“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours–long hallways and unforeseen stairwells–eventually puts you in the place you are now.” Ann Patchett
I hadn’t been to NYC in over ten years. After my mother died, I couldn’t bring myself to come back. She was my last remaining family member there. Everyone had either died or moved away. What would it be like to go to NYC as a tourist? I was finally ready and the BF needed to go for business. I did not know how I would feel going to New York without visiting friends and family, showing it to my kids or being with my mom. I was going to New York for fun. For fun?
Walking around the city, I forget how much time has passed since I have been there. The memories keep coming. Here’s where I used to work; where I met my mom at the theatre; where I bought my wedding dress. Here are my paintings that I visited at MOMA. Here is where the coffee shop was that my friends and I used to plan our lives in and sit for hours over one cup of coffee and free refills. Here is where my daughter danced and my son went to the movies. Here are the zoo, carousel, skating rink and favorite climbing rock in Central Park where I spent my childhood and then took my children. Every day I pass the building where my father in law worked. My brain is flooded with memories.
Nothing stays the same for too long, buildings get demolished and others built, meaning that once-familiar landmarks that used to guide me are now lost and, by extension, I get lost too. I have a freeze-frame of the city in my head and adding new elements to the image creates a confusing effect.
We eat at fancy restaurants which are wonderful. Truthfully, all I want to do every day is eat the comfort food of my childhood – NY pizza near the train station, sold by the slice and eaten by hand; cannoli and cheesecake from Veneros the Italian bakery that has been there forever. I crave Chinese food from a cheap restaurant in Chinatown; a pastrami sandwich with a sour pickle from the Second Avenue Deli, a pumpernickel raisin bagel from Ess A Bagel on Third Ave – which my mom would have waiting for me when I came to visit. I happily eat street pretzels and a Grays Papaya hot dog which is not on the east side where I used to go.
We go to the theatre and see some amazing shows. It’s hard to plan theatre without my mom’s advice and not to report back. It’s strange not to have her give me tickets to see something. My goddaughter’s mother is in town dancing and I give her my Hamilton ticket since I have seen it twice. I felt like my mother, getting more enjoyment from passing on a theatre experience to someone else and hearing how they loved it, then seeing it for a third time.
We go to Lincoln Center (where my mom’s ashes are so she doesn’t miss anything) I expect to feel sadness but I don’t. Time does that. I see her in front of the fountain which is always the meeting place. She can not wait for me to see whatever we are seeing because of course she has seen already.
The BF and I have an amazing time and never stop laughing. I even have time for art and shopping. The truth is that NYC is a great place for tourists and you love it in a different way.
Going back there is like meeting my younger self again but it is not my home anymore. The idea of home and the people who made it that way don’t exist. The person I was when I lived here was different. Sometimes memories are better than reality.
NY has always been a city of immigrants from many different cultures. Over 800 languages are spoken here and many New Yorkers were not born here like I was. People also come from all over America to chase their dreams and live here. They are all very lucky to call this gritty, dirty, noisy, iconic city home like I once did.