Friday, April 8, 2011

Letter from Queens

Dear Noe and Asher,

This past weekend when I was in NYC, I had some time to go and visit our first Queens neighborhood.

This was our apartment. We brought both of you home from the hospital to this place (Noe via cab, Asher via subway). It was a one-bedroom prewar apartment with beautiful parquet floors, plenty of detailing, and a kitchen and bathroom that never seemed to have escaped the war. Our windows looked into the next apartment building, and we had enough trouble with cockroaches that to this day, I still cannot go to bed until the kitchen is clean and all dishes are washed.

Having one bedroom with two babies was a challenge. As an infant, we often let Asher nap in his car seat in the bathroom because it was the quietest place in the apartment. We even began to refer to the bathroom as "Asher's bedroom."

This was our neighborhood train stop. I have "great" memories of hauling you both up and down the stairs (there was no elevator). Usually, I hauled Asher up the stairs in the stroller while holding Noe's hand. Sometimes, men would volunteer to take the stroller for me. It made me a little nervous, but I usually said yes and was grateful for the help. Noe, especially, loved riding the train. He knew where all of the train stops were in our neighborhood and in some outlying neighborhoods as well. When we went for a walk, he often led me to a train stop.

This was the playground across the street from our apartment. The play equipment has been replaced since we lived in the neighborhood. During the summer the playground was packed full of kids of all colors, speaking every imaginable language. A favorite memory was watching a group of kids with Jamaican accents reinact scenes from "Full House" on the monkey bars. A not-so favorite memory would be the kids who were allowed to urinate at the back of the park, which made the entire playground reek of urine during hot summer days.

This was the concrete playing field next to the playground. Depending which nationality claimed the field, we would watch baseball, soccer or cricket games. We heard their games through our apartment window late into the evening on hot summer nights.

This was the Catholic church down the street from our apartment. Many of our elderly Irish neighbors attended mass here every morning. The picture does it no justice, it was a beautiful building and I looked forward to walking by it every day.

This was the neighborhood school, PS 150. This is the school you would have attended if we had stayed.

It is hard to walk around our old neighborhood without getting emotional. Every corner has a memory: The Korean grocer that always had a treat ready for Noe when we came in to shop, the street corner (43rd Ave. 42nd St) where we decided on Noe's name when I was seven months pregnant, the park where Asher and I ran into Mayor Bloomberg, our favorite neighborhood diner and their famous sweet potato fries. New York has a way of making life's highs even higher, and its lows even lower. Our friendships were sweeter, our successes greater, and our challenges seemed harder.

Life indeed got very hard. After Noe's diagnosis, we had a very difficult time finding the therapies and services that he needed, and I was unsure if I could keep you both safe and happy with so little help.

Until this last trip, I often wondered if we made the right decision to leave. I thought that perhaps there was something that this vibrant and diverse city had to offer that you needed in your growing up years.

But when I walked through our old neighborhood last weekend, I realized that you are both thriving in DC and I had a hard time picturing our present life in New York. And I finally knew we made the right decision. Getting on that train to Manhattan was like shutting and sealing that chapter of our lives for good.

Love, Mom


Outside the Pumpkin Shell said...

This is so beautiful. I love the contentment and sweet memories and beauty in your Queens. I love that you can move on, in peace. I believe Queens was exactly what you needed, when you needed it. It seems that you will always appreciate your time there, and I love that.

Beth said...

I love this post so, so much. Once you're a New Yorker, so much of your heart is still there. Very evident in this post and the photos. Great memories. Next time I'm in NYC I want to do a walking "tour", just like you did - but for us it would be to let our kids know what our life was like before we had them. Still a precious memory.

Ami said...

Jen, this brought tears to my eyes. I remember you talking about Asher sleeping in the bathroom and I just couldn't picture it. You and Ed have done such an amazing job. I am sure I don't know half of the struggles you have been through to get where you are today. I'll bet that was very cool to go back to the old neighborhood. It's always amazing to look back at where we came from.

Kage said...

Aw. "New York has a way of making life's highs even higher, and its lows even lower. Our friendships were sweeter, our successes greater, and our challenges seemed harder."

So true.

Jason and I hate to see people who feel stuck here, and I am so glad you got out, sometimes NY doesn't release it's clutches so easily.