I was walking down Lex. That’s what my mother-in-law called Lexington. It was twenty blocks to East 72nd street. And twenty blocks back. I spent the first three or four blocks doing the math. Counting blocks.
The next few blocks I got a little overwhelmed by emotions. She hadn’t lived in Manhattan for seventeen or eighteen years, and hasn’t lived on this earth for over a decade. But I still miss her.
I remembered when I met her. It was my first time on the East Side. We were there for Easter. I wasn’t the first girlfriend brought home, and the relaxed banter around the table made me think that my presence didn’t have any great import. They come and they go, I surmised.
It was the biggest apartment that I had ever seen. There was a substantial foyer, with a bunch of furniture–chairs, tables, couch, lamps–and a big closet. On the right was the hallway to the bedrooms. One for the twins and the other a master bedroom with a separate dressing area with en suite.
The main living room was spectacularly huge, to me. It had multiple sitting areas and a most impressive oriental rug that, if rolled up, would likely take three men to carry. Someone would need to support it in the middle. The dining room was off to the side and led to a more regular-sized kitchen. The Future Spouse slept on the couch near the balcony. I slept on the pullout couch on the other side of the room, miles away.
There was a lively discussion around the family-laden table on that Easter Sunday. Catching up on school and jobs and the status of a cousin who was moving on to a third husband. The Future Spouse totally missed the middle husband. They come and they go, I suppose.
One thing that the Future Spouse did not miss, however, was the menu. There was a beautiful leg of lamb, peas and mashed potatoes. I am not a fan of lamb or cooked peas, but was brought up to eat what was in front of me without complaint, and, indeed, with gusto and praise to the cook. I wasn’t raised by wolves.
I had politely piled my plate with a reasonable amount of food that I was neither allergic to nor made me retch. Despite that, someone studied my plate.
“Well at least you like the mashed potatoes.”
I. Thought. That. I. Would. Die. Right. Then. Why couldn’t I just simply disappear? Maybe there would be an earthquake to distract us?
Embarrassed, I swiftly kicked his shin, sent daggers from my eyes and placed a forkful of lamb in my mouth followed by effusive compliments about the delicious meal. I mean really!
The woman who was the hostess and who would become my mother-in-law quickly spoke over the impolitic comment and acknowledged my truly heartfelt praise. She also shot a nudge–perhaps a virtual dummy slap?–over the top of her glasses to my companion who was rubbing his shin. The Spouse to this day claims that this was a strategic move to make me less nervous. I know that nobody supports that crazed claim.
As I turned down 72nd, I realized that I had five more blocks. I had forgotten about York. But I remembered now, even though I hadn’t walked this street for over a decade. I fought back another wave of emotions. It was still a part of my memories of home. A home, in this case, I was welcomed into.