In two weeks it will be 34 years since I moved to Manhattan. Yes, the sound of that hurts me between the eyes too. Good God, it’s been THAT LONG. Still, I’ve been thinking about it. Probable because Madeleine and Julia are moving to Manhattan in a few weeks and I’ve been cleaning. Not the dusting kind of cleaning but the type where you dig deep into your closets and start throwing things out. Dust bunnies scatter in fear and papers go flying. I shredded so much the other night that I broke my shredder. I wasn’t daunted by that and continued until I found my expense files for the year 2010. That was the year of my mother’s death and my cancer story began. I looked through my travel receipts and burst into tears. I have the luxury of distance to truly note the amount of strength it took to maneuver those days. The emotional numbness worn off, I look back in horror and amazement at what I had gone through. Exactly one week to the day after my mother died, I was out making sales calls with my boss. I probable could have canceled that trip but I knew under my shirt was an expander and the possibility of needing another day fairly soon haunted me. What I remember most about that trip was at the end of the day we would go to our rooms and I would just cry on my bed. Actually, sob is a better word.
Here I am two years later battling dust bunnies and memories. I like remembering the girl I used to be who brought me here to this city with a head full of dreams and very little else. I moved here to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology. I was 17 going on 40 at the time. I packed my belongings into two Hefty trash bags and my art supplies into old wooden wine boxes. I remember the day my parents dropped me off at my dorm room in Nagler Hall. My mother ran up to the room with me carrying the two bags as I balanced the heavy boxes in my arms. My father sat in the car guarding his hubcaps. In 1978, the city was a dangerous place for hubcaps and daughters. He had complete control over his car parts but his daughter was another story altogether. I had been planning my escape to the city for years and a full scholarship was my ticket out. With three children in college at the same time, any argument dissipated once it became apparent my education would cost very little. I had also let it be known for nearly 10 years that New York City was where I wanted to be. No one was surprised when I announced where I was going.
My father whistled behind the wheel of his car wide eyed as he waited for my mother to return from my dorm room. It’s a nervous whistle that I’ve since adopted too. At the time, it wasn’t unusual to see cars parked along the highways and on back streets up on cinderblocks. Tires complete with hubcaps stolen and sometimes in plain sight. I’m not sure what he would have done had a band of merry thieves targeted his car. I’m sure he was whistling his fears for his daughter too. In hindsight, I know the amount of courage it took to leave me there.
My mother dropped the bags on the bed and we both ran down to the car knowing the state my dad was in. As my parents drove away from the curb he yelled out the car window, “Remember who you are and where you come from.” That was it. No decorating my dorm room, quick trips to Bed Bath and Beyond or even a special bin to slip under my bed. It was a drive by drop off that occurs only to the third child. Lisa, the fourth child, was told to take the train and they would meet up with her the following weekend. That’s her story though. I waved goodbye and went back up to my little half of a room with a window that looked up at Empire State Building. I couldn’t believe my dreams were coming true and it was my heart and soul that were smiling.
Fast-forward now 34 years and there’s been a lot of smiles and tears under that bridge. I would be wrong to say my dreams didn’t come true and yet stretching it if I said they did. I think I’m more surprised at how fast it all went and how what was important then isn’t as much now. There’s a part of me that’s itching for change or maybe it’s just adventure I long for. I don’t know. I do know I will continue to discard the pieces of the past I don’t need and I am on the lookout for something that will make my heart and soul smile. Right now, I haven’t put my finger on it.