Monday, December 14, 2015

Leaving Brooklyn Means Crossing Time Zones

My parents set up their homestead in Brooklyn in the 1940s. They raised three children of whom I am the youngest. Aside from sojourning eight weeks at summer camp, my brother, sister and I never ventured away from Brooklyn when we were young. After we graduated from high school my brother and I attended Brooklyn College. Our sister went to an out of town school—Queens College. She commuted. That is, until she finally got her wish to expand her horizons and truly go to an out of town school. For her sophomore and junior years Lee attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She came back to Queens College for her senior year.

Even after Bernie moved to Washington, DC, Lee’s Israel experience was the first and only time any of our family lived more than a five hour car ride from Brooklyn. The nuclear family had been stretched but the protective amniotic fluid had not been pierced. We could still assemble for holidays with relative ease, as long as traffic for Bernie on the New Jersey Turnpike and for me coming south from Syracuse and then New Haven cooperated. 

But in 1973 Lee moved to Los Angeles. The outward migration of offspring had begun for the Forseter family. Fast forward to present times. Lee has three children: After a stay in New Orleans, Ari lives in Washington; Lauren and Jonathan in San Francisco. Jonathan spent several years in Singapore.

Bernie’s son Eric lives near him in a Maryland suburb. His daughter Karen followed her future husband across the pond to London.

Gilda’s and my son stayed in the Boston metro after attending college there. Boston has been Dan’s home for half his life. His family is a “short” three hour drive away. Dan and wife Allison remain New York Yankees and New York Giants fans which so far they are transmitting down to their children.

Now we get to Ellie and Donny and their daughter, Cecilia, the reason for this posting. Today they moved out of Brooklyn to Omaha.

Why Omaha? Well, Donny’s parents and one of his sisters live there. But the bottom line has to do with lifestyle and affordability. It could be Omaha or Cincinnati or Asheville or any number of smaller cities. They all offer a more affordable, more spacious environment to raise a family than do Brooklyn and many New York suburbs. Sure, Omaha lacks as full a restaurant and cultural scene. But it is not the backwater it was 10-15 years ago. 

Gilda and I will miss watching Cecilia take her first steps, speak her first words, grasp a spoonful of food to feed herself. We are envious of friends who get to enjoy these milestones firsthand, not through Facetime or Facebook.

Our situation is not uncommon. Many children of our friends and family have moved a plane-ride away. The emotional hole is made larger when grandchildren are involved, especially if they were born when their parents lived nearby. We were an hour away from Cecilia. I could come by easily to take her and Ellie to the pediatrician. Or to Costco. Or pick them up for a weekend visit to our home.

Gilda and I loved taking trips to Brooklyn to explore different neighborhoods, the Brooklyn Museum or Prospect Park, Coney Island, or Brighton Beach and end the day with a visit and dinner with Cecilia and her parents. We will still go to Brooklyn but surely not as frequently.

I hope I haven’t given the impression Cecilia is more precious to us than our other grandchildren, Finley and Dagny, that proximity promoted preference. They are all equally loved and cherished, as are their respective parents. But there was never any chance of close, frequent, non-electronic observation of Finley and Dagny growing up. Dan and Allison opted to live in the Boston metro long before they had kids. Ellie and Donny lived in Brooklyn.

Not the Brooklyn of my youth. That was, and still is, very unhip. Ellie and Donny lived in trendy Park Slope, near vibrant restaurants and cultural venues, near equally hip Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Williamsburg and Red Hook. Sure, I knew of these neighborhoods before Donny and Ellie lived in Brooklyn, even drove through them, but I never “knew” them. Never tasted them. Never observed them from the sidewalk on foot. Who now will take us to the hot restaurant only Brooklyn insiders know before The New York Times or some other outlet reveals its existence to the world?  

The move to Omaha separates Brooklyn for me and Gilda (who grew up there, as well) across the time zones of our past and present.

The move to Omaha separates our family across standard time zones. It will be harder to visit, for us and for Cecilia’s cousins. We get to see Finley and Dagny every six to eight weeks. We will try for the same frequency with visits to Omaha and return trips for holidays by Ellie’s family. 

My brother manages such a schedule with trips to and from London. He and Annette combine stays in London with side trips to parts of Europe and even Israel and recently South Africa. I guess Gilda and I will get to know the middle of the country from Mount Rushmore to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art in Bentonville,  AR, built by Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton. I presume I will show her Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville.

I’m not embarrassed to say I cried when I dropped off Ellie, Donny and Cecilia at LaGuardia Airport Monday morning. The fog shrouding the city made driving home alone difficult, the difficulty enhanced by the blurry vision of my moistened eyes.