I believe that moving is one of the most stressful things that humans do to themselves. I haven’t done it too frequently, but I’ve done it.
Raised in apartment 9E at 222 West 83rd Street, I moved out of my parents’ place, briefly, while in college. I went back.
I moved again in the early ‘70s but just up the block and across the street. And again, I moved back to apartment 9E.
I finally left in late 1978 when I got married, and we moved twice after that. It was thirty years after marriage before I moved again, on my own. And now, I’ve moved again.
That first move was because I was in distress living at home with my parents during the tumultuous years of my late adolescence. Most of the guys from the building had already gone to college.
The next move was to express my independence as a working adult. Moving back again was during unemployment. Mom was the safety net having maintained 9E as her home with room for me.
They said it absolutely could not be done. There was no way that a 29-year-old who had been born and raised on the West Side of Manhattan could ever move to Long Island and be happy. Marriage or no marriage, it was absolutely impossible. The former officer of a block association, auxiliary police officer and general community activist could not possibly leave behind all that he had known for the suburbs.
I had not learned to drive until some friends insisted on giving me six driving lessons for my 21st birthday. After all, who needs to drive when you live in the heart of New York City?
When I started dating my future wife, driving came in handy once I understood the difference between driving courtesy on Long Island and in the city. They warn you in driving school in the city: “When the big red lights on the back of the bus go off, get out of the way; that bus is pulling out, over you or in front of you.” There were hardly any buses in the suburbs.
None of us knew for sure that I would make it, but I really wanted to try. My intended came from “there” and I had spent many pleasant hours “out there,” so, why not? It might be fun.
Anyway, we were moving into the top floor of a two-family house; that was something like living in an apartment house. It wasn’t 16 stories with more than 100 apartments, but it was not a single-family dwelling with a vast expanse of lawn, etc.
None of this lasted very long. Nine months later, we were looking for a house. Nothing lavish, just a place to live. Then we found it. A little more expensive than we had planned for, but just marvelous. I had been bought and so was this house. Three bedrooms, tremendous backyard and a lawn to manicure, two-car garage, central air, in-ground sprinkler, finished basement and patio.
Who could ask for more? We couldn’t, and we didn’t. The deal was struck the same day. (You can take the boy out of the city but you cannot take the rushing out of the boy!)
Within the month, we were in.
No one could believe that we and, of course, the bank, owned a home on Long Island. The following summer, we had a vegetable garden and I was doing my own lawn, fixing most things with ease and actually finding time to sit in my backyard.
Two years later, to the month, along came our first child. Two winters later, and the second winter after that, the second and third arrived. Now the transplant was permanent. Though I had been raised and educated in the city, it was clear that things had changed and it was clear that my children would not be raised there – particularly after I had seen the alternative.
My old elementary school was designated for children who were supposedly unmanageable in the regular classroom. And the new building was not situated nearly as well.
My old junior high school was never safe – it was, however, where I learned to survive the West Side’s sometimes mean streets. To go to a good high school, I used the subway in the 60s. Subways were more dirty and more dangerous in the ‘80s. Who can think of the ‘90s without some doubts?
I remained a devotee of the city but did not go there except to work. When I did return, I found it dirty, smelly and loud – things I had never noticed before. That fire engine that I never heard now comes roaring down the block. The trees are scraggly, not the beautiful plantings of the block association – certainly not like the beautiful trees I owned.
The transplant from the city took. Although rejection seemed to threaten at the beginning, the anti-rejection drug – my new marriage – worked its magic.
When it came time to move as our marriage dissolved, the old neighborhood called to me but was just too expensive. I landed in Forest Hills where I stayed for twelve years. A wonderful building staff and some neighbors who became friends actually made it a little difficult to leave.
But I’ve moved again, back to Long Island, an apartment this time. Closer to family and long time friends, it is where I built my adult life on the foundation provided by growing up on the West Side!