Friday, April 26, 2013

What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman


Two Saturdays ago, my husband and I had dinner with my good friend and her husband at our favorite Thai restaurant in the West Village.  After the meal, we decided to hop around to some of our old favorite bars.  As we walked along West 4th, a homeless man approached us and asked for cash with a very clever sign.  Dutifully, my friend’s husband forked over a dollar.  The man was grateful.  Just before we walked away, he pointed at my protruding belly. 

“Boy!” he declared.

“No,” I replied. “It’s a girl.”

“Oh…. Twin girls?”

“Nope. Just one girl.”  I gave him a smoldering glare and silently hoped my friend’s husband would ask for his dollar back.

I tried to dismiss the man’s comment as the deranged ramblings of a street person, but a few days later, while Minnow and I were at the Long Island Children’s Museum (we have an annual membership, in case you’re wondering), a pregnant mother came up to me and, without introduction, asked when I was due.

“June,” I replied simply.

The pregnant mother walked away, but felt compelled to return a couple minutes later. 

“Early or late?”

“What?”

“Are you due in early June or late June?”

“Late June,” I said.  “June 29th.”

“Wow!” she exclaimed.  “You’re huge!”

Minnow and I promptly relocated to a different area of the museum.  We started playing with the telephones in the telecommunications exhibit, alongside a mother and her two sons.  The mother looked over at me. 

“Any day now,” she said with a wink.

“No.  Ten weeks from now,” I replied testily. 

I had thought I looked pretty good for thirty weeks pregnant.  Now I started to wonder.

The following Monday, after dropping Minnow off at school in Bronxville, I went to Slave to the Grind for my usual vanilla chai latte.  As I stood in line, a woman greeted me from behind.

“There you are!”

I turned to face her.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.  “I thought you were my friend, but-" she glanced at my stomach- “clearly, you’re not.”

A few awkward moments passed and then she added, “Well they better hurry up with your order or you might go into labor before you get it!”

Ok, lady.  Now I’m really not your friend.

To understand what these people were seeing, I had my husband take pictures.  To illustrate, this is what people see when they approach me from behind:



And this is they see when I turn to face them:



There’s no getting around it (literally and figuratively): My stomach is enormous.  As one person put it, I look like a python who swallowed a pumpkin.  And in a cruel twist of fate, while the rest of my body expands, my boobs stubbornly remain the same size. 

I’m not really sure why I look like this.  I carried Minnow so compactly, I could suspend reality long enough to actually believe some of the dramatizations on the TLC show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.  Maybe those women really didn’t notice any changes to their bodies!  Now I know: Those stories were all false. 

In ordinary times I have high (some might say over-the-top) self-esteem.  But these are not ordinary times.  I am a walking hormone who is making settlement on her house on Monday.  My emotions are in free-fall.  Peanut is due in nine weeks and I don’t know how my body can continue to accommodate her growth.  I’m no biology major, but I just don’t think skin stretches that much.  I’m in distress.

So, as a public service announcement, if you find yourself in conversation with a pregnant woman, please observe the following guidelines:

1. While it’s okay to try and guess the gender of the baby, it is not okay to try and guess how many babies are inhabiting the pregnant woman’s uterus.  Assume it’s one, unless she tells you otherwise.

2. While it’s okay to ask a pregnant woman when she is due, it is not okay to react with anything other than a smile and a sincere "Congratulations!" at whatever she replies.  When she walks away you can remark under your breath that she is a house.

3. Don’t assume that the person in front of you at the coffee shop is your friend until you’ve seen her face.  This applies for pregnant and non-pregnant women.  And if she does turn out to be pregnant, don't suggest that she is on the brink of going into labor.  If that were the case, she probably wouldn't be hanging around waiting for a latte.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wait a Minute, This Song Is a Metaphor


“1901” by Phoenix is playing on the radio while Minnow and I drive to the Long Island Children’s Museum on a rainy April morning.  At the conclusion of the song the DJ mentions that at this year’s Coachella Festival, Phoenix invited R. Kelly on stage to sing “Ignition Remix” while they performed “1901” in an unexpected musical mash-up.  I started laughing as I imagined R. Kelly commanding the crowd to “Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce,” while Phoenix sang, “Fold it, fold it, fold it, fold it.”

“Why you laughing, Mommy?”

“Oh, Minnow!  I miss that song.”

I haven’t heard “Ignition Remix” probably since sophomore year of college.  It was THE song of Spring Break 2003, when my girlfriends and I partied at the beaches and clubs of Nassau, Bahamas.  Now here I am navigating a slick boulevard in Nassau County, NY with my toddler in the backseat, and all I want is to be ten years younger, sipping a Bahama Mama while wearing a midriff top in some seedy Caribbean nightclub. 

At the next red light I download “Ignition Remix” onto my iPhone and plug it into the car stereo.  Within seconds the familiar keyboard intro is filling the interior of the Jeep.

No I’m not trying to be rude,
But hey pretty girl I’m feeling you,
The way you do the things you do,
Remind me of my Lexus Coup.

By the third play of the song, Minnow is singing toot toot and beep beep along with R. Kelly.  By the fourth play of the song, I start really listening to the lyrics and realize: This song (like R. Kelly himself) is horribly inappropriate for young children! Especially smart, impressionable ones.  I had no idea what this song was actually about, probably because I was drunk when it was popular.  It’s not about cars!  It’s a metaphor!

And then another thought dawns on me: What other questionable music is my daughter absorbing while cruising in the car with me?  It drives my mother-in-law batty that Minnow’s favorite song is “Time Spent in Los Angeles’ by Dawes.  The chorus goes like this:

You’ve got a special kind of sadness,
You’ve got a tragic set of charms,
That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles,
Makes me want to wrap you in my arms.

But according to my daughter, the chorus goes like this:

You’ve got a special kind of sadness,
You’ve got a special kind of sadness,
You’ve got a special kind of sadness,
You’ve got a special kind of sadness… (And into infinity).

“I don’t like that song she sings,” my mother-in-law says.  “It’s about sadness.”

“It’s not, really.  It’s about California, which is pretty much the opposite of sadness,” I reply.

But I still feel guilty because Dawes is certainly not Mozart.  In fact, Mozart is not on Minnow’s iTunes playlist, but Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Loudon Wainwright III are.  It’s my fault.  I’m not one of those moms willing to listen to the “Hokey Pokey” on repeat in the car.  Driving is stressful enough.  But, admittedly, I was growing weary of  “I Will Wait,” “Ho Hey,” and “Daughter,” so I sort of embraced that the kid was digging R. Kelly.

I am hoping Minnow will forget all about “Ignition Remix,” by the time we leave the Long Island Children’s Museum, but when we get back into the car she immediately requests the “car song.”

“What song?” I ask, feigning ignorance.

“Toot toot!  Beep beep! Cars talking, Mommy.”

Minnow continues to ask for the “car song” each time we get into the Jeep for the next few days.  On Sunday morning, as we’re driving to church, Minnow again makes her appeal. 

“What is she talking about?” my husband asks.

Reluctantly, I turn on “Ignition Remix,” and, without missing a beat, Minnow starts singing the words, like, perfectly. 

Sipping on Coke and rum,
I'm like so what I'm drunk...

“Do you play this song for her?” my husband asks.

“Not all the time,” I reply sheepishly.

That night, on our way home from dinner, my mother-in-law is sitting in the backseat with Minnow. 

“Car song, car song!” Minnow demands.

“What song does she want?” my mother-in-law inquires.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I lie, mentally willing my husband to drive faster toward home.

“Toot toot!  Beep beep, Mommy!” Minnow reminds me.

“Oh! That one.  The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round, ‘round and ‘round” I improvise.

And that is probably the closest we’ve ever come to listening to kid-friendly music in the Jeep.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Over the Bridge, Pt. 2: A New Life


Every Monday and Wednesday morning, Minnow and I cross the Throgs Neck Bridge from Long Island to Westchester so that she can continue to attend her 2's program in Bronxville.  With the recent toll hikes, the trip costs us $7.50 each way, and takes an hour and fifteen minutes during rush hour and another forty-five minutes on the way home.  I probably need my head examined to spend two hours in the Jeep twice a week so that my two-year-old can spend about the same amount of time painting pinecones and singing songs about dinosaurs, but I’m trying to be a good mom.  I’m trying to maintain a modicum of normalcy in Minnow’s world while the rest of it is being tipped on its axis.  On the days we travel to Bronxville, I also take Minnow to her favorite playground after school and sometimes- as a treat- to her favorite bagel store for a mini whole-wheat bagel. 

Long, congested commutes to school are not new to me.  When I attended law school in North Philadelphia, I lived 7.5 miles away in a leafy Main Line suburb.  According to Map Quest, the trip should take approximately 17 minutes, but traveling on I-76 or Route 1 to Broad Street takes closer to an hour during rush hour.  My drive to school only added to the unrelenting misery of being a law student.  Nothing- besides the Socratic method- could raise my blood pressure quite like nonsensically slow-moving traffic, especially around the Conshohocken Curve.  (It’s there every morning, folks.  Learn to navigate it.)  I was notoriously late for class, often sauntering in red-faced after the professor had already begun interrogating unlucky punctual classmates. 

What got me through those harrowing daily voyages was listening to public radio.  It’s how I became acquainted with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Ray LaMontagne, and Vampire Weekend.  I was such a devoted listener that, despite my lack of income, I became a supporting member of the station for three consecutive years.  When I moved to New York after law school, I took a break from driving and, thus, decent music, but when I relocated to Westchester and bought a Jeep, I rediscovered how much I love public radio.  It is thanks to public radio that I’ve added Alabama Shakes, The Head and the Heart, and Josh Ritter to my music rotation.

Minnow and I listen to public radio every morning on our expeditions across the Long Island Sound.  This morning we heard the new song by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and as I reflected on the lyrics, I realized how appropriate it is to our current transition into homeownership:

Babe, open the door
And start your new life,
Oh, your new life.
Babe, on to the shore,
And start your new life,
Your new life, once more.       

In a couple short months, I'll only have the memories of our irrational, early-morning trips back and forth to Bronxville.  In a couple short years, I'll only have the memories of Minnow in the back seat, kicking her feet and singing along the best she can.  ("I sorry, Mommy, I don't know all the words.")  But songs like this, and the traffic-cancelling emotions they stir within me, will remain.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More Bubble Wrap


"We go to Staples today, Mommy?”

“Yes, Honey.”

“Ooooh.  We need more bubble wrap, Mommy?”

“Yes.  And boxes.”

We are moving in two days and Minnow has come to expect daily runs to the office supply chain because I continue to underestimate the quantity of packing materials this move requires.  The thing is, packing materials are unconscionably expensive, so I've been supplementing our dwindling supply by poking around our building’s recycling bin at night, searching for discarded Amazon and Soap boxes.  As I pack, I label each box with a number, which coordinates with a master list I’ve created that itemizes the contents of each box.  So far we have thirty boxes.  It’s still not enough.

And bubble wrap- there’s never enough bubble wrap!  My awareness that the movers will have to carry our belongings down four flights of stairs has caused me sleep-impairing nightmares of busted books, shattered platters, and splintered frames.  I am particularly concerned about a decoupage glass tray of an essay on Central Park written by a schoolchild in the 1850s. It- and everything else-is getting a double layer of bubble wrap.

~

The night before the move, my husband and I tackle the final packing task: The kitchen.  I foolishly believe that it will take two people approximately two hours to clear the cabinets.  Three hours later, we are carefully swathing glassware in tissue because we’ve used up all the bubble wrap.   My eyelids are drooping.

“I’m quitting at midnight,” I say, adhering to my old law school policy that you can always catch up in the morning.

“No way,” my husband replies.  “We’re not quitting until the job’s done.”

Unfortunately- and predictably- the boxes soon run out.  We haven’t even packed the pots and pans.  My husband is exasperated. 

“Why didn’t you buy more boxes?”

“I did!”

“Why didn’t you buy enough?”

“Because they’re four dollars a box!”

Happily, the Home Depot in Yonkers opens at 6 a.m.  My husband will be there when they unlock the doors.

~

The movers descend at 9 a.m. sharp and immediately begin hoisting boxes I’ve boldly labeled “FRAGILE!” like Nerf balls under their arms.  There’s five of them- giant, hulking figures- and they’re in every room, touching my stuff.  A familiar ball of panic forms in my chest.  I’d do this job myself if I weren’t pregnant.  Feeling helpless, I pace the apartment with a broom, collecting debris destined to be redistributed each time one of the Goliaths plods by.  “Why don’t you go get some coffee,” my husband suggests.

Going into town is good for me.  Although it took me some time to adjust to life in Bronxville, the truth is I quite like it here.  Bronxville is a picturesque village, one-square-mile in area, with a town center consisting of Tudor-style storefronts arranged in inviting rows.  My favorite of these is Slave to the Grind, which has replaced Starbucks as my go-to coffee stop.  I order my usual vanilla skim chai and linger for longer than what is necessary to finish it.

When I return, the movers have cleared all the boxes from the apartment and are working on the furniture. One of them attempts to move a solid wood bookcase unassisted and hits the top of the doorway on his way out.  He collides with the stucco walls and plaster ceiling in the hall so many times, I’m convinced it’s intentional.  My husband runs after him.

“What are you doing?” he shouts, sweeping up flakes of fallen plaster with his hands so that our management company won’t notice.  “Furniture is a two-man job!”

The bookcase suffers a deep gash on its side, for which the moving company will meagerly reimburse us.

~

Conditions do not improve at the storage facility.  The act of moving is inherently stressful, but moving into a storage unit, rather than a new residence, is more than I can really tolerate.  My husband and I decide to split up.  I will stand on the loading dock as our belongings are unloaded from the truck; he will supervise the relocation of furniture and boxes into the unit. 

As the men start to unpack the truck, I notice that one of the boxes- Box #5- has collapsed under the weight of the items stacked on top of it.   I frantically pull out the master list from my purse and reference the contents of Box #5.  Naturally, it’s the box with the Central Park tray inside.  Instead of acknowledging the busted box, the movers gingerly step around it as they unload other items from the truck. 

“Excuse me,” I squeak.  “Could I please see that box?”

The men ignore me, so I step closer to the truck and try again.

“Excuse me, may I please see that box?”

“What box?”

“Uh, the broken one,” I say, pointing to the one sagging like a pair of gangsta jeans.

“What you got in there?”

“Books, mostly.  Some photo albums.  A few fragile items on top.”

“Well that ain’t a box you use for books,” the mover replies defensively.

“Sorry,” I reply.  “The boxes weren’t labeled at Staples.”

~

I text my husband from the loading dock and ask if we can trade places.  He texts back, “Trust me, you don’t want to be up here.  It's harrowing.”  Intrigued, I take the elevator to our unit on the second floor.

A live episode of “Hoarders” is playing out in front of the unit assigned to us.  When my husband went up to open it, he discovered that it was filled with someone else’s stuff.  The squatters, who rent the unit across from us, had been illicitly using our unit to store their excess junk, rather than upgrade to a larger unit.   Now they are standing in the space between our unit and theirs, sorting through boxes of old photos, records, and books.  There is a sofa, a table, several chairs, and a large stone planter for which they still need to find room in their insufficient unit. 

I’d be concerned for the squatters' situation if I weren’t distracted by our own.  Watching the movers pile our possession into a 10x13 container is like witnessing a precarious game of Tetris.  There is no logic to their method of stacking bags of bedding atop boxes of books atop mirrors atop toy tables.  I am reminded of one of Minnow’s favorite Dr. Seuss books, “Fox on Socks:”

And here’s a new trick, Mr. Knox,
Socks on chicks and chicks on fox,
Fox on clocks on bricks and blocks,
Bricks and blocks on Knox on box.

As I take the elevator back to the loading dock, I hear Minnow’s little voice echo in my head:

“We need more bubble wrap, Mommy?”

God, I hope not. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Weeks' Notice


One of the more distressing parts of buying a house, at least for me as a former landlord/tenant law intern, is breaking our lease with our landlords.  Our lease doesn’t expire until October, but when we bid on the Long Island house in January, we know that staying in Bronxville until the fall is implausible.   I’m already finding the four flights of stairs to our front door cumbersome and I’ve only just started my second trimester.  “You need to talk to Jeff and Theresa,” my husband says the day before we are scheduled to meet with our attorney to sign the real estate contract.  “You have to tell them.”

Naturally, concocting a way to worm out of a contractual obligation falls to me, the licensed- if not technically practicing- attorney.  My husband deals with all the financial aspects of the transaction: Locking the mortgage rate, securing the insurance binder, shooting down my efforts to outfit each room as if it is destined to be featured in an upcoming issue of Architectural Digest.  In other words, he gets all the easy tasks.

My palms are clammy as I dial Theresa’s number.  Jeff and Theresa are about five years older than us and have two children of their own.  They are perfectly lovely, reasonable people, but something tells me that they will not be as excited as we are about our forthcoming foray into homeownership. 

To my amazement, I am wrong.  “We’re so happy for you guys!” Theresa exclaims after I’ve finished rattling off the spiel I prepared on index cards and practiced at least six times in the shower.  “And we kind of figured after we got your card.”  She is referring to the announcement in our recent Christmas card that we are expecting our second child this summer.  Theresa says that she and Jeff had preemptively discussed what they would do if we asked to terminate the lease, and they’ve decided to list the apartment for sale.  “When do you think you’ll close?” Theresa asks.  “Some time in April, I think,” I reply, though it’s hard to know for sure because in New York closing dates are approximate.  Based on that, we agree that the last day of our tenancy will be April 30th.

“This could not have worked out any better,” my husband observes when I recap my conversation with Theresa later that evening.  “I know,” I agree, but I still feel uneasy.  I am certain that breaking a lease should not be this painless.

Again, I seem to be wrong.  Within days I am standing in the kitchen with Jeff and Theresa’s listing agent, discussing plans for a photographer to take pictures for the listing and scheduling dates in February to hold an open house.  A few days after that, when the listing is posted on the Internet, I feel a real sense of pride of ownership.  The apartment appears warm and inviting, and our furnishings look fabulous.  “I want to live there,” I say to my husband as we toggle through the pictures of our living room, our bedroom, our bathroom.  And I mean it; I do want to live here, but I know that we cannot. 

The second week of February, we go to Florida for six days.  When we return our landlords are entertaining three offers on the apartment.  The best is from an all-cash buyer bidding their asking price.  The only catch is, he wants to move in by April 1st.  “Would that be a problem?” Theresa asks over the phone.  “Uh, sort of,” I reply honestly.  Then I supplement my answer with some nervous babble about how we don’t want to impede the sale, and if we had to I’m sure we could make it work, and maybe we could put all our stuff in storage and temporarily live with my husband’s parents on Long Island.

Fortunately, the very next day a new buyer makes an even higher offer, and our landlords accept it.  This buyer, Theresa assures me over the phone, does not need to move into the apartment by any certain date, but in honor of my first year contracts professor, Amy Boss, I have Theresa put it in writing that we can reside in the apartment until April 30th.

February melts into March.  We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with our traditional Shamrock Shakes, begin decorating for Easter, and fill out our tournament brackets.  The weekend before Easter, I receive another phone call from Theresa.

“Bad news,” she says.  “Our buyers need to be out of their current living situation earlier than expected, so we are closing on April 8th.”

“Oh my God,” is all I can think to say.  April 8th is two weeks away.  “Theresa, I’m sorry, but it is physically impossible for us to be out by then.” 

I’m not trying to be melodramatic.  It’s just that I’m six months pregnant, I have a 2 ½ year old toddler, my husband works long hours, and the mere thought of cardboard boxes exhausts me.  Unfortunately, Jeff and Theresa, who for months have been two of the loveliest, most reasonable people we’ve known, are suddenly not so lovely and reasonable.

“No,” Theresa says, “The bottom line is, you have to be out by April 8th.  Otherwise our buyers will literally be homeless.”

I despise the overuse of the word literally.  Please look up the word literally in the dictionary then tell me if that is really what you mean.

Regardless, I reply in similar fashion: “Theresa, if we have to move out by April 8th, we will literally be homeless.”

“What about your in-laws?” she retorts.

There is a lesson to be learned here, folks:  No matter how lovely and reasonable your landlords seem, no matter how much they remind you of yourselves in five years, never, ever share with them that you have family living within a 50-mile radius.  They will use it against you.

The lawyer in me wanted to fight.  I could have argued that they were constructively evicting us without cause, that once we terminated the old lease and agreed on the April 30th move-out date, we converted to a month-to-month tenancy, which, under New York law, requires 30 days’ written notice from either party to cancel.  Instead, I handed the phone to my husband and threw myself on our bed in a fit of tears.

In the end, we agreed to move out on Saturday, April 6th.  Our landlords agreed to waive rent for the six days in April that we’d reside in the apartment, and they agreed to pay for our storage for the month of April.  We had two weeks to hire movers, buy packing materials, and figure out how we were going to fit our life into a 10x13 storage unit. 

I had a feeling it was going to require a lot of bubble wrap…

Monday, April 15, 2013

Over the Bridge, Pt. 1: Home Is Wherever I'm with You


We’re halfway across the Throgs Neck when I catch a glimpse of Minnow, quietly cuddling her favorite purple dog in the backseat, and burst into tears.

“What’s that noise?” she asks, craning her neck to see around the boxes and mounds of clothing we’ve loaded into the car. 

My husband shoots me a reproachful look.  I’ve made it a rule to never let my children see me cry, but the events of the past month have tested that rule’s durability.  “Mommy is sad,” he states simply. 

“I didn’t even let her say goodbye,” I emit between sobs.  “She has no idea that she’s never going back.”  In our haste to pack the car and beat the late-day traffic, I had completely forgotten to ceremoniously mark Minnow’s last exit from our apartment by having her wave bye-bye to each room, as I'd planned.  It was, in my hormone-fueled estimation, an epic mom-fail.

“She’s two,” my husband reminds me.  “She’s already over it.”

To prove his point he addresses our daughter through the rearview mirror.  “Minnow, you know we’re not going to live in A7 anymore, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Because Mommy and Daddy bought a bigger, better house.”

“Yeah.”

“But that house isn’t ready yet, so we’re going to stay with Mimi and Grandpa for a little while.”

Minnow doesn’t respond.

“Is that okay with you?”

“Yeah.”

As we continue across the bridge, wisps of doubt swirl through my mind.  This is what I wanted, right?  To be pregnant with our second child.  It was all I could think about in the months before we conceived, but now that we’re nearing my due date, our old life- the three of us living in a rented two-bedroom walk-up in Bronxville, New York- feels just right.  Peanut is changing everything, and I struggle against so much change at once like an overturned tortoise seeking solid ground.

As a mother, I also worry about what all this change will do to Minnow and her fragile, two-year-old psyche.  The Bronxville apartment is the second in which Minnow has lived, and the first that she has truly known but will probably not remember, in her short twenty-nine months.  We moved to Bronxville eighteen months ago after we outgrew our majestic one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  What that apartment lacked in space it made up for in charm and convenience, with its sweeping vistas of the American Museum of Natural History and one-block walk to the 77th Street entrance of Central Park.  On Thanksgiving mornings my husband and I could watch the Macy’s Day Parade balloons bob by our windows minutes before we’d see them appear on the live television broadcast.   It was a matchless home with a Shake Shack on the corner.  We were going to live there forever, or at least until we had our first child. 

But our first child, Minnow, came unexpectedly- a few months after our first wedding anniversary- and because we weren’t yet ready to shed our Manhattan skins, the three of us toughed it out in our shared bedroom for as long as we could muster.  Three weeks after celebrating Minnow’s first birthday- in true Upper West Side fashion, with afternoon tea at Alice’s Tea Cup, a picnic supper in Sheep’s Meadow, and cupcakes by Magnolia Bakery- we boxed up the life we had crammed into 600 square feet and headed north to Westchester County, where, for the same rent, we could afford an extra bedroom, a formal dining room, and double the square footage.

The Bronxville apartment was the perfect transitional residence for a family reluctant to part with the allures of city life.  The 25-minute morning commute into Grand Central on the Metro North was easier on my husband than his former indefinite sojourns underground, waiting for the B or C trains to materialize.  The Bronx River Pathway proved to be a suitable, if not wholly comparable, substitute running route for the Central Park Loop.  And although, in solidarity with our suburban neighbors, we bought a Jeep, I still preferred to do my errands the Manhattan way: By buckling Minnow into the UPPABaby and high-tailing it to the post office, cheese shop, wine store, and children’s boutique, collecting bulky packages in the undercarriage as I went.

Although I missed Manhattan terribly, the Bronxville apartment gradually grew on me.  It was there that Minnow mastered the art of toddling, and then walking, and then, to our downstairs neighbors’ chagrin, the art of galloping at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning while pulling a plastic toy tow truck behind her.  It was there that Minnow jubilantly used the potty for the first time, before steadfastly refusing to do so again for several months.  And it was there that I discovered our cozy little family would soon be expanding. 

I will miss the mornings spent eating sliced banana and watching Sesame Street with Minnow in the sun-drenched living room perched high in the treetops.  I will miss the afternoons spent trailing Minnow as she scoots around the playground adjacent to our building in a plastic canopied car, loading invisible groceries into its trunk.   I will not miss the minutes spent pleading with Minnow to climb the 53 steps to our apartment on her own because my belly is swelling and my doctor says I can no longer carry her.  Simply put, I will miss the days spent together, just the two of us.

Like I said, Peanut is changing everything.  When we learned about this pregnancy, we knew our days of living in a spacious but inconvenient fourth-floor walk-up with no overnight parking and shared laundry facilities were dwindling.  After almost four years of renting, it was time to buy a house.

And buy a house we did, with its own driveway and washer and dryer.  It’s an old, four-bedroom, side-hall colonial with a whitewashed brick fa├žade and impeccably manicured lawn in an excellent school district on Long Island, my husband’s native land.  I couldn’t have dreamed up a better house for our family.  When we close in three weeks, it will, without a doubt, be one of the happiest days of my life.  But right now, as we prepare to plunk all our well-loved belongings into storage and temporarily move in with my in-laws on the North Shore, I have never felt farther from that first apartment on the Upper West Side, farther from that transitional apartment in Bronxville, farther from home.  

We finish crossing the bridge and merge onto the Cross Island Parkway.  I wipe away the tears blurring my vision with a glove-compartment napkin and glance at my husband, deeply focused on the road ahead, and my daughter, drinking in the view of the Long Island Sound from the security of her car seat, and am reminded of the chorus of the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes song “Home:”

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you;

Ahh, Home
Yes I am Home
Home is whenever I’m with you.

If home is a state of mind, rather than a place, then I am determined to make this next episode of my life the homiest yet.