MOVING FROM THE CITY BLUES
So a client and good friend confesses to me last week that after being in NJ for two years, he is finally getting used to it and feeling more positive and upbeat. He, like most of us in Montclair, Glen Ridge, Maplewood/South Orange, and other Essex County towns are NYC transplants - those who discovered that trying to fit ourselves and children into our 800 square foot 2 bedroom apartments in Brooklyn was cruel, both to them and us! So we look west to the Garden State, and discover that the American Dream is available in dutch colonial form on lots of 60x150, and if you are lucky, a family room on the first floor...and oh, those hardwood floors...gotta love that!
My husband dragged me kicking and screaming out here several years ago - after dealing with arbitrary fits of "subway rage" on the 1 train, and having a moment where I "outcrazied a crazy" on the streets, Raf decided he had had enough, and that it was time to find some space and to feel some grass under our toes before I ended up on NY1 as a tragically amusing headline story. We made the move out to Maplewood, NJ, to Plymouth Avenue, a street that some might objectively call "the NICEST street in the world." You may think I am exaggerating for effect, but really only slightly - on the day our two 24-ft trucks pulled up to the house, neighbors emerged from picturesque red doors and from behind trim rows of evergreen hedges to welcome us with smiles, stories and a variety of nut-free, glutenless confections. It was overwhelming - we couldn't understand why they were being so NICE. What did they want from us? Was this a cult? Some more crunchy version of the Stepfords? I was intrigued, but wary.
Fall rolled into winter, and 3 months of bitter cold and snow kept most people indoors, and I fell prey to the winter glumness that many feel seasonally. I spent my days working long hours, trapped indoors during the precious daylight hours, and trudging through the filthy winter streets of NY, where I was still working at Bellevue Hospital (yeah, that's a cheerful place). I started to feel isolated from my friends, most of whom were still in the city. I missed Central Park and the zoo, Ollie's Noodle House, the Museum of Natural History and the bustle of the theatres in Times Square. I was depressed enough that I began to look at apartments in NYC again - thinking maybe we needed a little city studio for all those nights I would work late and need to meet friends and colleagues for dinner or drinks...or what about that romantic weekend in the city we could have once a month, rigtht? huh? sound good? I was planning my grand return to urban fabulousness, much to my husband's chagrin. He made me a wager - if I still felt this way after 1 whole year, we would consider moving back to the city. I knew this was a bet that I would win...after all, I never lose.
Well, it's a bet I lost. One early spring afternoon, I looked out my window and saw something for the first time....new sun that is indescribably bright - perhaps because your eyes had grown accustomed to the greyness of winter. Kids rode their bikes in the street and cars drove slowly past and waved. Neighbors emerged from their houses, magically pregnant and with new haricuts to herald the arrival of spring! It turns out the park across the street was a weekend magnet for little league games and spontaenous local soccer matches, with a tennis court to boot for all to use (well, I only used it once - let's not get into my ankle-twisting clumsiness on the court...ahem). It took a little bit for us to let our guards down, but by the time they asked me to tag along for a dinner trip to Bunny's Pizzeria in South Orange with a group of families on the block, I was hooked. These people were friendly, and I wanted more.
Getting involved with the neighborhood association, getting involved in the Preschool at Sharey Tefilo and even joining the public library are all things that have helped me to find my roots in this community. I've made wonderful new friends and am looking forward to a post-holiday regifting potluck next weekend - there'll be lots of new people to meet there, and I can't wait to pawn off this really silly electronic gadget that we got from a cheap uncle who seems to think I am a teeage boy (I am sure one of the dads will love it). So now I enjoy the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange and get my noodle soup at Cafe 88 in Livingston. I get my culture from the Newark Museum and Montclair Art Museum, and music or theatre I want, I get from the South Orange Performing Arts Center or the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn. I can't wait for my son to play Little League, and moms night out at Diva Lounge in Montclair in February is on my calendar...woo hoo, bring on the multi-coloured girly drinks! Oh, and Central Park? Who needs Central Park when I can swing from a hammock under the giant, ancient maple trees in my backyard? My husband was right...I just had to give it a chance...
PS - we got rid of the studio.
Nancy S. Chu, The Baldwin Dream Team, REMAX Village Square, Upper Montclair, NJ
Essex County is Our Neighborhood - Musings of a Young Mom in Real Estate - Entry #1 (1/17/2009)