Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coming to Terms with Present-Day Life

(I realize that this article should've been posted a month ago, but I didn't think to write about it until this week. My apologies for the untimeliness.)



Nine years ago, I moved to a small town on Long Island that is presently my home. I was newly divorced, and the small Cape Cod-style house that I purchased was just perfect for a single mother and her two small children. The large front yard was ideal for impromptu soccer and football games, not to mention tag and whiffle ball. The cozy backyard had a deck off of the dining room where I would spend many a Saturday morning sipping tea in an Adirondack chair under the trees that hung over from my neighbor’s property. The inside was small, but charming; the living room had wood floors and a wonderful brick fireplace, and the kitchen was done in a warm and comforting oak. My bedroom was on the first floor; each one of my kids had a small bedroom upstairs. I couldn’t be more grateful for my adorable little home, or more thankful for where it was located.

As the years rolled on, I eventually couldn’t go to the local supermarket without seeing someone I knew. I belonged to the Catholic Church, and apparently, so did most of the town. No matter where you went—dentist, doctor, dry cleaner—you were bound to see someone familiar. And I loved every second of it! I took great pleasure in waving to people I knew while strolling down the main street and admiring all of the beautiful homes, most of them older and some even designated landmarks. This street would be the sight of our yearly Little League Parade on opening day. I would walk along the sidewalk as my son and his friends strutted proudly down the street displaying their team banners. I remember thinking back then that life doesn’t get any better in a place like this, and I would be happy to live here for the rest of my life. I was content, and I was safe. That is, until 9/11/01.

I realize that no matter where you were on that day, be it as close as Pennsylvania or as far away as Hawaii, 9/11 gave you a new reality. I left work after the first tower fell, and raced to my cousin’s house several blocks away from my own. Together we went to our children’s schools to see if they were letting them out, which they weren’t. We decided to go to our local supermarket and stock up on canned goods and water. We perused the aisles for anything that we could store in our basements, God forbid we had to hide out below ground for any reason. When we left the store and drove down our main street on that beautiful day, all I can remember thinking was how insecure and uneasy I felt. I wondered if I would ever feel safe again.

Being so close to the events of that day changed my mentality in a way that I can not even describe. As the days went on, there was a strange stench in the air as ashes and small, feather-light particles fell sporadically from the sky. Then the funerals started…all day events for dozens of people around the area who perished in the towers. Some were from Cantor-Fitzgerald; countless others were firefighters and police officers who worked in the city but lived in and around our town. Everyone knew somebody who died in the tragedy, myself included. It was a sad, surreal time and it will be with me for as long as I live.

As it stands now, you can’t go over a bridge or through a tunnel without reading several signs describing what “strange activity” would look like, and “If you see something, say something.” I can’t help but feel that we are a giant "bulls-eye", and the scariest thing of all is that if the bridges and the tunnels are destroyed, we are stuck here on the island without a way off. My once-perfect Shangri-La has become nothing more than a prison to me, and there’s not one thing I can do about it. If my husband and I did not have ex-spouses to worry about and our kids were little, we would’ve been out of here a long time ago. Add to everything the outrageous cost of living on this island and my dream has become my nightmare. My house is worth three times what I paid for it, but the taxes in this area went up as well and have earned the honor of being the highest taxes in the nation. Don’t let me forget to mention that there are now six people living here instead of three. And we have new neighbors that moved in next door from Queens, who decided to cut down every beautiful tree in their backyard, leaving my deck the heat equivalent of Death Valley. This same neighbor actually asked us to remove a very old, large maple that’s justthisclose to his property, to which of course, we said “No way!!” (I’ve always wondered about this, anyway: Don’t people come to this area for the trees and for the fact that they don’t want to live in a cement jungle anymore? Why does everyone from the city always cut the trees down, and try to make this town look like where they came from?). Sometimes, I just want to scream in frustration. Other times, I just feel helpless and hopeless.

My husband and I have made a pact that we will move away from here when our youngest graduates high school in 4 ½ years, God willing. Whether we do it or not, we need the dream to get us through each day. Neither one of us has ever been very good at living in the matrix, which a lot of people do around here; floating around almost as if 9/11 never happened or was a dream, and that nothing horrible like that could ever happen again. My own physician told me that most of us don’t even realize the stress we’re under just existing in a post-9/11 world (for example, I never used to think about anything while crossing the previously-mentioned bridges except the upstate destination that I was headed towards. Now my whole thought pattern changes when I read the safety signs, because I’m reminded of the reality of living in NY). Our dream home will most likely be a log cabin up in the mountains with enough room for our kids and their families for generations to come. Yes, this is our vision…and as the bible says, “A man without vision shall perish.” Or in other words, as I mentioned in a previous post, “If you give up your dreams, you die.” We’re not ready for that yet, so we will keep on “keepin’ on”. It’s a matter of our sanity—and our survival.

11 comments:

Summer said...
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Summer said...

Lisa. the fear everyone felt when 9/11 happened was felt all over the world. I was living in Amman-Jordan that period of my life and things were scary even there. I feared for my two kids that reside in the states and went frantically calling them to make sure they are all right. Even people in the middle east felt that this could happen to them too since it hit the USA, the most powerful country in the world...and people also felt that any other place is just as fragile. Everyone was scared..and it was not good feelings.
Of course a lot of people developed many theories ,such as conspiracy theory, about what happened and a lot others were convinced that it is the war of terror at its highest ever and they should take action to fight it to the max..but all in all, me as a person who wanted to have peace of mind to myself and all others, i thought that this should have never happened and i wished to erase it from humanity history. It is one of the most terrible tragedies that ever hit human race. Whoever was responsible for it, will get what they deserve...sooner or later!
I do not know anyone who died that day. But i mourned each and everyone of them....i felt for their families and for the loss and the void they left behind. i think i share your feelings in a way, but it must have been harder on you since you knew some of the people who lost their lives that day.
I think the fear that hit us all that day became a way of life for people in the USA and all over the world too...orange and yellow alerts, wars on many spots in this troubled world, just too much delays at the airports, security check points all over the world, and i think a lot of it is just hype but sometimes it feels good that these precautions are being taken...you should be glad you are not living overseas, it is much worse out here than it is in the USA...even when you get in a regular grocery store your purse is subject to search!!
By the way, your house sounds charming...where would you move if you ever decide to do that? I meant which area in the world? I have not thought about retiring but if i ever want to retire, i want a nice home to fit all the kids and their kids, where i can cook them nice meals and spend lots of good times with them so i can leave the grand kids great memories!

Lisa said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. What you speak of is what my dream is...to have family around me in a big, beautiful kitchen with grandkids running around all over! I picture having a pot of soup on when people start arriving, and when they get to my home, I'll serve them delicious, hot soup and homemade bread. Of course, in the morning, they will get my "special" pancakes and homemade muffins, eggs and bacon. And a great cup of coffee. Hey, maybe I'll open a bed and breakfast!!

I want to eventually move to upstate NY, probably somewhere around the Adirondacks! I vacation up there every year, and I am always very sad to leave! I have visited some log homes in the region, and it's just what you would imagine...rustic, peaceful, comforting...I love it. A lot of people that I know want to move down south. I'm not much of a Florida girl, when it gets too hot and humid, I get headaches and frizzy hair! So I think I'll put up with the cold for now. My aunt, who's 84 and looks about 64, told me that the cold weather "preserved" her! Now that's what I'm talking about!!

Take good care,
Lisa

Teri said...

Dear Lisa...how eloquently and honestly you express your feelings of this past time and it's continuing impact on your life and those around you. I too believe in vision...and dreams. My husband and I also dream of moving from our surreal area and building our own cabin on the mountains. Good luck on your dream...and hold that thought.

Ciao bella...have a great week.

Lisa said...

Teri,

Yes, I live in a very surreal area as well. A lot of women around here panic more about a smudged manicure than world events!

Good luck to you with your "vision"...I'm "chilling" tonight and trying to create baby steps that I can take to reach my dream. Someday, maybe we'll be comparing blueprints of our cabins! "Here's to happy women" in our future mountain homes! Salute!!

Take good care,
Lisa

Carine said...

Lisa, I hope your dreams come true on many levels. You've come a long way and I'm sure you will continue to grow and change. Dreams keep us young and hopeful.

www.Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com

Lisa said...

Carine,

Thank you, and yours as well! I will be first in line to buy your cookbook (when you write it...c'mon, you know you want to!!)...I perused through some of your recipes on the site that you told me about, and they look just yummy!! I haven't had time to cook much this week, but I am going to get to some of these eventually! The mashed potatoes looked great.

Thank you for stopping by! I'm looking forward to your next post, and I'll see you over there to find out "What's Cooking"!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kate Ryan said...

Funny how "the grass is always greener." I currently live in the southern Appalachian mountains. We built our "dream home"--very much like the farmhouse from the Waltons! We almost built a log cabin, but the farmhouse won out. I have lived several years as that "domestic diva" you speak of--very home and hearth around here. I enjoyed it for a while, but then the kids grew up and now I am wanting something completely different. I am craving the exciting city life now! NYC sounds fabulous to me, even post 9/11. I know, I can only imagine..I didn't live through it as you have. But for some reason, it feels very patriotic to say, "New York is still the greatest city in the world and no one is going to ever change that!" Know what I mean? So one day, I would love to live among those skyscrapers. Probably about the same time you are thinking of starting a life in the mountains. City girl moves to the country, country girl moves to the city. I hope we both find what we are looking for.

Lisa said...

Kate,

Thank you for stopping by!

I do agree, New York is the greatest, most exciting city in the world, even with all that has happened! I have been to the city several times recently, and I'll be honest, I don't usually worry too much on the train or once I get there. There is absolutely an energy there that you can't find anywhere else, and it can be addicting!

I don't blame you for wanting to leave your "Waltons" home after all these years...I guess we all long for what we haven't had in a while (or never at all), and that's not necessarily a bad thing! It means that we need to expand our horizons, as well as our brain capacity. We're not content with the mundane! We crave something opposite from what we feel. Right now, I get so overwhelmed that sometimes I feel like I'm walking in circles! So the peace and tranquility of a log home in the mountains represents what I long for...which is, ahem, peace and tranquility! On the other hand, you've had quiet for so long that you feel the need to break out! And I'm sure you will.

I'm sure we'll both wind up just where we're supposed to be!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kacey said...

Dear Lisa, I don't know how I missed this post ---because I check you out every day. You know, people always want to do the opposite of whatever they are doing at the moment. Living that close to the catastrophy would be enough to screw with anyone's brain. When we were first married, we wanted to move to Florida, but wound up blooming where we were planted. Now that we are older---really older---we own a place in Florida and my hubby wants to live there (with all those old dudes!). The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence because of the curvature of the color spectrum. lol So, dream your dreams, collect your house plans and prepare to move to the mountains. However, if you wait until the kids are grown, they will start families about the time you are ready to sell and you won't want to move away from the grandkids!

Lisa said...

Kacey,

I don't know how I missed YOUR comment! I haven't gone into archives lately, and I'm still green at all of this "blogging" stuff, so I'm not sure how one knows if a comment was left (I only get emailed for certain people). I just found this tonight, 11/3!

Unless my kids make over six figures, they won't be able to live here by the time they're of the age to buy a home...I mean, God bless them, I hope that they can earn a wonderful living doing something that they love! But I have a feeling that we will end up wherever THEY move, which will most likely NOT be here, lol!

Yes, you are right, we always seem to want what we don't have at the moment. Until we get it. But somehow, I have a feeling that cabin on the mountain is not going to get "old" too fast...I can't imagine getting sick of rocking on my front porch looking at beautiful scenery while listening to a chorus of crickets and birds. >>SIGH!!<<

Thank you so much for coming by.

Take good care,
Lisa