I am truly and dearly in love with our block. We live across the street from an ivy-covered cemetery and next door to a majestic church. I often find myself staring out the window at the cemetery, with it's ancient tombstones & gated garden. When I was pregnant with Biet, Gaby and I would walk through it and stop at each grave to read the dusty centuries-old engravings. We were still trying to find a name for our little Poppyseed (Biet's in-utero moniker) and hoped to come across a long-forgotten gem. Every morning, I hear the birds who live in the cemetery trees chirping as they awake. You could walk by this block a thousand times & never know it's serene charm until the day you turn the corner & walk down the street. It feels like a quiet European side street, yet it is here in the center of Manhattan.
I love that we have the kind of neighbors who you really can borrow a cup of sugar from (not easy to find in this city). I love that we also have the kind of neighbors who make music and art and laughter until the wee hours of the morning. I love the smell of our block, especially when the seasons are changing. I love the old beat-up seafoam-green 1970's Cadillac that's always parked outside of our building (I've never actually seen someone drive it- but it always changes the side of the street for street-sweeping). I love each & every character of our small block; from the old man who sits under the shade of the big tree across the street and feeds the passing dogs peanuts, to the Priest of the church who always waves hello and blesses us, to Helen who brings her accordion in the mornings to play music for the birds.
But, more than anything, I love that this is the block on whichBiet was born.
This was our first apartment that became a true home. Gaby and I fixed up the place together, found all of our furniture second-hand, framed our family pictures and nailed them to the wall, and turned this little tenement railroad apartment into the beautiful eclectic home that it is today. In this apartment, here on this magical little block, I became a painter, an electrician, a woodworker, a seamstress, a designer, a blogger, a business-owner, and a mother. We raised Nico from a puppy to a real dog here. We birthed our daughter here. We became a family here. And I have loved every moment of it.
And now it is time to move on. Where to? We're not sure yet, but in a couple of months we will be rolling up our belongings and heading to a new block, in a new neighborhood, & possibly in a new borough (!). It is bittersweet. I will miss our block with all of it's quirky charm. But there is a new space and a new landscape and new characters to meet, just waiting for us! Now that we've built our home we can take it with us, wherever we please.
I will take Biet back to this block many times throughout her life. I will introduce her to the neighbors who are still around. We will sit in front of the cemetery and I'll point up at the second story window of the brick building across the street and say, "Honey Pie, see those two windows on the right? Those were the windows of our big, bright bedroom, where we laid with you on our bed when you were only minutes old. Behind those windows, beyond the bedroom, is a long dark living room, where your Papa cut your cord. And behind that is a pink-tiled kitchen, where you were born in a tub and took your first breath."
So even though we are leaving this block which I love so dearly, Biet will always be able to walk here and glance up at our building and feel at home. In a way, this block will always be hers.
In preparation for Biet's birth, Gaby & I took a Bradley Method class. There were a dozen or so couples in our class, each awaiting & preparing for the arrival of their little devil (uh, I mean bundle of joy). We became especially close with our classmates because nearly every one of them, like us, was planning to have their baby at home. There were a few birthing center births, and one scheduled c-section, but I am proud to say that EACH & EVERY ONE OF US HAD THE BIRTHING EXPERIENCE WE HAD CHOSEN- no complications, no hospital transfers, & every baby born healthy! We spent 8 weeks together, learning about birth & forming friendships, and were all a tad bit sad when the classes came to an end.
Today we reunited. We met in Central park, spread out a mosaic of blankets, & chilled with our babies and our picnics in the shade. It was so exciting to finally meet all these little people whom we had talked about in class for so long. We exchanged birth stories and postpartum experiences, introduced the babes to one another, talked & laughed & ate. It was amazing to see everyone transformed from eager first-time pregnant couples into strong and wise parents. I am very proud of every woman in my class, and proud to be one of them. It was a lovely day.
This was the first time that Biet has really been around other babies (even though all these kids sat for hours right next to each other in their Mom's bellies during our classes) and I couldn't help but notice that she is a bit more "high-maintainence" than any of the others. Where the other babies whimpered, Biet yelled. Where they signaled for food, she screamed for a snack. Maybe she'd lay on the blanket with the others? No way, Biet only wanted to be carried around the park (and I couldn't even attempt to stop walking- around in circles, no less- because if the scenery stops moving, baby Biet gets angry). She finally allowed me to put her down with the others, on one condition- no pants. She spent the majority of the day diaper-free. She laid next to all the babes in their cute baby outfits, without her panties. When I tried to put the diaper back on, she broke down in tears. So I left it off. It's how she felt comfortable, my tiny nudist. If this is a preview of the future then we might have one picky girl on our hands.. But she's OUR picky girl and if that's how we made her, then she's perfect.
We're still anxiously awaiting Biet's first "real" smile (it should happen any day now) but we're catching more and more hints that she's trying. Her chubby little cheeks get all swished up & her baby lips begin to curl up a bit at the sides. It's almost here!
Imagine yourself walking up 10th Avenue on a hot summer evening, pushing a carriage through Hell's Kitchen with your slumbering baby & your husband at your side. The streets are empty, the buildings desolate, & you can see the wavy heat emanating from the concrete. It seems that this dark & industrial corner of town has been deserted for the summer. When, suddenly, you come across...
The empty parking lot of yesterday has been transformed into a colorful nighttime balloon land, a block of childish wonder squeezed into the somber city. You look inside- not many people.. You ask the admission price- "No, no, Miss, Rainbow City is free to everyone!" Are there rides? No. It was made to enjoy, to frolic & run around in, an interactive conceptual art piece. So you smile and look at your husband & sleeping daughter. And the three of you go inside to run & play..
And though the baby girl slept through it all, you know one day she'll see the photos. And on that day she'll see that all of the spontaneous joy, wonder, magic, & luck in her life, that it was in her life from day one.
Biet is becoming a subway-riding pro (or rather Gaby and I are becoming stroller-folding baby-wearing metro-card-weilding pros) lately. We were all feeling the urge to get out of our neighborhood the other evening, so we hopped on the uptown train, then walked cross-town, and finally arrived at... The Highline.
We hadn't been there in nearly a year (I'm pretty sure the last time we walked along the ethereal garden in the sky was right before I was pregnant) and in our absence a whole new section of the highline opened- & it just keeps getting better! Now the mix of pathways and plants stretches twice the distance along the raised abandoned rail tracks, winding through the area's industrial architecture along the way. We strolled along in the dark, enjoying the city view from up high, and at the end of the tracks we decided to keep on strolling, all the way home.
So we walked the 30 blocks down and 10 Avenues over & finally arrived at our cozy apartment, happy & exhausted. Biet slept for most of our outing, but decided to awake for a snack and a dance on our way home. She woke up just as we were passing another street piano, so we all took a break and listened & swayed to the music for awhile. The man playing was an elderly gentleman, dressed as an old-time cowboy. He played AMAZING classical music without any sheet music. It must have been an unusual sight: such a tiny baby out in the nighttime, dancing with her Mama in the middle of the street, to Beethoven being played by an ancient cowboy. But New Yorkers are a little crazy like that; we set our own hours, play music if we want to, & make our own adventures.
Baby girl really does have people traveling from the four corners of the earth to see her. Our dear friend Paul's mother & father flew in from Portugal to meet this six-week-old babe (ok, they actually came to NYC to see their son but they were VERY excited to meet Biet). It was a perfect day to be outdoors, so we grabbed the baby & the leash & headed a few blocks up to 6th street. We stopped in to say hello to our friends at Grape & Grain, and then hopped into the garden next door to meet our visitors. They were so happy to see & hold Biet! We all (including Nico) cooled off with watermelon, iced tea, & croissants. When I learned that Paul's Mom was a postpartum caregiver for mothers & babies during her youth in Germany, I handed Biet over, glad to have yet another pair of loving hands eager to hold her. Biet snuggled into her shoulder and listened to Portuguese for the first time. We are so grateful for all of the love and help coming our way from our friends these days. Biet already has an international extended family, & it never seems to stop growing.