Not About Books

I have been away in the mountains in upstate New York with the family.  My aunt and uncle built a house on the lake for themselves and now the entire family spends their vacations there.  We are a bunch of shameless free loaders.   But I love when all my extended family are together under one roof.  But this vacation I felt sad, I kept wondering how many more years we have together in this way.  Since I’ve moved out I’ve been feeling more like an adult, and this forces me to realize that my parents and my aunts and uncles are getting old.  Like, they look like old people.  And me, my siblings and cousins, we’re adults.  We are getting married and having babies and buying houses.  I had a total “oh my god I’m an adult now time is flying make it stop” moment. 

My dad is one of five boys.  When my dad and my uncles get together and talk, it’s the best thing in the world.  Between these men, they know absolutely everything.  They know how to build houses, fix plumbing, install electrical wiring, install heating and cooling systems, fix and replace boilers, how to build subways, how to drive trains and boats, how to put out fires, how to fix and rebuild cars.  They know everything about the city; can tell you the entire history of the public transportation system in Brooklyn, from trolley cars to electric buses to elevated subways.  My dad and uncles talk like no one else in the family.  Their Brooklyn accents, their language and skilled use of profanity, the way they tell stories (oh the stories, they have the best stories) and the way they laugh – I never get tired of listening to them talk.

My dad and my uncles grew up and left Brooklyn to raise their family in the suburbs to give their children what they never had, big houses with big backyards and all that, and I know they did this with the best intentions in mind.  But I wonder sometimes if they realize what was lost in moving the family away from the city.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was lost.  Growing up in the city gives a person a sense of openness and honestly that comes through in the way they talk and interact with people.  And once my dad and my uncles are gone that city culture that I love is gone with them.  My siblings and my cousins and I, we are suburban kids.  We are careful and selective in what we say and how we act.  I know we are supposed to represent our family’s progress and success, but at the same time I realize that something was lost in the process.  One day I’m going sneak a voice recorder in the house to get my dad and my uncle’s voices on tape.  I cannot even imagine there will be a day when they won’t be around, when I won’t hear their big booming voices echoing through every room in the house.

Maybe this is why I wanted to move to Brooklyn.  I feel like I’m returning to the motherland.  My grandmother died in November, she lived in Brooklyn her entire life.  She was born in the same house that she lived in as adult and where she raised my dad and my uncles.  I miss her all the time.  She also represented what I love about the city, that openness and acceptance of all kinds of people. She was loving but she was honest and could crack jokes along with my uncles.  I love my little corner of Brooklyn.  It is not far from my dad’s old neighborhood.  It is not chic or gentrified or whatever you call those neighborhoods nowadays.  But everything I love about Brooklyn is here. 


One Response to “Not About Books”

  1. Leslie Says:

    It’s funny. I grew up in the country but could relate to this entry a lot. I guess every childhood place is the same in the regard that it has this magical quality to it.

    I wonder what it would have been like to have been raised a city girl…

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