When we first came to New York in the fall and I couldn’t stop talking about it, writing about it, raving about it, one of our kids mentioned my husband and I had become very boring on the topic.
Now, believe me, I live in fear of being a crashing bore (and wish many other people had the same skittishness, but let’s talk about that later). I wasn’t going to take this, though.
“Don’t you understand,” I said, “that at our age, big changes are usually bad? Illnesses, accidents, whatever — take your pick, the news is usually awful. But we’ve had a good change, a wonderful change. That’s why we keep talking about it.”
So, we loved the neon lights, the bustle, the culture, even the subway, for God’s sake, the endless river of humanity, just about everything but the loud drunks and the sirens. I’ll miss it all — but what I’m finding myself most nostalgic about is this short time in my husband’s and my life.
It’s been 10 months — not even a real calendar year. Usually, you’re not aware of one particular year as we are of this one: Days merge into weeks, weeks into months, and demarcations smear and fade. But this almost-year, with its dramatic backdrop of noise and novelty and the exhilaration and combustion of millions of lives on a tiny island — this year is separate and distinct in my mind.
I began it with some apprehension that, enclosed in a small space where we’d work and live, my husband and I might try to strangle each other. Or, worse, get bored. It didn’t happen. We had a great time together, spending more concentrated hours together than we probably ever have before.
This is such a singular time in life, the year we both turned 60. I find I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I think that happens for all kinds of reasons. We’ve passed through so many years of striving and upheaval at this time in our lives; sometimes, when I’m with old friends, I feel as if a great storm has passed over us and we’re all relaxing and full of a tremendous sense of relief. Too, we all live with the knowledge that we don’t have forever. We know how precious and merciless time is.
We’ll come back to New York City, odds are, since you can usually come back to a geographical place. But you can never relive a time in your lives. This makes me think of “Our Town,” which was one of the two or three best plays we saw during this year, and its line about how human beings can never appreciate how wonderful everyday life is as they live it.
I’ve tried to appreciate how lucky we are to have this time in a great city at a point in our lives when we’re healthy and relatively carefree. As this time draws to an end, I’m remembering the wrenching emotions I had when our children grew up and left home: An era I’d loved, a time that had partially defined my husband and me, had come to a close. I knew there would be other eras, other definitions, a new future. But something was over and it wasn’t going to be coming our way again.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about one of our most glorious nights in the city
Ah, “Our Town.” You may not be a saint, Ruth, but sometimes you are a poet.
I enjoyed this so much. I had similar feelings when my younger child started kindergarten; all the baby years, toddler years, preschool years — pretty much all I’d considered when we decided to have children — were over. I would never again be that mother or that person. It’s exciting and it’s sad, and it’s good to feel the wistfulness and grieve a little.
I still find it so amazing that you were able to do something like this, and on such a grand scale. There’s a lesson in this, about experiencing life and taking risks, no matter what age you are. But you’re able to express that lesson much more eloquently than I.
I’ve enjoyed reading about your year in NYC. What a wonderful adventure. And it is lovely that you were able to experience a major change that was enjoyable!
Thank you for this beautiful reminder of what makes life so precious. This one made me cry more than any of the others. I’m crying buckets of tears right now. Ruth, you have such a gift. Thanks again for putting into words what I seem to be repressing but needing to acknowledge.
I’ve thought it would be so great after I retire to be able to live in different places for awhile. I’ve lived in one state all my life. How boring is that? Glad you enjoyed yourself. I’ll have to go check out your New York posts.
“Everyone should live in New York City, but leave before it makes them too hard.” You’ve done it. Now it is time to hit Guerro’s!
A fine reflection Ruth, thank you. But you know, the older I get the more I am learning the discipline of seeing time as merciful rather than merciless.
Perhaps you see it that way as well, at times, or you’d not have written this piece the way you did.
That was lovely, and I know just what you mean.
Lovely post on yr adventures together in NYC, Ruth. I wish you more good changes in the years ahead.
My husband and I would also like to do this someday–take a year or two and just rent a little studio apartment in NYC and really enjoy the town.
Bye Bye Ruth!!!! I’m so happy to have gotten to know you and I have a feeling that the coming year will be very exciting with your new book on the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ve really enjoyed reading about your experiences in NYC! I don’t want you to leave… I’m inspired that 60 has been such a good year for you. I hope I can say the same.
My God, Ruth. What on earth are you going to write about now?!
What a wonderful year this has been–for all of us who are privileged to read your reports. I can’t believe you’re leaving NYC already. Seems you just got there. Onward!
I really enjoyed the upbeat feeling I got from reading this. (I enjoyed reading it, as well.) While it was a reminder to enjoy what you have, right now, it also made me feel that, even when it seems like the good times are over, you never know what other great times lie ahead. Thank you for this.