Smartmom hates it when, every couple of years, one of her friends or neighbors decides to leave Park Slope for supposedly greener pastures.
The move is usually preceded by a whole lot of bellyaching: “The city is dirty and dangerous”; “my apartment’s too small”; “real-estate prices are through the roof”; “parking is ridiculous”; “the schools are overcrowded”; “there’s too much crime”; “private school is too expensive.”
Times like these, Smartmom finds herself getting defensive. When people say they’re leaving Park Slope, Smartmom feels her core values, her life choices, are under attack.
So what’s wrong with Park Slope? If it’s good enough for Smartmom…
At the same time, Smartmom can’t help but think that if people move away, there’ll be less of them to steal a Thursday parking space, a spot on line at ConnMuffCo, or a place or two in class at PS 321.
OK. Smartmom gets it. Everyone has real-estate and quality-of-life longings he can’t satisfy here.
But are such concerns worth going bumper-to-bumper in the Lincoln Tunnel or shopping in big box stores at the mall?
When her friends, the Deserters, moved to a big Victorian house in Nyack, Smartmom pretended to be happy for them.
But really she felt abandoned. Weren’t they going to miss their impromptu Sunday night potluck suppers and their juicy stoop conversations?
When Gluten Free, Dadu and family left Prospect Heights for a house in upstate Kingston that’s almost as big as Atlantic Yards, Smartmom supported their decision to move. But what she really wanted to say was: why would you want to move so far away from me?
Smartmom knows she has to stop personalizing everything! But nobody likes to be left behind — especially for the wrong reasons.
Often, the desire to move can be summed up by one word: backyard. For some baffling reason, backyards have deep psychological meaning to those who grew up in the ’burbs. It’s their Rosebud, their code word for “normal childhood.”
Deep down, those who choose the ’burbs believe that growing up in a big city is just plain weird.
This argument galls Smartmom because she’s a city kid through and through (and just look how normal she is!). As the Music for Aardvarks song goes: “Beep beep, honk honk, can you spare a dime? Have a bagel with a schmear and see the Guggenheim…”
A city childhood is no different from childhood anywhere else. Smartmom frolicked on West 86th Street, dropped water balloons from her parent’s ninth-floor bedroom window, popped wheelies on her bike in Riverside Park and got to trick-or-treat on 12 floors of her apartment building — what a treat bag!
Yes, there are also some key differences. At an early age, Smartmom knew where to find the Jackson Pollocks at MOMA and the French impressionists at the Met.
She went to “be-ins” in Central Park and Young People’s Concerts with Leonard Bernstein at Lincoln Center. She frequented FAO Schwarz, Barney Greengrass, Charivari, the Automat, the New Yorker Bookstore, and the Thalia.
In high school, she’d hang out with friends at the West End, a jazz club near Columbia University.
And when it was time for Saturday Night Live, she’d hail a cab and be home in time for Rosanne Rosannadana.
Then as now, subways, taxis and car services were a godsend to city parents of teens. Teen driving is just one less thing to worry about.
But it’s true, Smartmom and Hepcat considered leaving Park Slope once. Only once.
In fact, they came very close to buying a mid-century modern farmhouse in Northern California right next door to Hepcat’s mom.
Occasionally, Smartmom allows herself to wonder if they made a mistake. Maybe life on the farm would have been really cool.
Instead of a column in The Brooklyn Paper, she could be writing for the Tracy Press. She’d find out what it’s like to be a landowner. Her kids would get to see stars at night and Republicans at the Safeway.
Part of her loved the idea of reinventing herself as a California farm girl. But she knew she didn’t have the guts to make a big change in her life.
So while Brooklyn is obviously the right place for her gang — Teen Spirit likes to be walking distance from Music Matters — Smarmtom is trying to learn to respect the choices her friends make and not get so defensive when they leave.
Smartmom still waves at Mrs. Deserter’s window every time she walks OSFO to school in the morning.
But Smartmom hasn’t mastered the art of the long-distance friendship. New phone numbers must be memorized. New conversation topics must be substituted for the old standbys: local real estate, 321 teachers, gripes about the Food Co-op, and Third Street gossip.
As for Gluten Free and Dadu, Smartmom still dials 718 instead of 845 whenever she calls them even though they’ve been gone for four years. The ease of shouting up to a window Brooklyn-style must be replaced with the effort of picking up the phone.
They say it can be done, but Smartmom is still having trouble. After all, she still hasn’t visited the Deserters in their palace in Nyack, which, let’s face it, isn’t that far away (physically, at least).
©2007 Community News Group
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