Like many Brooklyn dads, I write, and like many Brooklyn writers, I’m a dad. And like many Brooklynites, I came here from somewhere else. Growing up in Kansas I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and watched Brighton Beach Memoirs, and sometime in junior high I decided, That’s where I’m going to live some day.
In 1999, as I was finishing up my Master’s Thesis at grad school in Kentucky, a bunch of my friends found a block of cheap apartments in Sunnyside, Queens. I moved in January of 2000 and spent eight months there, working temp jobs, paying my $350/month rent, and dreaming of Brooklyn. That August I moved to a railroad apartment on St. John’s in Prospect Heights. Over the course of the next six or seven years I lived, as a kid in my twenties, in eight different Brooklyn neighborhoods. Then, in 2008 while my wife and I were living in a factory loft in Bushwick, we found out we were expecting a kid of our own. Weighing the prospects of trailing broken glass into our apartment with a stroller, and listening to both our NYU art rock-band neighbors and a crying baby on any given midnight, we decided there might be truth in some clichés and moved to Park Slope in early 2009.
I now have two daughters, three-year-old String Bean and seven-month-old Butter Bean. (No, those aren’t their real names—they aren’t even their real nicknames, but they are fairly apt physical descriptions.) In my time when I’m not chasing String Bean around the house or changing Butter Bean’s diapers, I spend an inordinate amount of my time contemplating what it means to be a New Yorker. Many of you have probably seen the E.B. White quote that was part of the Train of Thought series on the subway a couple of years ago:
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.
You can reasonably guess which group I (and White) belong to, but I have to admit I’m a bit jealous of the natives, and fascinated by the commuters who whiz by me on their ways to and fro (I’ve actually written an entire essay about my own commute out of the city. I think most parents (and non-parents), whatever their White-ian classification, can appreciate the feeling of belonging a person gets from falling in line with the intrinsic rhythms, and becoming a working part of this unknowably complex city.
I hope to explore this with you, dear reader, on A Child Grows in Brooklyn, sharing my own stories with String Bean and Butter Bean while also hearing and responding to your own stories and concerns as Brooklyn parents. On my end, I’ll post weekly accounts of our adventures, including any notable Brooklyn-y (or more generally New York-y) points of interest and/or things I learned as a parent. On your end…well, I’d love to hear from you, via my “Ask a Dad” mailbox here at A Child Grows. And in return I’ll be happy to dispense wisdom (solicited or otherwise), share your experience on the blog, and/or just provide some friendly grownup conversation.