Today was possibly the easiest 741 miles I’ve ever driven from Indiana to NYC. Amazing, given that the last time we drove back on a Friday I was almost in tears by the time we pulled up in front of our building.
The 12 hour drive flew by; my kids were content and brilliant travelers as always; but the coup was that I avoided sitting in 1.5 hours of traffic at BOTH the inbound Lincoln and Holland Tunnels by deftly (yes, deftly) heading north on I-95 and taking the George Washington Bridge, an approach to the city which is apparently unknown to tourists since we literally did not have to slow or stop even once due to traffic and were across and in the city in under 5 minutes. Only the New Yorkers reading this will understand my feeling of triumph (TRIUMPH!) at avoiding the hordes of people who decided to head into the city this evening, thereby getting an early start on their New Years’ partying.
Before I go on, let me say that my entire family loves being in Indiana with my parents for Christmas (and with my brother and his wife, too). Earlier this year I mentioned to Maya that if she and Ben ever decide they want to spend Christmas in the city, we could arrange it, and she looked at me like I’d grown another head. Christmas is spent with the folks in Indiana. Period. If there is snow (there wasn’t this year) we go sledding, but in any case it’s tradition and all the little bits of it add up to the holiday as it should be.
That said, we are also always glad to be back home in the city. Today was no exception. When people ask me how we can enjoy the city so much, and aren’t people unfriendly, etc., I always say we love walking everywhere, and the constant movement and energy of the place, but I think what we really love here is the feeling of community. The general perception is that small towns are the places with a real sense of community, but I would argue that. Maybe it used to be the case, but now unless you make a concerted effort to see your neighbors by getting in your car and driving to their house, or meeting them at church, you are not going to see them on any kind of regular basis in most small towns. (I’m not counting work acquaintances.) Had I not made plans with friends in advance, I would not have seen them at all in the 10 days we spent in Columbus. In fact, not once in 10 days did I by chance see anyone I know, and this is the place in which I grew up and in which both sides of my family has lived for generations.
Contrast that with our return to the city this evening. Having parked the car in front of our building to unload our luggage and accumulated Christmas items (most of it Ben’s new Lego), I had no sooner gotten a cart from the doorman when I heard, “Hi Amy! Happy New Year!” It was Ron, one of our neighbors with whom I served on the Board of the building a few years ago. Then, just 3 or 4 minutes later, I was pulling some bags out of the back of the car and heard, “Well, hey Amy!” It was Phil and Lauren, our neighbors down the hall who take care of our cat Cosmo when we are gone. I thanked them for looking after him, and they welcomed us back and said they were glad our trip was safe. Once Joshua and the kids had taken all the bags in, I drove the car around the corner to the parking garage. We are monthly ‘tenants’ in the garage, so I just pull in and leave the keys in the car since the attendants are almost busy. This time Julio, the attendant on duty, saw me, waved and said, “Welcome back! Happy New Year!” and I greeted him in kind. Then, on my way up to our apartment I saw a woman in the lobby who I know only in passing, but she too wished me a Happy New Year. Even the Chinese delivery guy who brought our food knows us (we’re regulars) and wished us happy holidays.
This makes me feel good. This is my idea of community. This is our welcome home.