by Christine Adams Beckett
Tuesday is recycle day, and six copies of The New York Times remain in their plastic wrapper, the upper left quadrant of the front page yellowed by the sun. Without my dog to whine me out of bed at 6 AM, I haven’t been making that dewy trip to the front walk with her to fetch the news, while she sniffed about, searching for olfactory evidence of pesky rabbits encroaching on her terrain. These days my distracted self shuffles to the coffee pot at a procrastinating 7 AM to brew a double espresso with warmed milk. I then plunk down in front of my lap top, distractingly situated on my kitchen counter, and chime on to my home page: www.nytimes.com. I scan the headlines blearily and immediately switch to The Weather Channel, The New Yorker on line, the local news sites like The Montclair Patch or Baristanet.
I then busy myself with omelettes and watering cans and To Do lists.
It isn’t that the trip to collect the morning paper is treacherous. A few tangles with the thorns of my rose bushes have scratched my forearms on occasion, but is certainly no deterrent. The path lights occasionally get knocked out by a delivery person with dreadful (or dead on?) aim. My heart no longer bleeds when I descend the front steps without The Late Great Pooch. It’s simply that the pages no longer remind me of what was lost. I don’t masochistically crave the Sunday Real Estate Section, a reminder of the quaint pre-war walk-up in Gramercy Park for which I entered a rental agreement that never quite came to fruition. (Pesky Certificate of Occupancy!) The Sunday Styles Section has lost most of its panache, as I have ditched my black business suits years ago for blue jeans and T shirts; the comfort factor has taken over my wardrobe decisions and has left Bill Cunningham in the paper recycle bin.
While I lived in Paris, the morning thud of The International Herald Tribune delivery to my apartment door was a delicious sound eliciting a Pavlovian craving for coffee, thirty minutes of alone time, and perhaps a pencil for Will Shortz’s worldly crossword puzzle. Its pages provided a connection to a life I left back home with a European bent. I thought the publishers had only me in mind when sending their reporters on their respective beats. I felt enveloped in their pages, an expat with comradery with the writers that graced their pages.
Upon American re-entry, the weighty New York Times was a solid reminder: I am home. No longer subjected to the abridged version that was the IHT, I could lolly gag the mornings away while sifting through every section, ignoring the children (and the Business Section) as they played in a vast family room, void of furniture, terrific grounds for indoor Nerf bowling.
Now a quick internet surf on a weekday morning, flagging those articles that catch my eye for later perusal, suffices. No longer does the paper excite a dash down the walkway. I prefer to list the birds that visit my feeder with my toddler, peruse a new cookbook, stroll with my friends in the park after school drop-off.
I do believe after six years in suburbia I have inadvertently quashed my longing to be a city dweller. I have made what suburbanites call The Shift, borrowing a term from Wayne Dyer’s self-help lingo. I have encountered a time in my life when where I live and what I do does not define me, not that it ever did. Perhaps on occasion I envy those dear friends I left behind in Paris and New York: those with only a 5 minute walk to world-renowned theatres and restaurants, the farmer’s market at Union Square, frequent Woody Allen sightings. But none of it really matters in the true sense of living.
The Sunday Review and The Book Review are now the only two sections of the paper I seem to get through on Sunday, a thoughtful re-cap of the week’s big news and writerly opinions on the latest good reads. I linger over the semi-annual Children’s Book Review, contemplate our next library trip. I look into the faces across the kichen counter, my moveable feasts of love that need no address. I put aside the pages, its ink smudged onto my thumb and onto the white melamine bowl that holds the pancake batter. I help my nine-year old stir while we banter about the week, and dump a puddle of it onto the griddle. As it changes physical form, a blob of cream into a solid cake, I forget where I am. It’s immaterial.