The Fashion Magpie New York City 1

A Year in New York.

It’s been nearly a year since we moved to New York.  I attribute a lot of significance to that move and have come to think of it as a personal watershed: the before-New-Yorks and the after-New-Yorks.  The before-New-York me, and the after-New-York-me.  The before-New-York routines, and the after-New-York routines.

But mainly I have come to think about the move to New York as a kind of purge.  Improbably enough, life in New York feels simpler to me–yes, flashy, sophisticated, busy-as-hell New York, where I can be hard-pressed to find more than an hour of quiet time.  Maybe it’s because the move prompted a divestiture of the home we owned in Chicago, of our beloved car, of so many of our personal belongings.  Even now, though I thought I’d be over it, I miss the enormous, easy-to-fall-asleep-upon Pottery Barn sleeper sofa in our cozy basement, on which we passed endless nights watching the Harry Potter series from start to finish along with every movie out for rent while waiting for minimagpie to arrive that interminable winter of 2016-2017.   We sold the couch because, well, we only had room for one sofa in our new apartment, and the other one was nicer.  But I miss it and what it represented to me: the anticipation, the whiling away of nights waiting for our daughter, the desperate attempt at distraction.  And I still feel wistful when I think about mini’s gingham wallpaper — the pains we went to when selecting it, finding someone to install it; how happy I was in that room, becoming a mother.  But most of all I mourn the sale of the white shiplap-style wood bed I purchased at Crate & Barrel when I was twenty-four and so proud of myself for being able to afford it on my own.  We used it in our guest bedroom and had dozens of loved ones sleep on it while visiting.  I tell Mr. Magpie on occasion — “Ah, but we should have kept that damn bed.”  And he reminds me that things are just things, and that it has found a promising new home: two middle-aged parents picked it up for their college-bound daughter before we left Chicago.  It was a poetic kind of passing-on, now that I think of it; I was saying goodbye to a part of my adolescence as she was heading straight to its pinnacle.  I wonder, though, if she’s kept it.  A silly thought from a silly heart.

But, yes, the move was a kind of purge.  And not only because of the stuff.  There was also the shedding of personas: I had long tethered my identity to my professional ambitions, to being respected in my workplace, to fashioning myself as a kind of nurturer to the other women and men in my office.  I am industrious by nature, and “busy-ness” of the workplace ilk feels (felt?) comfortable, self-defining to me.  But with the move went my longtime self-image as a successful businesswoman, as an entrepreneur.  I transitioned into a part-time stay-at-home mom, part-time writer.  And so too my day-to-day became quieter, more intimate.  Not easier, I am careful to say — just, well, simpler, in the sense that I will often pass a morning stacking blocks and reading board books on the carpet of our living room floor, that carpet that for many years barely saw the tracks of my heels as I strode through our living area to get to our kitchen and idle in front of the open fridge in search of wine or a nibble of cheese after a long day of meetings.  The arc of my day is also less exaggerated: no commute to rile the blood, no interminable meetings to grumble through, no stress from an ornery boss or colleague or customer, no deadlines.  Instead, the fast-and-slow unfurling of a day with my girl, chasing, soothing, prattling, feeding, bathing, singing.  Or, the fast-and-slow unfurling of a day in front of my computer: reading, writing, editing, absent-mindedly eating gummy bears, wincing, nodding, stalling, thinking more quickly than my fingers can move, daydreaming.

I think, too, that my newfound pedestrian lifestyle has simplified things.  No cars, no parking, no sitting in traffic with white knuckles.  Just the stop and go of the lights and the throngs of people, the flick of mini’s wrist as she tosses her bow or snack cup overboard, the pointing at trees and dogs, the dodging of scummy-looking city puddles.  And everything I need is within a few blocks’ walk, too — my doctors, my grocery, my Duane Reade, my dry cleaner, my vet — and so the radius of my life’s happenings is that much shorter than its ever been.  There is something zen-like that comes over me as I’m traipsing our familiar circuit through Central Park for the second or third or fourth time on a given day: I find myself dialed into the details, altogether the same as they were earlier and yet entirely different.  The same impeccably manicured ballfields, the same anxiety around every squirrel that darts in front of us (Tilly is wont to yank me to my knees if she sees them before I do), the same appeal of that no-frills ballpark cafe, the same hazy feel of early September settling across the Park — but this time, a cardinal on the grass, or a melted popsicle on the asphalt evoking the vision of a four year old in sorrow, or the snippet of a conversation between mother and daughter: “no, a place with a hill,” insists the six year old girl, her hand cupped in a gesture of emphasis she’s clearly stolen from her mother; “oh, a place with a hill,” replies her mother, absently and supportingly.   I guess what I am trying to say is this: living an entirely pedestrian life has given me new eyes for the minutiae of life, has afforded me glimpses of so many other New Yorkers and their dramas and victories and quiet nothing conversations with their six year old daughters, and because of all that — life feels simpler somehow.

There is also something unique about New York that forces you to adopt a kind of ruthless, rigorous straight-forwardness about things–and that, too, feels simpler.  There’s no ring around the rosie in New York City.  “Hey, watch out!” Mr. Magpie will call out to strangers when we’re navigating a slow-moving, meandering crowd.  “I’m getting off,” I’ll say loudly to no one and everyone as I finagle my way off a Subway car.  ( A polite “excuse me” will get you nowhere.)  And so I’ve noticed in myself a gradual hardening to the outside world, a simultaneous drawing-in.  I’ll stand in a packed, 90-degree subway car in absolute agony, feeling the slick of someone’s sweaty arm against my own, inhaling the suffocating smell of somebody’s too-strong body spray and sweat, writhing out of the way of an unaware backpack or a pouf of hair — but you’d never know it.  My face, like every other New Yorker’s, is arranged into unimpressed impassivity.  Yah, yah, yah.  Just another day.  Kind of like the Chicagoans and their cold: they accept it, unblinkingly.  It just is.  So to with interactions with insanity — just today, for example, a man said something so obscene to me that I can’t bring myself to write it here.  But whereas I might have fallen to pieces in a former life, now it’s observed as a spectacle from afar; I’m bound to come in contact with crazies in these parts, and I’ve learned to ignore and keep moving.  DNE.  (DO NOT ENGAGE.)  (But do text your best friend about it along with the sick face emoji.)

Ah, New York — so dirty, so busy, so deeply human — and yet the move here feels like an ablution I didn’t know I needed.

Post Scripts.

+Are you a city mouse or a country mouse?

+Oh my GOODNESS, people.  I received a sample of this gingerlily bodywash when I placed my last Molton Brown order (they offer free shipping on orders over $30, and include free generously sized samples) and it smells like HEAVEN.  I can’t stop sniffing my wrist afterward.  It’s the cleanest, most elegant bodywash I’ve ever smelled.  And it’s gender-neutral, too — it just smells like a divine kind of clean soap.  AHHH.  You must try this.

+I have it on good authority that these are, like, the most delicious things ever — like a high-end kit kat.  Will be buying one for Mr. Magpie’s stocking…if I can wait that long.

+10 amazing discoveries.

+A clever solution for those of us without nightstands for whatever reason.

+I saw this $129 dress in an ad in Vogue and am very into it.  Would it not look perfect with these snakeskin Chloe flats?!  I love the pointed toe on these — I’ve heard such good things about Chloe’s scalloped flats but they don’t have as much structure as I’d like in a shoe.  These ones are more my style.

+Thoughts on raising a child in Manhattan.

+These earrings are MAJ.  Would look incredible on a bride-to-be as a big statement against a simple white dress for a rehearsal dinner.  Or, you know, for any of us on any occasion 🙂

+Fall shopping guide.

+I know I set a personal prohibition on minidresses, but THIS!  IT’S SO GOOD!   (More sizes here!  $100.) With a slicked back low bun and navy heels?!!?!?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

+A festive pick for the holidays with black skinny jeans or a black fitted skirt?

+My favorite purchases of 2018.

+MEEP!

9 Comments

  1. You capture that transition from working to motherhood so well. I’m right there with you – for so long, my personal identity had been wrapped up in my work, and then with this shift – no less challenging, but so different. (And then to compound it with a move!)

    By the way, I love this line: “the flick of mini’s wrist as she tosses her bow or snack cup overboard.” It sounds so much more elegant than the bow spike my daughter does. Thankfully, she’s getting better about wearing her bows again (and will ask for them in the mornings), but every once in a while (usually when someone says her bow is cute?!), she’ll reach up to her head, yank her bow off and look at it like it committed the most egregious offense, and spike it onto the floor. Only to look puzzled a couple of minutes later when she pats the top of her head and ask, “bow? bow?” I mean…..

    1. Jennifer! Emory does the same thing — she’ll yank out her bow and then look at me quizzically, gesturing to her head, as if to say: “Now WHERE is my bow?!?!?!” I believe that we’ve lost at least a dozen or more bows to the streets of NY in the past few months :/ I’m spending a fortune on ’em. Blah.

      You are so right, too — no less challenging, but so different. It’s emotionally and physically draining in a way work never was, but there’s less…stress of the traditional sort? I can’t quite unpack the chief differences except to say I end the day feeling tired in very different ways than I used to.

  2. Beautiful post, and makes me homesick for New York! 🙂

    Seconding Claire’s recommendation — I love Gopnik and although I read Through the Children’s Gate over a decade ago, I really loved it. Paris to the Moon is also amazing.

  3. I love every part of this – speaks right to my experience moving. I hope I have this kind of reflection a year from now. And thank you for sharing the struggle with letting go of furniture – I have this massive dark wood coffee table that I’ve carted around with me since living with my ex in San Francisco in my late twenties. To say that it holds some sentimental value to me is an understatement. But it just doesn’t fit anymore – in my space and my life, having since parted ways with the boy 🙂 I was looking at it just yesterday and wondering if I could do it…

    What I also loved about New York (and NJ as well) is the straightforwardness of the people. I miss it! You always know where you stand. But there’s an empathy and love that comes with their directness – people help one another. You can COUNT on people in NY/NJ. *sigh*

    1. Aww – I am sure that leaving a place makes you so much more aware of those local nuances/traits/styles of communicating and being.

      I hear you on having a difficult time parting ways with stuff. Yes, it’s stuff, but it can carry a lot of emotional meaning! All that said — I say shed the coffee table! 🙂

      xo

  4. You get at the meat of my own new-mom-newyorkhood so eloquently—the switch from impassivity-by-necessity to wonder, the attention to and reveling in microcosms. I’ve lived on the same block for six years and this is the first I can describe each of its buildings in detail. And the move-as-purge: we’ve begun to gear up for the same (well, adventure first and foremost, but the paring down sounds dreamy, if also wrenching).
    Have you read Through the Children’s Gate? It’s my favorite depiction of/testament to raising kiddos here.

    1. Yes! Attention to reveling. It’s amazing how much you can absorb when you’re a pedestrian — and pushing a stroller most of the time to boot 🙂

      Haven’t read that book but added it to my list! Thanks for the tip.

      xo

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