Hope you guys didn't miss me too much...
I was busy marrying off my younger brother.
He was mine to marry off because, like most oldest girls, I recognized from a young age that my younger siblings were actually my children and it was going to be my responsibility to do the important parts of raising them such as signing tests that they didn't want my parents to see and guiding the major family decisions.
But I have finished marrying him off and gotten back to my well placed schedule of planning trips for myself that will take me off of my schedule and discombobulate me again.
I was home in the town where I grew up for sheva brachos.
And I realized one of the things that makes me so sad about being home.
My town was mine once upon a time. I knew everything about everyone (at least the PG-13 versions) and I walked, no strutted, strutted down the street because I was the star of the show and the people around me were background actors called to give the script some character. Everything was mine. My Target. My gas station with slurpee shop where the guy at the front desk knew my name. My grocery store where the night guard admonished me that it wasn't safe to be out at 2 am for young girls. My library where I picked up books once a week with the librarian who looked spookily like Zooey Deschanel and cheerfully answered that she got that comment a lot.
And my friends.
My group of people who knew the same people that I did. The people with whom I shared experiences from infancy until the fake adulthood of our teenage years where we thought we were the most real we would ever be. The ones older than I with their slightly altered experiences and admonitions that back in their days was the real times. And the younger ones who I admonished had it lucky compared to what I had to go through.
And the new ones who moved in whose perplexed faces only backed me up. That it was weird that everyone knew the people who worked at the ice cream shop and flirted with one of them for free ice cream (Alex, I hope you are doing well) only solidified that this weird thing was mine. Other people couldn't understand it because it was my treasure that I shared with the few hundred people around me.
We had a false arrogance about us because we knew that our city and our experience was the most valid of all of the experiences anyone had in the universe. The arrogance was somewhat born of the arrogance of living as a frum jew outside of the tri-state area. The Jewish media told us we were out-of-town so we were. Teachers and Rabbis who knew other places told us we were a special place and we hadn't seen other places so we believed. Nowhere else on earth were there people like us, a town like ours, a school like the preschool/elementary/high school which we attended.
And then we all left for educational and social opportunities we couldn't have had at home. We said our tearstained goodbyes and swore up and down that we would all return to that town and make it even better, build the Eden and fix the problems that seemed so obvious and fixable to us.
After all, the place was mine. No one could take it from me and it would be mine forever.
Until it wasn't.
Until I left for years and years and built a life with the people from "in town" who I had always thought would be somehow less than I was.
Turns out they were exactly the same as me. People with their own places and experiences.
And I put down roots. I found a city that aggravates me and drives me crazy and has me up late at night looking for apartments anywhere else. But it also stokes a fire under me. It has me dancing in the street and walking for miles and miles to see streets that are slightly different from the streets I have already seen. It is the center of culture and art and fashion and dance and theater and writing and the place that Taylor Swift calls home. I love being a part of it even when I hate it. The lazy afternoons reading on a blanket at Central Park and the buying Broadway tickets for cheap off of frightened tourists who refuse to brave the slush filled Wednesdays make up for the nights when I stomp down the sidewalks to warn the rats not to cross me. Biking on the paths sandwiched between a river and the greatest architectural triumphs excuse the nights where I hop between the piles of excrement.
Now this place, this is mine. It is fleeting because the streets here change constantly and even after less than a decade of being here I can wax poetic about the stores that used to line this block before CVS and Citi Bank took over. I can assert my dominance because I kept my apartment throughout COVID and lived in it through much of 2020. I ate in the outdoor restaurants used to eschew De Blasio's new edicts and I made it through to...the Omicron variant. I was here for elections and storms and editorials about how we shouldn't have panicked so much about the storms.
So now this, this is mine.
Except that I know I'd leave it in a heartbeat. I imagine getting married but more than that I imagine this conversation:
Man: Archer, I adore everything about you. I like making copious amounts of money that you spend so wisely on trips and experiences. I like loving you from a distance so you don't feel weighed down and giving you a break to be alone approximately every five seconds. I'm going to have to ask something of you. Will you leave New York with me and move to a southern or western city where there really isn't a winter and there is beach or hiking and lots of bike trails and some fun tax thing and maybe is a swing state with a college gymnastics team for my work?
Archer: You had me at Archer.
My place is temporary. I'm here in a holding pattern, waiting for the above conversation to happen and take me to my one true dream: an in unit washer/dryer.
So then, is anything mine? This place can't be if I'm so willing to leave.
And where I came from isn't mine anymore. New people have moved in and made it theirs. The people I love who have stayed are getting fewer and farther between. Now I want less to go see the place that was and wish instead for the people who are still mine to come here.
It hurts to see the ghost of what was once mine and be reminded that that time is long gone.
When home, I sat in the sunshine like I used to. The greatest part of my hometown is the sun, it seems to be closer there than anywhere else and the sky is often a perfect blue. In high school I would take a textbook (or, more frequently, a novel) outside and soak in the day whenever I had free time.
I can't do that here for months of the year. I miss that sun. I miss when it felt like I was invincible beneath it.
I'm not invincible anymore. I'm floating in place, waiting for destiny to change or for me to change destiny. And it is lonely to not have something that is so firmly mine.
And I know that even those of you with houses in your dream cities aren't solid either. Anything can happen. I fully expect Florida to be underwater in the next 50 years which will certainly make things complicated for a lot of people and Disney characters.
So I remind myself of what is mine:
The moments when my heart is racing from a book and I'm on a blanket in the park and I feel whole are mine
The things I've changed in my life, even if they haven't stuck, are mine
This blog is mine
The people I've chosen to keep and add to our relationships and the new relationships I've built-those relationships are mine
The teams I choose to support, whether or not I live in their cities are mine
The gymnastics knowledge I mutter under my breath when I watch a routine, trying to calculate the score in my head, is all mine.
And everything changes and everything disappears but for now, even as I wait and float and feel temporary, I have some things that are mine.