So last night was one of my mom’s retirement parties in the city (NYC). I used to LOVE the city (and part of me still does because I have so many great memories there), and have to say that for someone who didn’t actually live in the city – I knew it pretty darn well. I grew up in Edgewater. Both my parents worked in the city – so a number of my childhood experiences were there. My first real job at 17, as an expeditor for consulting firm that catered to architects and engineers, was in the city, and I was lucky enough to be able to run around and explore throughout my day while I did my errands. People were super nice to me, and maybe it had something to do with the fact that my mom was the Deputy Commissioner, and in engineering/architectural circles in NYC, that meant something, or maybe I was just super lucky to end up with such nice people to work for, which made it such an amazing experience.
Some of my favorite and happiest memories were during my college years and involved the city. I spent a lot of time at Columbia. I had gotten in, and had wanted to go since I was a child, but circumstance had placed me at Rutgers Pharmacy (and alhamdu lillah that came with its own set of experiences – some really wonderful). But part of me was living vicariously through my Columbia friends, whom I loved, and I loved the city…so the combination created a lot of wonderful memories for me.
I was also lucky enough to share some of my love for the city with some of my dearest friends from Rutgers, creating a bunch of other memories that I still look back on with such fondness and nostalgia… Alhamdu lillah for those times…
But since I’ve had Maalik (5+ years ago) my trips to the city have been far and few between. So, the first indication that this was nothing like old times was when I opted to drive in. I’m big and round and pregnant, and I hurt my leg the other day and I just couldn’t walk for long…Ahmed wasn’t keen on the driving part, but easily gave in. So I drove while Ahmed finished working on his laptop :). It actually wasn’t so bad. We were driving against traffic so luck was on our side, alhamdu lillah :). BUT…I forgot what I nightmare parking was downtown…and how expensive. Finally found a garage…and I pulled up into the wrong spot in this impossibly tight garage. The attendant was like, “Didn’t you see the sign?” for where to stop. No I didn’t. I’m pregnant – pregnancy makes me dumb. Sorry 🙂
So I wobble on the street to the reception, which is in this beautiful old landmark courthouse on Chambers street. It was a quite a sight (yes, the building was nice but I mean me walking down the street :P). My center of gravity is already off…add to it my bum leg…and if I was someone else – I’d laugh at me :P.
So, we finally get there and it’s really wonderful. Seeing all the people my mother had worked with over years. Seeing how much they loved and admired her masha Allah. Seeing how much she’d accomplished as a woman…a Muslim woman, in a male dominated profession. People genuinely loved her…people were crying at her leaving. It was bitter-sweet but it was time for her to move on – but for me, it was nice to see how much she’ll be missed and that people loved her for her integrity and character as much as they loved her for her sheer skill masha Allah. Most of these people knew me…seen me on occasion as a child when I’d visited her at work, and they knew all about my kids 🙂 Funny hearing a stranger (to me) whom I last met when I was 12, call my son Jibs :).
Anyway, back to the city 🙂 So we put off going out to dinner since the night didn’t work for my sister or my parents, so I told Ahmed…I want Platters (for those of you not from the area…it’s one of those halal cart food – but there was a good one on 53rd). So Ahmed easily agrees and we’re off. Only I realize, I can’t seem to orient myself. I’ve always had a good sense of direction growing up, and I KNEW the city, so this was so telling for me. I was a foreigner, a tourist…minus the admiring and gawking at everything I passed by. It had been that long, and pregnancy (or age, or both :)) really had taken away my sense of direction. It made me a little sad. Something that was once so easy and familiar to me, wasn’t. Thank god for navigation! Ahmed works in Queens, and he can get around in Manhattan just fine, but he rarely drives in the city. It’s generally by subway, and their other office is in Mid-town. So, downtown was a foreign land at that particular moment.
So the next big telling mistake – we drive through the Village to go uptown. The agony!!! I loved the Village, and if I was sauntering through the streets, I would have been soaking in my surroundings. But I was hungry and tired, stuck in a car amidst traffic, watching pedestrians move faster than I was driving. Lovely.
So we finally get to the carts…only it’s not THE cart. It’s a different one. “The Halal Guys”. Fine. I’m hungry. I’ll take it. All carts are created equal, right? Wrong! This one was awful. I felt so so bad for making Ahmed suffer through traffic and then eat this! It wasn’t good, which was sad because I had such fond memories of MY cart. Having my friends force me to drive in with them so they can get food from there. Having 5 girls squished in a car eating this stuff. And it was good! (I have to admit :)). And even though I fought them about how silly it was to drive in JUST to eat it, I secretly enjoyed it. 🙂 I enjoyed the weird things we used to do together. This didn’t compare to my memories – in any way. Maybe the food wasn’t top-notch even then (although I remember it being so good! :)) but…everything about this little excursion to the carts, was disappointing. The drive there, the traffic, the construction, the lousy food.
So we drove back home to NJ…and for the first time – maybe ever – I was glad to be in NJ. I was glad to be home…I PREFERED it to being in NY. Usually I leave NY with a sense of sadness. Maybe because most of my memories and experiences there were so positive that I hated leaving that behind. I’m not sure if it’s distance, or growing up, or fatigue, but something changed. I still have those memories, but I don’t hold the city in the same regard, with the same wide-eyed awe, that I once used to. It was a little sad though…feeling like such an outsider to something I was once so comfortable with. But the tides of life take you where they do, and with every change, with every experience there is a wisdom (some known and some unknown). But one thing for sure – it made me feel my age. Feel like those memories that felt like yesterday were ages away. That I wasn’t up for all the hustle and bustle that I once savored. That I have a more refined palate than I did when I was in college :). (although I still swear that the original carts were awesome :).
Anyway…no real lesson behind this story. 🙂 Just had all these thoughts floating around in my head last night and wanted to share…