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The Lost Summer {part 1}

Posted on: November 20, 2014

Today, autumn slipped away for a moment and the icy winter graced us with a preview of her wrath.  After bundling and hustling and shivering through the city for hours, I decided to come home and write about warmer times, about this season past. This past summer, I all but disappeared from the internet.  I've come to call it the lost summer.

We signed the lease on our new apartment in late spring, in our landlord's office in midtown, in a big conference room on the top floor of a shiny office building.  After the ink dried, we strapped the kids into the stroller, took the elevator down, and stepped outside.  The world felt brand new.  The quaint ground floor village apartment on the peaceful tree-lined block of our dreams was finally ours, and we needed to celebrate.  So we all went to ride the Bryant Park carousel. It was a day of fulfillment, a day of great and dramatic change.  We rode the carousel round and round in the middle of the lush park, watching the skyscrapers circle us and the people buzz about, and we knew.  We knew that this was the beginning of a new season of our lives.  

It takes a lot to be able to look in the mirror and accept, with confidence, certainty, and celebration, that your path is unique.  And it takes even more to be able to embrace that path.  Some families need space.  Some families need nature.  Some families need that certain peace of mind that comes with the yard and the car and the extra bedroom.  And some families don't.  We spent over two years trying on a different lifestyle- the lifestyle we were supposed to have "once we had kids".  Moving out into Brooklyn to an immaculate limestone, we ran through the halls, and cooked big dinners, and decorated all of the nooks and crannies of our huge space.   We drove into the city once in a while, and visited friends throughout the five boroughs.  We made lots of art, cooked lots of food, and played lots of music.  We really gave it a go, but something felt off. We began to feel further and further away from where we wanted to be.  We longed day and night for something that we couldn't quite put into words.  We felt almost as if we were living someone else's life.  

And so, when an opportunity arose to give up all of our space, all of our distance, all of the halls to run through and room for guests, and to trade it all in for a tiny little apartment on the edge of a beautiful little park in the middle of the place that we silently always longed for, we made the deal.  We traded in.  And aside from packing my two suitcases and boarding a plane to New York City at age 18, this trade was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I firmly believe that there is a place for each of us in this world- a place that speaks to our soul.  It's such a huge and lucky accomplishment to even be able to find it in this lifetime! Yet if we do, we must do all we can to be able to live there, right?  Anything less would be an injustice.  I think so anyway..

So we sold almost all of the furniture and took on the challenge of extreme small space living.  Minimalistic practices became our new family endeavors.  We arrived back to the village, the place that Gaby and I had called home for decades, and it all made sense.  Life made sense.  We knew we had made the right decision, and suddenly everything felt possible again.  The summer was just arriving, and the warm air had a beautiful chaotic energy to it.  My children began to wake up in the morning beaming and asking to go outside "into the city!".  They suddenly both blossomed into these amazing outgoing creatures, thriving off of the urban energy the same way that Gaby and I do, and it blew me away.  And I realized that I needed these days, this time, this season, to adjust with them.  I needed to teach them. I needed to adventure with them.  I needed to be with them, and only them, as we all settled into this new life as a family.  

And so the blog went silent for a while, as I focused on settling into our new life in Manhattan, decorating a new apartment, integrating new routines and places and friends into our life, and arranging the bits and pieces of the everyday into a system that worked for our family.  It was a much-needed break.  And I want to thank all of my friends and readers for the letters of concern, for the emails asking if we were okay, for the notes of well wishes, and the comments asking me to come back to this space.  Those words of kindness and concern meant so much to me.  I missed this space.  I missed this community.  

During one of our first days in our new home, when many of our belongings were still in boxes and we were feeling a bit overwhelmed with the move and trying hard to reacquaint ourselves with the neighborhood, we wandered over to Avenue C and happened upon the 26th annual Loisaida Festival.  The food, grilled in stands on the street and served hot and greasy, was insanely decadent.  The spirit was even more beautiful.  Dancing and drum-circles commenced on every corner.  Children ran through the streets, which had been closed off to cars.  The smell of fresh empanadas lingered all around and Gaby struck up conversations in Spanish with old friends and neighbors everywhere we went.  The sense of community was, just as we had remembered it, strong and loving and welcoming.  It felt so right. 

We stayed out in the sun all day, eating and dancing and making friends.  And when we got home, exhausted and full and slightly sun-burnt, we knew, beyond a doubt, that we had made the right decision.  It took many years in New York City, many apartments in many neighborhoods, and much trial and hardship, to find our home.  It took much soul-searching and contemplation and change to come to the realization that we had known, all along, exactly where we wanted to raise our children. And as we lounged, amongst our unpacked boxes with two wild children in a ridiculously small apartment, we knew had found it. We were home.  And we really couldn't be happier. 


Posted on: November 13, 2014

I rolled a sheet of paper into a tiny cone and slipped it inside of her miniature pointy hat to prop it up straight, being careful not to tear the ruffle we had just sewn on.  Then placing it upon her head, I secured it to her wild curls with a few of my bobby pins, making sure to throw a few more bobby pins into my pocket for later, when we would inevitably lose these ones. Her wild locks have a way of making pins disappear.

We buttoned our capes, picked up our pumpkins, and barreled out of the front door of our apartment, singing "Cabaret" at the top of our lungs and letting our joyous words bounce off of the hallway's marble walls. Then out of the building we marched, with great gusto and excitement, as if ascending a stage. Outside, in full costume, Gaby and Lou waited for us to join them to complete the "circus". For this was not just another day, and we were not just another family.  Today was Halloween, and we were the Savransky Traveling Family Circus.

The neighbors from the laundromat and the coffee shop were gathered outside already, chatting with Gaby and Lou about all things that neighbors chat about, as happens each day on our gloriously neighborly block.  And upon seeing Biet dance out of the door in her fluffy layered concoction of fabric and pattern, as a true-to-form old fashioned circus clown, the eyes of the group collectively lit up. Then Gaby hugged her, and kissed me, and off we went, a clown and a strong man and a trapeze artist and a ringleader, into the wild and wonderful world of the village on Halloween.

However, before we could even take a step, Gaby leaned over my shoulder and said "Hi Yoko!".  I didn't really register what he had said until I turned around and found myself face to face with Yoko Ono, who just happened to be walking with a friend down our quiet block.  And so right outside of our apartment building, she stopped and said hello. We showed her our costumes before she graciously and authoritatively continued on her way. It was utterly surreal, and a perfect start to an utterly surreal evening.

Onward we went, traveling east to west, through the East Village to Noho to Greenwich Village to the West Village.  Lucien learned to say "trick or treat!" in about two seconds (positive reinforcement, people!!), and would yell it at the top of his lungs over and over as we paraded through the streets. During the daylight hours on Halloween, before all of the grit and strangeness of the underworld takes over the streets, before the ridiculously beautiful and otherworldly-costumed weirdos emerge, before the sun sets, children rule the streets. And suddenly, the whole city is their friend. The deli's and restaurants and shops all welcome them in with open arms.  People move aside on the sidewalks and let the kids wildly dash along. Candy flows like water. Everyone smiles and snaps pictures and oohs and ahhs. And each child walks with a certain mix of pride and excitement and sugar-rush, as they, for one day, have each become whatever or whoever they imagined they could be.

We hit up mostly businesses on the walk west, and private stoops on the walk back east, stopping for a few minutes in the middle in Washington Square Park to let the kids run around in the fountain, which had been turned off for the season and had transformed into a giant concrete stage in which the children were showing off their costumes and counting how many Elsa's they could find. The sun had now set and the air had cooled, and we were all hungry, so we ducked into one of our favorite old diners for burgers and shakes before heading home.

And when we finally did approach home, when the shops had closed and the bars had opened, when the darker and more elaborately-costumed partygoers began to emerge, when there were few children left on the streets and the ones that did remain looked supremely happy and thoroughly exhausted in their strollers, waiting to get home to their beds, we passed the gorgeous old St. Marks Theatre.  Lou was snug in his stroller, but Biet asked to go in, so I decided it would be our last stop.  We wandered into the dark absinthe bar at the front.  The place was almost empty, lit only by candles.  "Trick or Treat!," she called out, and from the other side of the room the bartender emerged. "No more candy." she bluntly told us, so we turned to leave. We had tried.  But on our way out, a man with a thick french accent stepped out of a doorway in front of us and began speaking.

He was from France, and he loved our homemade costumes.  They reminded him of old theater in his home country when he was a child. Now he ran the little crepe window on the side of this theater. And no, there was no more candy. But yes, there was something special he could give us.  And then leading us back into the bar, through two heavy doors, and down a bright hallway, we came to the prop closet, from which he brought out a little basket of rings, and instructed Biet to choose one. And with eyes so bright and enthralled you'd think he'd just given her a castle, she chose a tiny delicate white one.  It just so happened that she had been asking for a ring for weeks, yet we'd had no luck finding one small enough. And it just so happened that this one fit her perfectly. The whole encounter was eerily perfect.

And just as we'd emerged from our apartment hours earlier, pristinely made-up and full of enthusiasm for the bright and magical Halloween adventure which awaited us, we now emerged from the dusty dim theater into the wild and dark village streets, our legs tired and makeup half smeared off, looking more like vagabonds than a traveling circus.  We were tired. We were happy. We began to leave, but the man, who had returned to his crepe stand, yelled to us from the little open window, "Wait, I'll make you a crepe too!", and proceeded to whip up a butter and sugar crepe, roll it up neatly, and hand it to Biet through the window.  Then he informed her, "I'm from Brittany, France- where we know how to make real crepes."  We thanked the kind man profusely, and with full hearts and bellies, turned the corner and walked back home.

Later that night, when the kids were scrubbed and brushed and tucked away in bed, and the apartment was calm and quiet save for the occasional sounds of festivities drifting in from the streets outside, I threw a coat over my pajamas and took Nico for a walk.  The city had transformed into a gothic carnivalesque paradise. Just like every Halloween, there was a distinct wild feeling in the air, like anything could happen at any moment.  On First Avenue I passed two amazing drag versions of Marie Antoinette- one all in white and one all in black, and paused for a second to marvel at their beautiful costumes. And the all-white Marie, with her lace and glitter and seven-foot hairdo, called out to me, with a little humor yet a little scorn, "Girl, where's your costume? Where's your Halloween spirit?!"

And I looked back and smiled.

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