhere to breathe a happy breath. Enjoy! xoxoxo

Susan Champlin said...

Oneof365: Belated thanks for your lovely comment. I know you WILL find your home—and I'm guessing it won't be Los Angeles? :) The search is part of the adventure...right?