I have recently become utterly disenchanted with my Brooklyn neighborhood, which is celebrated on page and screen for its Wes Anderson-esque charms: from taxidermy shops serving hand-forged lattes to gingham-only haberdashers who will wax your mustache for no additional charge. It is also, however, adjacent to a Superfund site, a scrap yard, three cement plants, and a fuel depot. The schools are overcrowded, and the F train… is the F train.
Before we had kids, this all seemed like the epitome of Light Industrial Chic. Now it doesn’t. How do I convince my husband that our toddler can still grow up to be cool even if we move someplace where the ballfields aren’t tainted with lead?
Longing for the ‘burbs
Unless you are Salvador Dali or Tom Selleck, I think it’s time to sacrifice the moustache waxers and admit your needs are changing.
I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. Once upon a time—approximately 11 hours ago, in fact—I was sobbing on what the kids these days call a “commuter train.” I was on my way home (to suburbia) from a gig performing in New York City which involved a dozen disgruntled audience members, a few hours stranded at Penn Station, and way too much self-pity. I was mourning the fishball I used to be.
Longing, I used to have an incredible ‘stache. Especially on stage. I toured the country with a comedy troupe, played the trombone (horribly), and made up cabaret songs about rare diseases. I once performed for General Westmoreland and got to chat with him afterwards about mountain assaults and jazz (true story). I loved getting sunburned by the stage floodlights and feeling like the sassiest chicken of the sea. On my way to the theater I often passed rows of houses with families setting the table and getting ready for supper. I laughed out loud and whispered cockily, “Yeah, not for me.”
Turns out, supper isn’t just for suckers. And “cool” can be spelled a lot of different ways.
Longing, I think you are wise and loving to admit you want to make a different kind of home for your family. While you’re at it, why not ask yourself what home means to you? Do you need to hear cicadas or sirens at night? Is there a certain charm to the occasional syringe on the sidewalk, or do you need to be digging in the dirt? I’d also make sure you ask your Light Industrial Chic husband what he needs from a home. Your lists won’t necessarily match up, but I bet you could make a nifty Venn diagram and see where you overlap.
I won’t lie. I miss Brooklyn. I miss my nightlife. I miss the farmers’ markets, the outdoor concerts, the Thai take-out, public park sprinklers, and stoop sales. I miss some of my BFFs and the smell of the challah factory two blocks away. I miss Randy and Norma—the couple from the methadone clinic down our street who tried to sell my first-grade daughter a headless Barbie.
But guess what? I can visit.
And here are a few things I don’t miss: the shootings near our old apartment. The two-hour lines for brunch and artisan ice cream. Dead Man’s Triangle (the traffic intersection on our corner where we witnessed five people die in the six years we lived there).
Here is one of my favorite quotes from a dream warrior named Danielle LaPorte: Your definition of what’s sacred will change over time.
Longing, go out and make something new and sacred. A home where you can grow your moustache long and wispy. Where you can let yourself and your child roam after dusk and lick the ballfields if you like. Where you and your whole family can open the windows and blare your favorite music and mark on the doorframe how tall you’ve gotten. Home is wherever you can simmer in a pot with carrots and realize you have everything you need.
With love and schmaltz,
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