The feeling had been creeping up on me for some time, but it wasn’t until we sat down to brunch recently at a favorite local bistro in our Manhattan neighborhood that I could identify it. I was a tourist in my own home town. The hostess did not recognize us. She sat us at a table for two in the netherlands of the middle dining room.
We were in town on a weekend to see an extremely Off-Broadway show in SoHo. Some of the actors were friends of our son, Conor. When we arrived for the 2 p.m. curtain, we were told it had been changed to 5 p.m. Seeing our disappointment, a young man at the door offered kindly, “Do you know the area?” My husband didn’t take it well. As one of the pioneers of SoHo and Tribeca, he used to find it hard to walk down the street without being engaged by locals in conversations about landlords or zoning issues. “Do you know the area?” “Yes, thanks,” I offered weakly and we made our way to brunch.
Having recently rendered himself homeless at 24, our son is living with us again. But this time it’s more like we’re living with him. Or visiting. Or something. I guess you could say we’re in a transition phase. I’m doing what I always wanted to do, but couldn’t, when the family was younger—living in the country and visiting the city.
As much as I value the energy and vitality of my hometown, I crave the misty river mornings and open skies of my adopted one. This month, while enduring another in a series of sprained ankles, I especially revel in the ability to be outside just by opening my front or side or back door—no elevator or keys, not even a plan or shopping list in hand. If I need basil or lettuce for a sandwich, it’s a few hobbles away to my deck garden. And, as handicapped as I may be here where I have to drive to the market, I am more so in the city where driving is for taxicabs and SUV limos and parking is never free or convenient.
I’ve been a “betweener” (my nomenclature for someone who goes between city and country homes) for many years now. So going local won’t be much of a stretch. I know the merchants and they know me. Now that I vote here too, I find picking candidates harder than it ever was in NYC, where the lines are drawn pretty clearly even if we do get sold out by our own party now and then. Up here, party affiliations are more blurred, with candidates earning both conservative and liberal endorsements at once. At a recent town meeting, a candidate for council neglected to introduce himself, assuming everyone knew who he was. I didn’t. Not one to shrink from confrontation, I asked him his name. Now at least I’ll know who not to vote for.
My family is not the only one in transition from “betweener” status. As our generation ages, many will make the move—even more fully—that we are making. As we go local we bring valuable assets to our adopted communities. I like to think we all benefit from the changes.