Bill, the sweet, quiet, and hardworking porter in our building just stopped by our apartment with a stack of perfect boxes. He had heard we were moving and as always, wanted to do whatever he could to help. Him or Raul (the other amazingly helpful porter) always seem to be there when I’m trying to open the door with 6 bags of groceries or when I’ve gone out for a run and locked myself out of our apartment. Bill and Raul are a part of what makes our apartment our home. I am going to miss them like crazy and have told them both so—which I’m sure has led them both to think Apt 217 is a bit overemotional.
Admittedly I am quite emotional about the move, which entails my husband and I breaking our lease from a 1 bedroom rental in exchange for a 2 bedroom co-op 5 or 6 blocks away in Brooklyn. I’ve gotten teary-eyed more than once packing up frames and following through with the inevitable and imperative purging of superfluous “stuff”. Yeah, that 3 year old tropical patterned romper with the tags still on it that you didn’t even wear when you were IN THE TROPICS, that’s gotta go.
I’ve moved several times in my life. I even went through a bit of a vagabond phase in my early twenties where I moved from sublet to sublet every 5-6 months, never bothering to fully unpack my car. While my abodes have been plentiful, only a couple of the transitions between them have garnered an emotional response. I got to thinking about what makes a house or an apartment a home. For me, it’s been a combination of commitment, growth, and love.
While I don’t shy away from commitment today, a look back at the earlier years of my life suggest an acute allergy to the idea. Those sublets I spoke of earlier—those were all month-to-month deals, usually with students who were living abroad or going home for the summer. During that time I never signed a lease or made myself obligated to any one place longer than a semester or two.
Life today could not be more different. First, I live in a city that I know is my home. Although I’ve only been here 5 years, NYC is in my bones. I walk around with it; I take it everywhere I go. I get such a sense of relief and comfort when I land at LGA after time away. It’s quite something to know you are in the right place; to know where you want to be. I think this takes some of us longer to figure out than others.
Second, and most shocking… there are things attached to the walls of our apartment! Forget the fact that this is was our first place together or where we were living when we got married. Our TV is mounted! We put in new light fixtures in the bathroom! Alright, maybe I sound silly, but in all seriousness, these things are a big deal. It’s been such a unifying and grounding experience to say to my partner, “we’re going to be here for a while, let’s paint the walls and put up shelves.” For someone who floated around unattached for so long, making a commitment to stay in and better the space I lived in whilst dedicating myself to a life with another human being has completely altered my existence. Now I’m being asked to put back those original crappy fluorescent fixtures? Ugh!
Now on to growing up in our apartment. I always think that growth comes when you’ve had a struggle and then you are able to take the time however brief to reflect on it. If that reflection isn’t there the growth remains untapped. When I was living that transient lifestyle, I never slowed down enough to mature in any way. I was making plenty of mistakes and running into all types of consequences, but I never stopped to contemplate any of my actions and consider the need for change. Lucky for me, all my baggage was still there waiting for me when I was ready to take a look at it—that’s the thing about baggage :).
The past few years, I have made plenty of mistakes. For the first time in my life I became completely conscious of how my choices affect other people. I can say something insensitive to a long distance friend, and not know for a month or two that I’ve hurt them. A thoughtless remark to my then boyfriend/now husband and I have to go home and share 500 square feet with him. New York City apartments are small enough, there’s really no space for prolonged dissonance. Having to hash things out has afforded us the capacity to learn from and capitalize on our mistakes. It’s allowed us to develop as individuals inside and outside of our relationship.
Lastly- and quite simply, it’s hard to leave the apartment or house you fell in love in. In this apartment, I fell in love with my husband. In the very first house I grew up in (the only other place besides this apt that in my heart felt like home), I fell in love with my family. 606 Brooks in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that was the house. My family ate meals together in that house, and had wonderful Christmases, and played basketball in the driveway till it was so late the neighbors called the cops. We watched Bob Hope and Danny Kaye movies in the family room and laughed until we cried. It was a wonderful time- those first 9 or 10 years of my life. We moved from that house and our family was never the same. Now, I can’t logically blame a divorce and family falling apart on a move- but my 14 year old self certainly did.
It’s hard to leave a place where you felt surrounded by love. That love can feel like shelter from a storm- whether that storm is a difficult boss or uncertainty about where your life is going. It’s an amazing thing to come home at the end of a rough day and think, “ahh, I made it.”
It feels scary to be leaving our little apartment—our port. Still, there are so many positives that indicate its feel the fear and jump anyway time. We are so incredibly lucky to get the opportunity to own our own little piece of Brooklyn. We will have a 2nd bedroom, which means I’ll have a dedicated space to write, and a bed (not a sofa!) friends and family can sleep on when they come to visit. We even have a little outdoor space—a terrace with a view of Brooklyn, where in a couple years we plan on putting a little patch of grass where a puppy can go pee!
Moving is hard. It’s just physically and emotionally exhausting. Over the next couple of days, when I start to get choked up at the thought of leaving the place that has been so good to us, I’ll remember that just as I am packing our pots and our pans, I can also take the commitment, and the growth, and the love, and plant them in our new place. We’ve already painted and put new floors in over there; some new knobs and pulls and our hearts will know, we are in it for the long haul.