I think when people who do not live in New York imagine what it must be like to raise a child here, they have a vision of a reeling anonymity that deprives humans of meaningful community. Those people do not understand neighborhoods.
In the fifteen minutes it took us to walk to dinner at one of our favorite slice joints last night, Kina recognized five people, waving to them offhandedly from across streets, in the middle of intersections, and while perched on a plywood bench eating pizza. Most—but not all—were under the age of eight.
This wasn’t even on a weekend, or on a playground!
After having lived in New York for twenty-seven years, I take pride in the moments of serendipity that tend to crop up when I’m hosting visitors—a coworker in the park, a friend at dinner. Just yesterday, I yelled at a random cyclist biking the wrong way up the Fifth Avenue bike lane, then recognized her as we passed in opposite directions and gave each other a friendly wave.
But Kina’s local fame far eclipses my own. She’s basically the mayor of this place, walking down the sidewalk and shouting out the names of random children. Shy parents whisper her name in passing. Dry cleaners nod in her general direction.
We’ve been lucky to be able to stay in this neighborhood for so long; most New Yorkers don’t have this opportunity. I used to think that we’d want to move once Kina was no longer a toddler, but now I can’t imagine it. The social investment in the community around us is worth far more than any additional half-bathroom or balcony would offer.
I intend to stick around for a while, see what it’s like to grow up someplace. Kina knows people. That means something here.