I cannot believe we are wrapping up twenty-three years in Manhattan. No other city can compare to the vibrant energy, the throbbing pulse, and the pounding excitement that New York City exudes. I think about all the wonderful memories that we have made here and they warm my heart. Out of all the fantastic qualities Manhattan offers, I will miss our apartment most, because of the magical memories we made in it during our eleven years living within its walls.
Our kids grew up in our apartment. We hosted countless dinner parties and threw pretty epic rooftop soirees. Our home is filled with the soft hums of bedtime stories, the sounds of instruments playing, a broken-in couch from our family movie nights, a kitchen that has been pushed to its fullest potential by pushing out thousands of meals, our children's friends gathering for playdates, cupcake decorating parties, and Superbowl parties. This is the home where our door is always unlocked and shoes are immediately thrown off in the foyer so that no outside street grime is tracked into our sacred space. These walls sometimes hid monsters that we had to zap with homemade monster sprays and they also well-hid those hiding in endless hide-and-seek games. This four-bedroom apartment kept all three of our children in one bedroom so they could share each other's space as long as possible and make their own bedtime memories filled with whispers, mischief, and giggles. The bathtubs live to tell stories of the many days that all three of them were young enough to take bubble baths together, and then the showers welcomed them when it was time for more privacy. The refrigerator in this apartment patiently graced us as its door was open and shut millions of times by the pudgy hands that constantly searched for snacks. This apartment has witnessed the building of massive forts and huge train tracks that spanned the living room floors. Our dining room seated dozens of guests for holiday dinners and was the core of countless conversations, many of them around the topic of poop. The floor mirror in our bedroom watched me glam up for the New York nightlife and was an honest friend who always made sure to send me off looking my best. The bean bags in our playroom are shaped in the beautiful frames of our children's bodies who jumped into them for Xbox games and quiet reading times. Our guest bedroom was frequently used by the many guests who graced us with their visits. How I loved to welcome our visitors with fresh flowers, gourmet chocolates, and thoughtful touches so that they too can immediately feel the love in our home. Our living room floor has surprisingly not caved in from the hours and hours spent sitting on its wooden floors for board games, coloring time, neighborly dog visits, dancing, and basketball bouncing. This same living room had our adult friends singing karaoke, being entertained by burlesque dancers, and everything in between.
I remember the time our oldest was four and asked me to marry him while we were in the kitchen. I remember the costume chest filled with fairy wings, boa feathers, and superhero uniforms that our children would proudly wear. I remember upgrading to a King size bed so that all five of us could snuggle in one bed, I miss these days the most. I remember their little bodies sneaking into our bed at night just to be close to us. I remember pulling out their scooters almost every single day so that they could zoom up and down the city sidewalks as quickly as possible. I remember their milestones within these walls: first solid foods, first crawl, and steps, first words, first days of schools. I remember, with such clarity, the awareness of their little feet growing and growing, and still growing, and the sounds of their steps walking up and down the hallway. I remember the days of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and the ways the characters became a part of our family. I remember the late nights my husband and I would quietly tiptoe into our rooms and miraculously wake up just four hours later with the required energy to care for fully awake kids. I remember the curls and "kid accents" and giggles bouncing through the house. I remember the tea parties I shared with my kids on tiny tables and chairs. I remember when the kids would come out of their showers smelling so fresh and wearing their proper pajamas, often matching ones. I remember the arts & crafts, and the baking of cupcakes, and the infinite lego worlds, all of which were made right in this very apartment.
I realize that all these beautiful memories are stored in my heart, not in a closet. I can take these memories wherever I go. While I miss these days like crazy, and my heart yearns for them so badly that I wonder if it will physically break in half from the longing, I know these days are gone, although they still are very much still alive. The memories we have made in this apartment will be carried with me forever. New ones have been made and new ones will continue to be made. Wherever we move in the world, these memories will always travel with me. What I cannot allow, is for them to hold us back from making new memories elsewhere. Leaving this apartment in no way means leaving behind the memories made in it. While there is a soft voice asking me if I really want to leave all this behind, there is a louder voice urging me not to be lured by the memories of yesterday, which will then keep me from making tomorrow's memories. My kids no longer have little feet or the need to snuggle in our bed. With remote schooling and our road trip adventures, our apartment has sat empty for an entire year without any memories being pumped into it. Our memories over the last year were instead made throughout the USA on our various road trip stops. I need to remember that these beautiful memories are effortlessly transported to come along wherever we go.
This is an extremely special home. I don't know if we will ever have the opportunity to recreate the memories we made here. Will we easily make friends who we will entertain and host? I don't know if we are making a big mistake leaving. I don't know whether I will regret this decision or whether we will return with our tails between our legs. I don't know if my kids will miss their NYC friends, whom they've known practically their entire lives, more than they realize. Honestly, I don't know what the fuck we are doing. There is just a sense of urgency to push through these unknowns and a stronger call to break through complacency that seems to permeate my thoughts. My instinct is calling me to try something new, somewhere new. My gut is telling me that leaving it all behind will be worth it. Of course, we won't know until we try. This could be the best decision we ever made, or the worst one.
There is also the obvious fear of leaving such a safe space, one that has protected us so lovingly for over a decade. We are going through with a move to a place across the country where we haven't locked down a permanent housing situation. The market in La Jolla is at its peak. There are barely any homes on the market for sale or for rent. The very few homes that are available for rent are even triple the already high rates in New York City and they are mostly short-term rentals. We are proceeding knowing that we may hit many obstacles settling in quickly and finding a long-term dwelling situation. Yet, somehow, this all feels exciting, liberating, and perfectly irresponsible. It's been so long since I have taken such risks and tested new territories in such a blind way. Living a nomadic life for the past year, nine months of them spent traveling through the country, hopping from one Airbnb to another, has really changed my perspectives on what really makes me happy. The memories made always bring me back to my happy place. We were happy in each of the dozens of homes we rented along our journey all of which had no history or sentimental value to us. This was possible because we had our memories tucked in our hearts and each other to share the adventures with.
I just keep coming back to the realization that we have one shot at life. When I look back on the days of youth and vitality, I need to know that I experienced as much as possible and didn't make life choices based on comfort and safety. In order to live my fullest life, I need to allow myself to try new experiences, even when I am afraid. It was in the very moments when I faced my fears, during our road trip, mostly through some uncomfortable moments in nature, that I grew, evolved, and changed. While New York City is a spectacular place, it has filled our cup. If we stay, I fear that we will never change. I'm not sure there is much more growth for my husband and me here any longer. It sure helps a ton that our kids are on board with relocating.
One thing I know with certainty is that the apartment we leave behind is filled with the best energy for those who will move in to inhale and absorb. I feel a sense of excitement for the next family who lives here and I look forward to proudly passing the torch to the next dwellers. I also feel a sense of exhilaration knowing that all the precious memories created in our apartment will come along with us when we close the front door for the last time. I love this city and I love the days we lived in our home. Our reason to move is nothing personal. It's just a matter of making new memories and having new experiences somewhere else because there is too much to do, see, and explore in this short life we have all been gifted. Yes, I'm scared and a tad bit sad too, but I can't wait to find out what lies out there for us, outside of the walls we have called home for the past eleven years.