When Graham and I first moved to this neighborhood 6 years ago real estate brokers and supers we met described us as “Manhattanites.” Sure we slept in Brooklyn, but we LIVED in Manhattan. This was totally true for the first 4 years of our lives here. We worked in Manhattan, we played in Manhattan. When we were resting, we stayed in our apartment. Sure we grocery shopped in our neighborhood, but sometimes we didn’t even do THAT–preferring to do our produce shopping at The Whole Foods in Union Square (the thought of this is BAFFLING to me now). Then two things happened: I got pregnant and lost my job. I no longer had a reason to go into Manhattan all the time and so I started exploring my neighborhood more. Then my pregnancy made itself known and the neighborhood started taking notice. After nearly 5 years of living in relative anonymity, suddenly, everyone wanted to TALK TO US. The postal clerks shared their stories of labor pains, the grocery store ladies talked to me about cravings, and men on the street started saying, “God bless you, mommy.” The change in how we engaged in our neighborhood was incredible.
One of my very favorite things about this change is getting to know the women at our local Associated grocery store. When I was pregnant, I got to know who had children and who didn’t. When I was over due, they all said, “He’s STILL in there?” Then when we had him, we brought him in and they all fussed over him and still do to this day. When he was sleepless (for the first time) we traded stories of all nighters, behavioral issues, sleep issues, you-name-it-issues. There were times during Gus’ first year that seeing these women was the highlight of my day.
I want to say that it’s the unifying power of becoming a parent that brought on this change, but these women have been warmer to my family than many of the “Manhattanite” parents I have met in Brooklyn. Maybe when they saw that we were growing a family, they no longer saw the transient Manhattanites that were infiltrating their neighborhood. They saw we were putting down roots. We were neighbors now. Whatever the reason, I am grateful. They are part of what makes this place not just a place to sleep–but a place to call home.