How will our family move forward into the future now that
Max has moved out of our Second Avenue nest and into a Brooklyn studio with his
girlfriend? Henry and I seriously
considered moving to a two bedroom apartment in a better building with amenities,
like more than one consistently working elevator, some lobby furniture, and air conditioning that doesn’t break down
on the hottest days. Maybe we could even
enjoy the view out our window, (anything would be better than 2nd Ave).
Now that we need one less bedroom, maybe we
could even save some money, while enjoying better views, a health club or even
a roof deck and pool. (A nest-hunting mom
can’t help dreaming, right?).
Eagerly, Henry and I spent a few Saturdays
looking at two bedroom rental apartments on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Not in
the super fancy buildings on Park and 5th Avenue, but the more
moderately priced postwar buildings east of Second Avenue between First and East End
Avenue in the 70’s and 80’s. What we
found was not inspiring: small rooms,
high prices and a dearth of closet space in
buildings boasting locations near playgrounds we no longer needed. Yes, there were health clubs, elegant lobby
furniture and working elevators to deliver me quickly to my prospective new
home. Trouble was there’d be no space to hang up my coat once I entered the
apartment. I knew from experience the tiny entry closet would be stuffed to the
gills with overflow from the too-small bedroom closets. And what if I felt like
a bath? After schlepping those extra blocks east to the less expensive buildings,
I’d have to settle for a shower in the tubless (??) master bathroom.
As for fabulous views, the only apartment with
a balcony facing the river turned out to be one floor too low to clear the
trees. Like in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode, the “view” was obscured,
and—of course—nothing was available on a higher floor. The real estate broker
promised to call us if a similar apartment came on the market with an
unobstructed view. But he also warned that an apartment on a higher floor would
probably be a lot more expensive; we’d have to “grab it” because “the rental
market is hot, hot, hot!”
not, the lease renewal on our current apartment required surprisingly small
rent increases for one or two years.
When Henry called the managing agent to discuss our half-empty nest
situation and possible desire to move, he learned that the landlord “would
be thrilled for us to leave the apartment whenever we want." Over the course of
our 23 years in this building, our rent has been alternately destabilized and
re-stabilized—due to mysterious changes in the law. Happily, we are stabilized for the moment.
Q: “What happens if we sign a two
year lease and decide we want to move before it’s over?”
“Go and good riddance.” The landlord will be glad to rent out our
apartment at market rate (probably close to $2000 more than we’re currently paying).
In rent stabilized apartment buildings, being
loyal tenants for 23 years is not an advantage.
The good news is that we now have
the unexpected luxury of choice. We have
an affordable, spacious apartment in a less-than-wonderful building, two years
to look around for a home we like better, and the landlord’s blessing to leave
any time. (How lucky is that in Manhattan)? Without any hesitation, we signed a
I was disappointed at first, after longing
so deeply for change. But as soon as I decided to convert Max’s cluttered
bedroom into a cozy den, I began to feel better. Last Sunday afternoon, Henry
and I spent hours cleaning out the mish-mash of tangled electrical cords,
broken Xbox, GameCube and all the other antiquated games that went with them. Out went clothing stained with holes and several
sizes too small. We unearthed old baseball uniforms stuffed into the wall unit
along with crumpled high school papers, video cassettes, expired prescription
drugs and—yes—empty condom packages.
Possessed by a relentless cleaning frenzy, I realized that if I kept
dragging out garbage bags for long enough, I could finally get rid of Max’s ancient,
creaky-drawered Bellini dresser. My son’s broken down twin bed (that had
accommodated one girlfriend too many) could also be discarded, along with an
old wooden desk that had recently collapsed under the weight of his beloved
book collection. Like Max, I love books
and would never discard them. After I’ve rested up a few more days, I plan to
gather the paperbacks and hardcovers from the floor and give them a place on our
Finally, after all the clean-up and
rearranging, there will be an extra room in the nest. Our new den will have a lovely convertible
sofa bed, in case we have an overnight guest. (Or, heaven forbid, Max splits up
with his girlfriend and bounces back.)
We’re planning to repaint the room, put in a new flat screen TV, add window
blinds and lighting. While Henry watches
Monday night football in the bedroom, I can watch what I like on the new TV,
chat on the phone without bothering him or nap in a quiet room.
Speaking of quiet, Sarah is
starting to spend more nights at her boyfriend’s house. Often Henry and I are
the only ones home. We miss the kids
sometimes, but after all, they ARE 23 (at least chronologically). I can’t help but be thrilled—as well as
relieved—that Sarah is keeping busy with her friends, her boyfriend and some
part-time office work. If anyone had
told me 10 years ago that my daughter on the autistic spectrum would graduate
from college, have a few close friends and a year-long relationship with a
boyfriend, I’d have been delirious with joy.
But Sarah won’t be satisfied until she can move out (like her twin brother),
and that’s a few years away at least.
Still, I can’t help feeling that
Henry and I are falling back to the future, planning new lives as a couple,
looking at paint chips, and visiting furniture stores. I’m looking forward to what comes next. Instead
of the same old everything, we have the chance to add a few new feathers to our
nest and create something different—something that addresses our needs as a
couple. Didn’t we spend the last two decades running a “child-centered” nest? Our twins aren’t even children anymore. How many other parents out there feel entitled
to taste just a little of the freedom and renewal our children feel as they begin
to spread their wings and fly?
Labels: " Upper East Side, "Curb Your Enthusiasm, autistic spectrum, books, Brooklyn, dens, East End, empty nesters, Gamecube, leases, Manhattan, millennials, rental laws, rentals, Second Avenue, twins, views, York