We almost moved to Manhattan this summer. We were pretty much set on going, and very excited (and only slightly terrified) to do it.
New York was the first place Matt and I ever went together when we were dating. We started out together in Utah, and when the semester ended we both moved [separately but happy to both be going] to Washington, D.C. We were just getting our feet wet being a couple outside of our college bubble and away from our college friends in a new city.
A few weeks later we hopped on a bus from Chinatown in D.C. and rode four hours north to what was supposed to be Chinatown in New York City, for Memorial Day weekend. The bust driver ended up dropping us late at night in who-knows-where, Manhattan, but it didn't matter because Matt and I grabbed hands, found our way to the friend's apartment where we were staying, and basically didn't let go for the rest of the weekend.
It was the first time we'd spent several days together, and we both admitted later that it was pretty exciting that we hadn't gotten sick of each other.
Later, as we got engaged and then married, New York became one of "our" places. Matt was there at Christmas time just after he ordered my engagement ring. I have always had this image in my head of him walking along, Ray's pizza in hand, with big, Christmastime-in-the-city snowflakes falling down, feeling the dizzy, surreal excitement that must come after purchasing an engagement ring.
We had always talked about how cool it would be to live there, but never thought it would happen. Until we thought it would. So much so that we visited several times, and I spent five hours one day in July scoping out apartments with a realtor and our two kids in tow. I found two beautiful, small, sickeningly expensive, but perfectly situated apartments on the Upper West Side, and all we needed to do was pull the trigger.
And then Matt came home from work one day and said, "I think we need to stay in Boston after all." Which I wouldn't have guessed would rock my world so much, but I cried for two weeks.
I agreed with him that because of a few evolving factors, it made more sense to stay put, but we thought about going anyway just because we wanted to. I wanted an adventure. A change, a challenge, something to stir things up before we buy a house in the suburbs and a bigger car. (In New York we would have had no car at all!)
But this is not to say that Boston city life isn't an adventure, or a challenge. I've said it a million times, Boston is the most charming city, and it has all of New England surrounding it to make it look even better.
In some ways I thought life in New York would be easier. We could have an elevator building! We could even have a doorman! In Boston elevators are very hard to come by, and doormen almost unheard of.
In our current apartment we climb one flight of outdoor steps and one flight of indoor steps to get up to our apartment. We keep the stroller in the car parked on our street (assuming a parking spot is available, which it usually is during the day and usually isn't at night). Matt walks to work, I walk to the gym, we all walk to the grocery store, various playgrounds, and dinner on a regular basis. We probably use the car three times a week, including to church on Sundays, and more in the summer and fall when we have to visit as many beaches and apple orchards as possible.
Which is when I start to think that Boston might actually be the best place in the country to live anyway. Because on any given summer day, I can be at one of many beaches like these within an hour (and some within 15 minutes) (and I don't have to take a train to get there):
^^A Cape Cod playdate
Or we can go apple (or berry or pumpkin or flower) picking, feed the farm animals, and get some warm apple cider doughnuts at various orchards scattered outside of the city on whim:
On normal days my routine now with two kids is very much what it has been since we moved here more than three years ago. We go on lots of walks, find various parks, hit the grocery store and the gym all in a loop on foot. Now it involves less popping into shops I want to visit and more popping into the train station and riding the glass elevator for Cooper, but we love our neighborhood and our little city-life routine.
It sounds cliche, but the playground down the street really is our backyard. And if we want to dance in puddles in the rain in our front yard, we're in the middle of a city street. (Thankfully it's a pretty quiet one!)
This means that on warm days, my kids are sometimes barefoot (or shirless?) at the park. We take off the shoes to go in the sandbox and put them back on for the walk home (most of the time).
We learn about gardening from pots on our back patio, and take baths in the wading pool there too on summer nights.
^^There's a large playground just beyond them, but these two snuck behind the bushes to use the cellar door as a slide instead.
Every day I get frustrated with something about our life here. Getting out the door down two flights of stairs and into the stroller or the car, which sometimes involves walking a block or two to the car, then unloading the stroller and setting it up, all without losing two busy children.
Or getting home again with a stroller full of groceries. Getting the kids and groceries up two flights of stairs, and through three doors, then running back down to fold the stroller back up and return it to the car.
And the kids' playroom is also our living room and family room and dining room, because between two cribs, a rocking chair and a dresser, there truly isn't any room left to play in the nursery.
^^One time Matt saw Gisele out with her kids doing the city-mom thing too. Our boys even have the same scooter! But she has a garage with her apartment, so it's not quite the same.;)
But then I also have moments when the city feels so magical, like when there's a movie being filmed down the street, or when we have a babysitter come over and don't even have to get in the car to go on a date.
We've decided to put off moving to the suburbs for at least another year or two, because right now the benefits outweigh the inconveniences of a tiny apartment and a few extra stairs. If the schools were better, I'd be tempted to stay forever.
Isn't it interesting how life can be wonderful and childhoods can be magical in so many different situations? Matt grew up minutes from Disneyland and the beach in Southern California with a pool and plenty of fruit trees. I grew up in a beautiful and vibrant, but rather small, college town in Iowa with an acre of yard and a forest behind it. And our kids are spending their first years in a tiny apartment on the East Coast. So many people and so many different places and ways to live our lives, and yet we all find a way to learn what we need to know, experience similar feelings of joy, and fear, and exhilaration and hope. Sometimes I think it would be just as lovely to live just about anywhere, in its own way. I hope I'm right.