One day you wake up and you have a husband and baby. The husband and baby (and you, don’t forget about you) like your Brooklyn existence just fine. Sure, you are in a one-bedroom apartment and your son sleeps on the other side of a bookshelf while your dog sleeps in your bed. There is only one bathroom so you hear everything. And sure, even though you are bringing in decent salaries, your living situation probably isn’t too far off from that of an 18th century immigrant. But it is cozy. The baby is always within arm’s reach. The commute is quick so you get to spend time with your child. He is funny and happy and even though you work full time, you get to see him in the morning and put him to bed at night. It is nice. You are content.
But then, one day, you start slowly freaking out as every place to store something is full. There are bags of barely worn baby clothes stashed behind the dresser. Air-conditioning units in closets. Shoes everywhere because the space for them (the floor of the closet) is now taken up by the air-conditioning unit. Your extremely expensive storage locker is jammed full of things you could probably throw away but might need later, when you finally grow up and get a real place. Even though you are 34 and married and a professional and a mom, you are still waiting, waiting, waiting to grow up and get a real place.
So you throw things out on a daily basis. But it doesn’t help. There is just no more room. You think about the logical next step: Rent a two-bedroom. But the prices for a two-bedroom in your still-burgeoning neighborhood are around $3,000 a month. Even though someone was stabbed on your corner — in broad daylight — just the other day. Even though dog crap lines the sidewalk. Even though there are no good schools around. And so you think that if you’re going to spend three grand a month in rent, you should buy. But duplexes are going for $800,000 — without a yard. And, you know, if you’re spending close to a million dollars on something, it would be nice to get out of walking the dog at night.
Is a two-bedroom even enough? More children are in The Plan, even though they are vague and undrawn and a slightly terrifying prospect. And you’d like a bedroom for visiting guests, even though no one ever wants to visit you, probably because of the dog crap on the sidewalk/one bathroom so you hear everything issues. So you quickly browse three-bedrooms. You know, a place you can grow into. But alas, you cannot carry that kind of rent and the cost of daycare for one. If you get a three-bedroom, a second child is definitely out of the picture as there just isn’t enough money. Goodbye, vague dreams of a second child. It was nice vaguely thinking about you.
One day, you see a woman not much older than yourself parking a car on your street. She has two children strapped in the backseat. She seems pleased to have found a parking spot but doesn’t realize that it’s trash pick-up day and pounds of garbage now line the side of her car. What to do? She can get one kid out of the car on the street side but what about the other one? There is no choice: She must step into the piles of garbage to get to her child. She stands there, in garbage, to lift him up and over the bags onto the safe sidewalk. It is a Herculean task. She is brave. But that’s what you have to do if you are even lucky enough to find a parking space. Lucky enough to be able to carry a car payment. “No way,” you think.
So you expand your search. And by the time you find a two-bedroom in your price range in Brooklyn, you are about an hour away from Manhattan. And at that point, you might as well look at the suburbs. You find a cute place with a yard and a garden and a driveway. You can afford it. You do not have to put down 30 percent or pay for it all in cash, which is what is happening in New York. The commute isn’t so bad. And even though your prayers have been answered and maybe you are finally growing up, it’s still hard to leave the city. You feel like you lost. That the dreams of your cosmopolitan child are dashed. He used to hang out in the Botanic Garden in the morning. The Museum in the afternoon. The security guards loved him. Now what will he do? Go to malls?
But it is a story as old as time. Millions have done it before you; millions will do it after. But this is your story, and it feels raw. And sad. And if, just if, New York could be a better, more understanding friend to you, you would stay. Stay forever. But it is New York. It is no one’s friend. And in the end, that is what you love about it. And that is why you must leave.