Thursday, May 19, 2016

Invisible cities

Tonight L and the kids are in New York and I remain in Maryland.  The older kids spent the day with our former nanny and her new charge, who happens to live in our old building.  Our nanny sent photos of the kids in our old red elevator, an elevator I haven't seen or set foot in for almost a year now.  I think if I stood inside that elevator and smelled that old scent, like the kids did, or rested my hand on that old wooden handlebar, like the kids did, I would just disappear.  Also tonight, L met up with some of our friends for dinner at one of our favorite haunts.  Seeing their text messages to organize the evening felt almost ghostly, like looking back in time.

On the other hand, tonight I sat in Chipotle, with no particular place to be or go, and got choked up reading about the death of Alexander Hamilton. From Ron Chernow's biography:

Except for one heartbreaking moment, he managed to maintain his exceptional composure.  Eliza had not allowed the children into their father's presence the previous day, but she now realized that the time had come for Hamilton to bid them farewell.  She held up their two-year-old boy, Philip, to his lips for a final kiss.  Then Eliza lined up all seven children at the foot of the bed so that Hamilton could see them in one final tableau, a sight that rendered him speechless.  According to Hosack, "he opened his eyes, gave them one look, and closed them again till they were taken away."

Something I've thought a lot about is the place I'm trying to find here in Maryland.  L has done a better job than me of building friendships and creating a network of people around her.  I feel like the nature of my work is more isolated than before, and I feel like I so rarely find people in the same station of life, my age with a young family.  I miss our New York friends very, very badly.  In moments of gratitude and bitterness I've been thinking about people in terms of whether or not they are present.  I scowl and wish others were more present in my life, but what do I do to be present for others?

I have thought about things I can do to find my place here.  I should join clubs or something.  I should be a Knight of Columbus or a Rotary member.  I should make friends with the parents at the kids' schools.  I should also work out more.  I think it might be good to find a therapist, but all the therapists here advertise their services with gauzy pictures of their broad, moon-like faces, and they seem to be from another planet.

These days I can't bear the idea of going back to New York. I think it would just break my heart. I have no desire to assume the mantle of that old life: that old job, that old rent, that old sense of precariousness.  But there is so much to lament about the end of that chapter of things, especially when we are coming on to the first anniversary of our move and so much still seems to be suspended mid-air.  New York has become a ghost town and it's only been replaced with the faintest outline of this new world.

And then the ending of the final letter from Hamilton to his wife:

The consolations of religion, my beloved, can alone support you and these you have a right to enjoy.  Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted.  With my last idea, I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. 
Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I can so relate to this. It took me so long to go back to NY and even then I couldn't go to our old neighborhood. I need it remain suspended the way I saw it the last morning I walked to the D train to head in to work. The outline of the new world will become more visible in time...

"Never follow a hippie to a second location." Its a double I know but its so danged good.. and wise.