Surviving Hard Times
The Frugal Elder

A Childhood Memory Found

category_bug_journal2.gif As long-time readers of this blog know, it broke my heart when, two years ago, I was forced to leave New York City for a less expensive place to live. Portland, Maine, has good things to recommend it – I especially like the quiet - but there is much I miss about New York.

Most of all, I miss walking - walking long distances, miles every day to do all the normal errands of life. Here in Portland, I drive to do everything and I must make appointments with myself to walk. I’m not good at walking without a goal and a destination.

Instead of going ten blocks out of my way and back, as in New York, because I suddenly wanted to see what’s going on in Washington Square Park or if there was a street fair on Christopher Street, I ask myself if I’ve walked enough yet and can I (puh-leeze) go home now.

I grew up in Oregon, and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to live in Manhattan - an odd desire for a five-year-old living on the west coast in a family that had no connection with nor had ever visited New York. I’ve attributed it to a record album my parents had titled, Manhattan Tower, which I wrote about here several years ago.

But there is another childhood artifact that must have had some influence, a photo book titled, Peg and Pete See New York about a boy and girl who visit the sights of the big city. The text is in rhyme and at some point, I knew it all by heart. Regarding the main branch of the library:

Two great big lions sit at the door
They never move, they never roar

Over the years, I’ve occasionally looked for the book – even the New York Public Library didn’t have it – and found it at last online a couple of weeks ago. I was astonished, when the book arrived, at how familiar the photos were, even after 60 years or so. I must have pored over them a zillion times as a kid.

There was nothing as exotic as double-decker buses in Portland, Oregon, and I remember wanting so much to know what it was like to ride so high above the streets on the top level. By the time I got to New York as an adult in 1969, I was disappointed that the double-deckers were gone.

Dbldecker

There’s an old one-liner about New York City: “It will be a great place if they ever get it finished,” and indeed, it is hard to keep up. For example, you can discover a great restaurant you hadn’t known before and when you extravagantly brag about your find and take a friend there two weeks later, it’s gone with a shoe shop or tattoo parlor in its place.

But some things don’t change. Prometheus at Rockefeller Center was a destination for Peg and Pete and he’s still there today in all his gilded glory.

Prometheus

I don’t remember that the subway photo impressed me much as a kid, but the subway itself was my friend in New York, zipping me to and fro around town without the hassle of street traffic. And it looks almost the same now as it did in 1939, when the book was published.

Subway_2

I do remember closely studying this photo of Peg and Pete in Chinatown and wishing it showed more of the neighborhood. Later, it became one of my favorite walks, from Greenwich Village, where I lived, through SoHo and Little Italy to Chinatown. I did a lot of grocery shopping there because the same fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry are about half of uptown prices, and a friend told me just a couple of weeks ago that he does all his shopping there now because of the good prices.

Chinatown

The final photo in the book is Peg waving goodbye. The accompanying rhyme says:

Peg’s sorry she must leave today;
She wishes she could stay - and – stay.

Pegwaving

Me too. I wish I could have stayed in New York. But these days I think I’m remembering “my city” in the 1970s and 80s when it hadn’t yet become a town only for the rich. By the time I left, even ordinary necessities and small pleasures had become unaffordable for most people.

Still, I miss my daily walks there.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Leah Aronoff explains a language glitch in her poem, Japan in a Word or Two.]

Comments

You warm my heart this early morning.
Isn't it wonderful how a childhood memory and gift like your little book can bless us and make us smile.

Ronni, I wish and hope that you find a way to get back to NYC, even if you have to live in a different area, one that is safe, of course, and walkable. In your heart of hearts, you know you belong there, so use your blog, your creativity, your smarts, to find a way home. Portland is pretty, for sure, but it is not your true home. Home is where the heart is, and NYC is your spot. I'm telling you this as a true Montrealer who has traveled extensively to many cities and still I get tears in my eyes as I view the Montreal skyscape from a plane window or car coming over the Champlain bridge. Ronni, it's time to work on going home.

Ronni: I, too, hope you can find a way to move back to New York. There must be a way. Chicago is expensive, too, although not as expensive as New York. Still, I wouldn't think of moving away. And aren't childhood memories revealing? That sounds like a great little book.

doctafill...

Re: "...still I get tears in my eyes as I view the Montreal skyscape from a plane window or car coming over the Champlain bridge."

Always happened to me in New York, flying home from wherever and at a particular turn on the Garden State Parkway when driving home from upstate New York: you're surrounded by trees until that bend in the road and POW! there's the New York skyline. It never failed to take my breath away, particularly at night.

This makes me want to start a fund called SEND RONNI BACK TO NEW YORK.

Your sure have me thinking about the childhood stories and pictures that guided my dreams.

I remember listening to Saturday Radio....shows like "Let's Pretend" & "Junior Miss" (?). The latter show about a family living in an apt. building in NYC.....wow! How romantic for a little girl in the "sticks" who had a great imagination. I longed to see NYC becauseI knew I didn't stand a chance of ever living there. My spouse had a similar dream after attending Columbia in the '50s. So today we relish the tales our son tells us aboout these days in his beloved city. I don't believe he will ever leave.....it's like he's there on the tail of our dreams.

Wish you could return, Ronni. Really return....Dee

That's it. Ya gotta go back.
How about a like minded roommate? There's got to be a way.

Nostalgia indeed for a simpler way of life and time like when we grew up in Portland Oregon and it had trolleys. They are back though and sometimes things have a way of doing that-- going full circle. My recent trip to Portland, Oregon, reminded me of all my family memories there. It also is always changing and construction seems to be a constant. Guess that's the way of cities. I do love downtown Portland-- Oregon. Sometimes, especially after I have been there, I wonder if I could live there. Could the country mouse be happy in a big city? Probably not for long.

Maybe the early childhood imprinting of New York was a sort of programming for you?

Isn't it weird, the things we perceive about a place?

Places in the Heart - and every heart beats differently. NYC would be torture for me once I got passed the usual tourist stops.

I have to have wide open spaces and low population. New York would be a slow suffocation for me.

'Course, living in Cowtown is becoming more and more the hectic urban life similar to NYC.

Gotta get out of here....and back to the country. I say that and say that, and yet it seems elusive.

And doesn't it always seem that if, just if, we could manage that certain change of locale, all else in our lives would become sweeter?

Dreamin' my life away...

Ronni, make it a goal to go back to NYC for at least one visit per year, preferably in nice walking weather. I never walk much of anywhere, but in NYC, I can walk all day if I have to. There is SO much to see and do there.

Ronni, make time for visits "home" to NYC. See a show, have lunch, wander through a favorite museum. You were brave and tough when it came time to make the move to Portland, but as a veteran of many long-distance moves, I can tell you there's a hidden timeline of ambivalence:

Year One: Well, it'll be an adventure. (Forced smile).

Year Two: Every place has its up and downs. (Sigh).

Year Three: Finally settled. The place is what it is. Time to go. Maybe home (big grin).

But visit first--more than once. Moves never solve as many problems as we hope they might.


Ronni,

Did you ever think of joining one of those programs where you trade homes with someone for a week or two?

I think there is someone in Manhattan who would love to live in a nice condo in Portland, Maine for a little vacation.

Perhaps you could look into some arrangement like that and spend a few weeks in NYC every Spring when you would like to walk and some New Yorker would love to see the tulips and Azalea in bloom in Portland.

Never been to Maine, but we adore being in NYC, so I understand the longing to return. My friends there either live in rent control/subsidy places that have been in the family forever, or they pay huge bucks for small spaces. So I can appreciate the cost issues.

One of my favorite things to do in the morning there is to just sit in Madison Sq. Park and gaze at the Flatiron Building...you can tell that I'm a cheap date!

Good luck in getting back, if only for a weekend now and then.

If you're looking for another cool place, come to sunny Kansas,

Ron

I had spent the first three years of my life (1938-1941) in Brooklyn. Then when our children were small, my husband took a consulting job for the summer in NYC. They tried to put us out in Long Island but I insisted on the city. We dreadfully wanted to stay, but even then, with children, it was just too expensive. Our daughter has now lived in NYC 10 years. I absolutely love the place. Another factor is tht it has become more dangerous for older people. So sad.

When I was growing up Portland, Oregon was the big city. I was born there because Mother stayed with my Great Uncle and Aunt in Portland until I arrived as we were living in a logging camp off of Highway 26. My Uncle worked on the for the interurban (trolley).
Visiting Portland always meant a trip to a book store where Mother would buy me the latest Evelyn Sibley Lampman book. We would stop and eat at the Uptown Bohemian before going home. I thought the busboys spoke Bohemian and found out that it was probably Tagolog as they were from the Phillipines.
We lived in Vanport in 1946 while Mother was awaiting my sisters arrival. I went to kindergarden from there but i don't remember the name of the school.

Sorry that was me posting about Portland. This site won't remember my identity.

I was born in Manhattan (13 East 107th Street), and must admit I have a love-hate relationship with the borough. I was raised in the Bronx, and as an adult, worked in Manhattan for about 25 years. I have fond memories of the vibrancy of life in Manhattan. But maybe because I'm now an octogenarian, no longer tolerant or capable of enjoying that vibrant life, I prefer to live some 50 miles away in the NJ exurbs where there is a slower pace of life. I guess that marks me as a genuine old fart--or as they say in Manhattan--an alteh kocker.

When I went to the States in 1991 New York City was definitely one place I wanted to visit. It was bitterly cold there near Christmas time but I really liked it.

I'd never seen anything like its subway system and the frantic pace was also something I'd never witnessed before or since.

I still don't quite get why people beep their car horns when they have no chance of getting anywere when sitting at a red light.

I can understand how you feel. I lived in several other cities for several years and never felt comfortable; as if I was just staying over. I came "home" over 30 years ago and have no regrets. A lot changed while I was away, but I renewed friendships going back to the third grade and still enjoy shortcuts through the old neighborhood. You will know if and when the time is right to return to New York. In the meantime, without the distractions of the Big Apple, you have become a shining beacon among us elderbloggers. Maybe you are where you are supposed to be as you prepare for the next great adventure.

This one brought a tear. I was a fourth grader in Reno, Nevada, who used to sit sobbing at my desk when we sang "The Sidewalks of New York" during music hour. It took me three decades to get there for my first visit, and, the second visit was for my husband and me to marry at the Muni Building.
I'm so sorry that the city changed the way it did to force you to leave. You, Ronni, have a giant heart: it holds the entirety of Manhattan in its chambers.

I'm surprised that no one has noticed that Peg in your little book is a dead ringer for the earliest picture of you in the header. Take a look. It is an amazing resemblance.

Ohhh... what a lovely story. I wanted to move to NYC before any connection to it, it's a common story for people who feel a sort of kinship with it. I moved back to Los Angeles about two years ago also, after living there a few years. I miss it dearly, but the revolving door isn't forgiving enough to let us all stay forever. I'm so glad to have had the chance...it showed me the path to the rest of my life. Thanks for sharing this...it was really wonderful to read.

Just loved this post.

Wonderful memories you have of NYC. Would that you could return there on your terms. Perhaps?

There was a period in my youth when I aspired to ultimately being there, though I toyed also with L.A. -- actually Pasadena as a stop along the way. Life circumstances took me elsewhere.

I've since returned to several cities to which I had formed a strong bond. A stay of several days to a week or so in each of them convinced me that the memories were sweeter than any life would be if I returned there -- the cities moved on without me. But, NYC is different, and maybe could be the perfect fit for you. My daughter says she would love to live there.

Do you ever wonder who those kids were? They'd be the right age to be among your blog readers now.

I like that house swapping idea.

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