1 month ago

A Reader Writes: Shelter in Place

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I didn’t really want to move back to US when opportunity came knocking on my husband’s office door last summer. Sure, I had loved living in Manhattan in my twenties, modelling in 1990s NYC. This is where my husband had started his career, a perfect full circle. It felt right then, when we both emerged into adulthood in the city that never sleeps – building careers, forging friendships, having fun.

Despite my misgivings, in 2019 New York was still fun, just a different kinda fun. That’s when you realise how much New York City has to offer. Now we had two teenagers and a dog, Brooklyn felt like a good fit. After a long hot summer, finding our feet, seeing lots of cherished friends while they holidayed in the US and vacationing back in Europe ourselves, The City slowly became, not “home”, but definitely a fantastic place to live.

The 7.52am yellow school bus quickly became the norm. I signed up with New York Models, rekindling old acquaintances and making new ones. Thursday night cocktails Manhattans/Negronis (the updated Cosmopolitans/Mimosas), dinner in Soho at Coucou/Carbone or seeing a show (favourites included Slave Play and To Kill a MockingBird) in Manhattan became part of the weekly routine.

Weekends were more Brooklyn-centric with so much to discover, brunch in Williamsburg (Sundays in Brooklyn), Red Hook (Brooklyn Crab) and lunch in Dumbo (River Café) to name but a few. We’ve become Nets fans (we were Knicks all the way in the 1990s). Still it isn’t quite the same as Leinster rugby in the RDS on a Friday night with friends, but we were enjoying being fresh-eyed: everything seemed shiny and new.

As Covid19 stowed its way Stateside, we stockpiled our yeast (alas no Brennan’s Bread), Barry’s Tea and Dairygold. We managed a spoiling last supper in Eleven Madison Park. Later at 1 Brooklyn Bridge we clinked cocktails with friends (I had finally made some – friends, that is!) and then just like Europe but under a different nom de guerre, we were to Shelter in Place.

No helicopters, no taxis, no hotdog stands, no cars, no shopping, no nightlife – it was eerie! We were allowed to walk the dog and to exercise outside. I missed the New York smells of coffee, food trucks and laundry detergent as I passed the closed stores in the silent streets near our apartment. It quickly became apparent that for me without the lure of meeting a friend or a delicious cup of coffee after a workout, the appeal of exercise was greatly diminished. It’s going to be a long road back to full fitness.

Our park was a sanctuary of relative normality, of birdsong and new spring growth, until you noticed the ambulances idling there, parked up, awaiting the next emergency call, ghostly cheery music blaring and brave medics trying to catch forty winks in the passenger seat.

This has been a horrific and scary time for everyone and my heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones and livelihoods. But there have been some positives to come from this pause. For my husband and I, it has been the extra few months of having our children with us, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Snuggling up in front of the fire and watching old movies. Recipe books (Alison Roman, Athena Calderone) were acquired and delicious spreads were created by both kids. Long-forgotten hobbies of painting, knitting and gardening (read potted herbs!) were back in play. The excellent curbside flower stall remained open throughout – hyacinths, forsythia, cherry blossom and daffodils all brought the outside in, scents and memories comingled.

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