Growing up in Manhattan, the closest I ever got to Brooklyn was looking at it from the other side of the East River. The part of Brooklyn I could see was Greenpoint (or as my Pop Cunningham would pronounce it in his old New York-ese, “Greenpernt.”) Never set foot in any of the other boroughs either. Of course, my traveling options were somewhat limited since we moved away when I was eight (why COULDN’T I take the subway alone? I remember whining. Being a kid was such a bummer!)
I am delighted that both of my daughters are residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn (and Sheridan lived for a time in Astoria, Queens). They have given me opportunities and reasons to explore other parts of the city I love. Bed-Stuy in particular is an amazing neighborhood, with many blocks of beautiful brownstones, most of which have been carved up into small apartments. Rose’s place boasts a fenced in backyard (a rarity there); Julie has an incredible view of lower Manhattan from her bedroom window. It is a rapidly changing area, with modest bodegas next door to swanky wine bars, and I’m not sure how I feel about that—the rents are steadily climbing, forcing many working class families out. Still, NYC remains a beautiful melting pot of cultures, 9 million New Yorkers, all co-existing in a mere 305 square miles.
I recently spent a weekend with my girls, and as always was struck by how at home I felt among the throngs of people and fearless pigeons. I am no longer the child who wore white gloves to go shopping at Best’s department store and have lunch at Schrafft’s. But I feel the same thrill I did back then (including the thrill of crossing the street against the light, a very popular New York sport. The taxis actually speed up and aim at you!)
This visit we spent a lot of time on the “A” and “C” trains, going to an exhibit at the Whitney Museum, enjoying a fabulous pasta dinner at San Marzano in the East Village. A highlight was a Broadway matinee (Julie’s first). We saw Waitress, a wonderful musical. Every performer in the show was scary-talented, and I was reminded that I would never (ever) have made it big on the Great White Way in my acting days.
Rose and Jules live apart, but they see each other very often, and are the closest of friends. That, of course, does my heart a world of good. I marvel at their casual competence, navigating such a daunting metropolitan area, and know that this experience will be invaluable, wherever they end up living.
|Me and my girls on the town!|
The little girl looking across the East River is gone forever. In her place is a suburban woman who takes trees and grass for granted, who will most likely never be a city dweller again. But my heart will always belong to loud, messy, exciting New York City, and I’m so grateful it was my first home.