Oh man. So the wife won. Check and mate. We’re leaving New York and moving to the suburbs. [Dramatic pause for the sound of my hairline receding.] It now dawns on me that she’d been planning this since our second date. But she kept her agenda well hidden until we were all married off and babied up.
Not just any suburbs either. The Boston suburbs are not only where I grew up – we are moving back to the very town from which I spent much of adolescence plotting my escape.
Since leaving I’ve lived in Poughkeepsie long enough to spell it from memory; St. Petersburg, Russia as it emerged, woozy, from communism; Austin, Texas when tattoos and goatees were ubiquitous but not yet required uniforms; a year in London; and 15 in lower Manhattan.
Throughout, I’ve been keenly aware of having spent my formative years in the Cradle of the American Revolution. Home of the Minuteman (it’s not a sexual reference). Every region in the country emphasizes it’s own history in school, presumably to make field trips easier. For us it was Plymouth Rock and Paul Revere’s ride. In Texas they just teach the Alamo. And on the West Coast, U.S. history doesn’t officially begin until the Gold Rush.
Moving back, I feel like Oedipus trying to defy the Oracle. She’s like, “You are destined to kill your father and screw you mother,” and I’m dismissing her with an affected wave and a chuckle, saying “Oh I’d never do that.”
We are doing this, of course, for our son of 20 months. We’re figuring that instead of concrete, city lights and the honking of cabs, he’ll be better served by woods, stars and the sound of crickets.
Toddlers, it turns out, are not ideally suited to apartment life. My son doesn’t understand why banging a rolling pin on the floor is not an acceptable musical expression. He’s perplexed that sitting on the sidewalk is forbidden, on account of the neighborhood dogs vying for territorial supremacy.
None of this should imply that New York isn’t kid-friendly. It’s just not parent-friendly. Applying to preschool involves the effort, expense and statistical likelihood of finding a kidney donor. Our elementary school is so oversubscribed that its playground bears the aesthetic composition of a crowded prison yard. The whole business fills my wife with a dread that can only be banished by the sight of a Talbots.
Admittedly, I am starting to panic. The skills one acquires in New York do not translate well into the suburbs. The city has made me impatient, vulgar, and arrogant. (Though I was probably already vulgar.)
I’ve learned how to brush off come-ons from transvestite prostitutes. In the ‘burbs I’ll have to politely rebuff solicitous Girl Scouts.
I’ve grown used to bagels so big they could replace a flat tire in a pinch. Those suburban Bruegger’s bagels, by contrast, are the size of Cheerios.
In New York I’m attuned to garbled service announcements on the subway platform. In the suburbs I must learn to detect the subtle vibration of the Olive Garden’s pager announcing my table’s ready.
So our apartment is on the market and we’re scoping out houses. I’ll post periodic updates on our transition, with requests for advice when applicable. For now, if you see me wearing Dockers, I herby give permission to shoot on sight. Ditto for fleece. But hold your fire on boat shoes and duck boots. There is a season, turn, turn, turn…