I consider myself and my family members to be well traveled. Before marriage and children I had driven across the country several times taking different routes; spent three years living in Central California; and lived for nine months in Paris by myself (not as a student). With my family I have traveled to the Northwest, Canada, the Southwest and New England. My two children have lived in even more far- flung locales such as Botswana, Africa; Menorca, Spain; Berlin, Germany, Costa Rica; Australia and New Zealand. Because we are all so peripatetic, I think of us as citizens of the world.
What I did not see coming was my return to Brooklyn. Until my family moved to the north shore of LI when I was 9 years old, we lived in an unusual community of German immigrants in Ridgewood, Brooklyn. I was too young to know it then, but it was like living in a foreign country. Most of the families in my neighborhood were German, with a smattering of other immigrants. Mostly everyone I knew, including the local shopkeepers, spoke German. Neither I nor any of my six brothers and sisters spoke German, even at home. My father was a transplanted Floridian who spoke only English, so English was our first and only language. My mother spoke only German until she entered school and eventually became English dominant.
Like all postwar families we were ready to leave Brooklyn and move to a “better life” in the suburbs. My father was building our new home, pretty much singlehandedly, which is the only way my parents could have afforded to move. I don’t remember my feelings about leaving Brooklyn and I remember very few things about actually living there. I know we walked everywhere, took an elevated train to church every Sunday, roller skated a lot on our street, and pretty much stuck close to home during the week.
It was very liberating for me to move to the small seaside community on LI where I lived until I went to college. I discovered nature, wide-open spaces and the freedom to wander all day without fear. Those were the golden years. Life must have been much better for my parents, too, since their brood had grown to eight children which would have been unsustainable in our cramped city apartment. We were lucky enough to be part of a very fine school district, so we all received a very good, albeit old- fashioned, education. Although the house my father built was sold following my parents’ deaths, I will always think of it as home.
But this story doesn’t end there. Today my husband (who is from the Bronx) and I will be returning to Brooklyn to visit our son and his girlfriend who share an apartment in Carroll Gardens. When my son first moved to Brooklyn about a decade ago I thought it was a phase and he would eventually move on. During that decade he moved several times through several neighborhoods, each time improving his real estate status. He has now been in Carroll Gardens for several years and loves it there. At first I was shocked. Why would anyone choose to live in Brooklyn? I didn’t realize then that a major migration of young adults was doing the same and bringing new life to old Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Soon we will be making the now familiar trek to a place we have grown to love to visit (I am still at heart a suburbanite)…Carroll Gardens…to meet up with relatives and have dinner at my son’s favorite venue, a local jazz club. We love the change of scenery and the change of pace, and I have learned to think of Brooklyn as a place where happiness can be found. But having become a suburbanite, it is not a place where I could easily choose to live.