Today was the last day that my kids will live in New York City. Tomorrow morning, the three of us will pile into my '99 Rolls-Canardly and head west for several consecutive hours. In fact, I think that once we get over the GWB, there will be exactly two turns, as we breathe in the great breadth of Pennsyltucky.
(Which I mean affectionately. I know not all Pennsyltuckians like being called Pennsyltuckians, and it might sound especially dick-ish from a New Jersey native like me. I think it's just a great word that's fun to say. And really, what other regions can conflate themselves like that? South Dabraska? Massachumpshire? I say, exult in your uniqueness! Texarkana is totally jealous.)
This morning hit me harder than I thought it would. I woke up with a tight chest, and I suddenly felt like taking the kids everywhere at once, to the Empire State Building and the Intrepid and the Staten Island Ferry, then maybe a nosh at Zabar's, then Wave Hill and Conservatory Water and Coney Island, and then to the East Village to get Giants logos tattooed on our clavicles. This will be a day you'll remember, my boys. The day your father showed you this wonderful, magical city that simmers in its own, special, summertime sauce.
(New tourism slogan: NYC is like a mole, in every interpretation of the term: it's a blind, dirty animal; a potentially cancerous bump on your cheek; a spicy, sweet, and savory gravy; and 6.0221415 × 1023 molecules of amazement flubbering around in a confined space.)
I asked the kids what they wanted to do today, and they shot back with "Nothing!" before I finished the question. They know they're about to live for the next month at Grandma Jellyspoon's, which is known for its great muffins and hospitality, but not so much for its Internet or cable or Wii consoles. (OK, maybe cable.) So they pleaded with me like death-row convicts asking for a last meal of 12 hours of televisual dreck. Given the heat and circumstance, I gave them two. And made pancakes.
We went over to Moxie's place at noon--to, we thought, see her off with her truckful of everything--and we ended up staying for five hours helping her box-and-schlep. And after she pulled away, the boys decided they wanted their last NYC meal at the little burrito place in our old neighborhood.
As I sat waiting for our order, watching the Jackie Chan film dubbed into Spanish, I looked at my sweaty, exhausted boys across the table, laughing and clutching their plasticware. This is New York for them, I thought. The food from this little joint, where we've gathered so often over the years, is as woven into their young lives as basically anything. Years from now they will remember the drill: pouring cups of ice water from the pitcher in the drinks case; ordering the Acapulco burrito with red beans and please-no-pico-de-gallo; watching the cook assemble the food in the tiny kitchen right behind the register; asking for a gumball from the machine; being told No; and bursting with ravenous joy when the meals are proffered on those brilliant orange trays.
I am excited about this move, and I'm sick about it. I am terrible with change, and goodbye, and the unknown, and today was an acrid, foamy cocktail of all three. Tomorrow begins the new adventure, the leap of faith. The nagging hope that the decision I made was the right one, that my plan to give my kids the childhood I want them to have will work out, and that I'll be able to re-re-build a life away from my friends and my city.
Do me a favor, OK? Tell me it can happen. Humor me.