8 years ago, Joshua and I went temporarily insane and moved out of the city to Stroudsburg PA. I of course claim that since I was pregnant with Ben at the time, I was not wholly in my right mind. Joshua’s excuse is that since he is from Israel he always thought that in America he should live in a big house with a big yard and drive a big car. And since he (we) never does anything by halves, we had to move to the biggest house we could possibly find at the farthest point from the city at which you could still feasibly commute (at least in theory). One of the things about living in Manhattan is that it completely skews your sense about what real estate should cost – a 6000 square foot house for only $500K?
As I said, temporarily insane.
So we moved out to Stroudsburg PA, just west of the Delaware Water Gap, Joshua began commuting and I began losing my mind. The second or third day we were there I was invited to a Tupperware party and thought, “Uh-oh, I am so screwed.” (Not that there is anything wrong with Tupperware parties, but I’m not really the Tupperware party kind of girl.) I went from walking everywhere to walking nowhere. Literally. If you wanted to walk you just walked in a half circle and back around the sprawling subdivision in which we found ourselves, 1.5 miles outside of town. Walking into town would have been akin to a suicide mission, with no sidewalk or shoulder to the road and cars whizzing by at 60+ miles an hour, even though it’s basically a two lane country road.
So I drove. And Maya was 3. Which meant in the car seat, out of the car seat, in the car seat, out of the car seat – 10 times a day it seemed. She would fall asleep and I’d have to wake her up or risk being arrested for endangering my child by leaving her in the car seat while I rushed in to the post office. Oh how I came to hate my car and her car seat.
Joshua, for his part, discovered that he loathed commuting. Did you know that everybody lies about how far their commute is? “Oh, it’s an hour door to door” means at least 90 minutes on a good day. “We’re only 20 minutes north of the city” means “If you drive to our house at 3am on a Tuesday you can get there in 20 minutes. Otherwise it’s at least an hour.” And where we were living, “90 minutes, tops!” became 2-3 hours because of traffic, or snow, or heavy rain – whatever.
The allure of the big house in the country quickly lost its’ appeal, and after about 3 months Joshua began to stay in the city during the week, coming to Stroudsburg only on the weekends to keep his ever more pregnant wife from ripping her hair out and sending it to him in the mail.
Don’t even get me started on how much it costs to maintain such a house and yard. (And to drive every-freaking-where) People say the city is expensive? Hah! The only thing we spent less on was groceries.
So after six months we came back to the city and regained our sanity and good humor. “New York State of Mind” became our song – 10 years into our marriage.
But – I always feel things happen for a reason. If we had never moved to Pennsylvania, Joshua would always have believed he needed a big house with a big yard and two cars, somewhere far from the city. Six months in Stroudsburg cured him of that. Mostly, though, we had the amazing good fortune to meet a family without whom I would have lasted maybe 4 weeks, and who have remained our friends to this day. Joanne and Bob Michniewicz and their 4 kids, Deanna, Andy, Steven and Nicholas made being there bearable. The day that Ben was born – at home – Maya spent her time making cookies and playing over at their house, which was only a walk across the yard away. (For those of you who’ve had home births with older siblings in attendance, I applaud you. I’m afraid had Maya been there, she’d have been put off having kids forever. My midwife said it was the most difficult second birth she’d ever attended that didn’t wind up as a transfer to a hospital. Good times!) Once Ben was born, just after 9pm, Joshua went and brought her home, asleep, with Deanna – 14 years old at the time- tagging along behind. Deanna slept at our house that night, in Maya’s room with her because Maya had a habit of waking up and crawling into bed with me, and that was one night where I really needed to sleep.
Joanne and Bob were wonderful. They still are. Had we not spent 6 months there, we never would have met them. Our lives would be very different and I can’t imagine how Ben’s birthing day would have gone without the knowledge that Maya was very cared for in their house.
Today we drove out to visit them and swim in their pool. 8 years later, I have no lingering feelings of panic upon approaching the subdivision where we spent a stressful six months. It is after all the place where Ben was born and where we made such good friends, even if we don’t see them very often.
I always try to remember that there is something good to be gained, even when things don’t live up to our expectations or don’t turn out as planned. In this case, the good we gained was the Michniewicz family.