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The Baby Has Left the Building

 

The next door baby has left the building, because he and his parents and all of his accoutrements needed a larger living space. I’m going to miss hearing the sound of a baby crying as I walk through the hallway. I’m going to miss seeing the stroller waiting for him in the lobby, two tiny sneakers resting in the seat. I’m going to miss running into him on his daily walk with his nanny, who cooed to him as they returned from an afternoon of reading stories at the library and visiting geese at the duck pond. Both dogs liked to sniff the wheels of the stroller when it came back from its walks, but they weren’t especially interested in the baby himself. Maybe if he had shared his snacks with them, they would have felt differently.

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“Treats?”

 

I will miss watching the way his nanny soothes him, and his Dad plays with him, and his Mom makes googly eyes at him, full of love, that make him certain that he is the most important person on the face of the earth. He’d just recently developed a sustained gaze and the habit of smiling at people who smiled at him, and I’m going to miss that too.

My niece and nephews are all past the baby stage of life, and firmly into the sarcasm years. People become secretive and duplicitous so quickly nowadays; the honest and straight forward self-expression that is babyhood is a very precious thing to have around.

Cricket was not happy when we went downstairs, without the dogs, for a goodbye party for our neighbors. She couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been invited, first of all, and she imagined all kinds of treats she was missing out on, that the baby was allowed to partake in. I’m not sure what Cricket’s vision of paradise is, exactly, but she’s convinced it’s the place we go when we leave her at home. And she’s bitter about it. Butterfly, of course, was fine.

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“How dare you go without me?”

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Butterfly was busy snoring.

We will have a new neighbor soon, and I’m sure she will be lovely (the baby’s parents were thinking of our cozy little building when they chose their successor). And maybe she’ll have a dog or cat or bird who I will inevitably fall in love with. But there won’t be a human baby, and his absence will resonate with me for quite a while.

When moving day arrived, the baby was whisked away to avoid the trauma of seeing all of his stuff being removed. But Cricket had no such luck. She could hear every horrible moment of departure, and she’s not good with change. She spent the whole day announcing the presence of the movers, as if she thought we hadn’t noticed the first few times she’d barked her head off. There was also the added difficulty that, if we tried to take the dogs out while the movers were still traipsing in and out of the building and along the walkway, Cricket would bark them to death, so we had to put off anything but the most emergent need for an excursion. Unfortunately, Cricket thinks that it’s an emergency when she smells a squirrel in the air, and she whines and cries to let us know her plight.

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“Strange people are in my building!”

Even Butterfly added a bark or two along the way, to support her sister’s protest, if nothing else.

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“I’m here for you, Cricket.”

So it was a relief when the moving men left and quiet returned to the building. Except, it was too quiet. The apartment across the hall really is empty and the baby is not coming back.

Now Cricket is resting up for the next phase of the endeavor, when the new neighbor’s moving truck arrives and disgorges a whole new set of men and furniture to bark at. Announcing the apocalypse is a tough job, but, Cricket thinks, someone has to do it.

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Resting, for now.

 

Leaving Limbo

Butterfly's new room

Butterfly’s new room

            We are moving. We’ve lived in limbo, intentionally, for fifteen years, avoiding people and places that would remind me of where I grew up and what I had to contend with. This neighborhood has been my witness protection program. It’s not that I live in the country or out in the boonies, but it takes a while to get to the expressway and that’s an important point on Long Island. It takes a while to get anywhere from here. I will miss the privacy of living off a small road. We’re moving to a major road, near a high school and a train station. I’m afraid of being so visible.

I’ve been gradually moving back into the world, going to synagogue again, going to school, and finally moving into an area where I will run into people I knew before. I think I’m ready but there will be no way to be sure until I get there, and take the next step.

            When we first moved here fifteen years ago, it was the beginning of April, and the trees smelled like honey. I grew up in a flat neighborhood, with wide green lawns and evergreen trees and tall, old maples and oaks and it was majestic, but monotone. Here it was pink and white and red and yellow. Someone told me that this neighborhood was where the gardeners for the gold coast mansions lived. So they would come home and experiment with color and shape and size and arrangement. It’s a nice story, if it’s true.

Autumn in the neighborhood

Autumn in the neighborhood

            I will miss how familiar everything is. I know how long each route is; I know where the hills are, and where the road dips, and where a dog will bark.

I can’t imagine all the smells Cricket will miss from her five and a half years worth of walks in this neighborhood.

Cricket sniffing her neighborhood

Cricket sniffing her neighborhood

I’ve worked so hard at overcoming my social anxieties, and I do a lot better now, but I still panic, I still feel overwhelmed. And then someone walks by with a dog and I’m a chatter box, asking the dog’s name, giving pets and scratches, talking about my dogs, forgetting to ask the name of the human, or offer my own name, or shake hands.

            I feel such relief when I see a dog, of any kind. My autonomic nervous system calms down at the sight of a dog.

Nose kisses with Poochie

Nose kisses with Poochie

            I’m better at collecting dog friends than people friends. I feel much more confident that I am likeable with dogs. People make me anxious and make me question my value. Dogs just boost my neurotransmitters and make me feel loved.

Cricket and Ursula, the boxing puppies

Cricket and Ursula, the boxing puppies

            We made cards for our nearest neighbors and homemade dog blankets for three of the dogs Cricket and Butterfly love and will miss very much. But I felt awkward giving gifts and presuming we would be missed when we leave. And I was worried they would be mad at us for leaving and upsetting the equilibrium of the block. But it turned out that our neighbors loved us in return, and though they will miss us, they wish us well.

This was the picture on the card to say goodbye

This was the picture on the card to say goodbye

            A few years back, when I was walking Cricket around the neighborhood, we came across a tree that looked a lot like a chicken. I was still pining for my ex-boyfriend, a chicken enthusiast, and I wanted to believe that the chicken tree was a sign from the universe, that some part of him was still with me. The chicken tree gave me hope. This whole neighborhood has sustained me for fifteen years and offered me small gifts that have allowed me to hope that the future will be brighter and that moving forward will be a good thing.

The Chicken Tree

The Chicken Tree