We had a hell of a rainstorm two years back. It was called Hurricane Sandy, and it caused a lot of people a lot of genuine heartache. Despite our being in the safest part of Manhattan, where the lights didn’t even flicker, we did lose something profound that night, something that can never be replaced: our youth.
It was a few nights before Halloween, and my family was dutifully locked indoors per the advice of the mayor.
As 100 mile per hour wind gusts carried leaves and trash up our sidewalk and tree branches lashed against our windows, we tried to keep a baby who had just learned to crawl contained in less than 600 square feet.
Upon hour twelve, I was pretty sure I saw her scurry backward up the bedroom doorway. Every roll of Saran Wrap and aluminum foil had been tugged out in miles, with our blessing. By the time the baby had fashioned a hat out of my nursing bra and was banging on our front door with a macaroni-encrusted wooden spoon, I knew we needed a magic portal out of this place.
Then I heard the lobby door slam shut against a gust of wind. Boots stomped and trudging commenced. I swept my baby in my arms and opened our front door to see a woman in fishnet stockings and knee-high boots making her way up the stairs.
I blocked her path with my speed demon baby. I wanted to know where she was headed. Whose apartment? Why was she risking life and limb to visit anyone in our building? Did she want our baby?
She caved to my congenial interrogatory style and I got some information. She was visiting Mary and Tom upstairs. They were going to hunker down with pizza and wine and watch CNN and light candles if we lost electricity. A party in the building!
Mary had told me I was welcome to drop by any time to see the R line of apartments and how their layout differed from our F line’s floor plan.(This is a Manhattan tradition. You don’t have to be friends with people to ask to see their apartment, ask their square footage and the amount they pay in rent.)
Well, ANY time was clearly now!
Mary had long shiny hair and always wore heels. Tom did some sort of-non-profit work in Brooklyn and they collected vinyl records. I saw the brown paper packages delivered to our lobby each week. I knew we must be role models for Mary and Tom. We were they in five years. We were showing them how to raise a baby without giving up your style, your deadpan morbid humor, your effortless New York warmth sprinkled with cynicism.
I just needed something to launch this rocket. I mean, technically, we weren’t invited to the party.
I imagined Mary’s and Tom’s apartment. It was decorated with photos of their safaris in Africa and their honeymoon stroll by the Seine. A guitar and possibly a ukulele hung from the exposed brick wall.
Fishnet stocking girl was slipping past and I had to act fast.
“Our television isn’t hooked up yet – I wish we could see the damage in real time too!” I exclaimed. (Lie: we’d moved in four months ago, all our wires were connected.)
“Why don’t you guys drop by? I’m sure that’d be fine.”
We were in!
I couldn’t wait to show Mary and Tom just how little changes after you have a baby. They would be awestruck by how sophisticated and hilarious people with babies can manage to be.
I found my husband in the closet that would one day be the nursery, banging away at his screenplay. My husband is introverted. He can sometimes be anti-social to the point of avoiding the grocery store lest a stranger ask him if he knows where the lactose-free milk is.
Twelve hours of keeping a speed-demon locked in barely 600 square feet had made him willing to HOST a party if we hadn’t just been (pretty much) invited to one. He was thrilled by my news.
We brainstormed. You can’t show up empty-handed to a hurricane party. You also can’t bring the three jars of Oregano and a tin of artichoke paste that you squirreled into your Zabar’s cart in the midst of pre-storm shelf-looting.
“We have Halloween candy,” I said.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Alcohol!” I said. ” It goes with pizza.”
“All we have is half a bottle of Jagermeister in the freezer.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Let’s go.”
“You go,” he said. “Do reconnaissance. I’ll join if I get a text from you.”
He handed me the Jagermeister and wished me luck. If he’d been watching me take off in the space shuttle, he could not have been more nervous about the outcome of my expedition.
With a baby on my hip and a freezing bottle of Jagermeister in my hand, I mounted the stairs and rang the bell.
Mary and her shiny tresses opened the door. Down the long exposed-brick-hallway, I could hear the party in full swing. I smelled pizza. I heard Wolf Blitzer.
“You had mentioned we should stop by some time so we could see the layout of your place and the baby is stir-crazy and I brought some Jagermeister. Your friend mentioned you were watching the storm reports, so…” I trailed off.
I knew she would pick up my unfinished thought and invite me in.
“Oh wow,” Mary said. “That’s so nice! Thank you!”
She clutched the bottle and called out to Tom. My daughter jumped out of my arms and raced down their hallway. I followed her. Soon I would be texting my husband! It was falling into place!
We exchanged a little neighbor first-date talk. Mary would be suggesting that they babysit our daughter soon. They needed practice after all; they were next, having been just married, right? I was always telling my husband, this is all it takes! A little effort, a little extroversion, and New York City can be a village!
“Thank you so much for stopping by!”Tom, non-profit, working-in-Brooklyn, record-collecting tight-jeaned husband put in. Someone was putting pizza on paper plates behind him and someone else was pouring wine.
I got dizzy. There was laughter and chatting in the distance. I struggled with blurred vision. I heard Wolf Blitzer’s monotone.
I pried the baby off a potted plant and waved goodbye. Can you be gracious and awkward at the same time?
My husband’s face was puppy-dog expectant upon our return.
“I don’t think you need to put your shoes on, we’re not going to a party.”
My husband swallowed. Then he smiled appreciatively.
“Thanks for making the effort. It was a great idea. Should we put the Jagermeister back in the freezer or drink it?”
“I don’t have it.”
“What do you mean?”
“They liked the Jagermeister. I mean, they took it.”
“What do you mean, they took it?”
“They took it. I guess for their party.”
“What did you say? Here’s some Jagermeister, have a swell time with it?”
“No. I invited us to the party. That was inherent in the bringing of the Jagermeister.”
“You couldn’t have been clear. Nobody takes half a bottle of Jagermeister. It isn’t done.”
“I think it was.”
“You must have said something that implied it was a gift.”
“Why would I bring a gift in the middle of a hurricane to people we barely know?”
“You must have said something that led them to believe we didn’t want it anymore.”
“I didn’t! ”
My husband got very quiet.
“They stole our Jagermeister.”
“If you think you could have done it better, then you should have brought the Jagermeister.”
“You must have implied –”
We went around like that for a while, as the baby dumped laundry on her head.
Mary and Tom don’t live here anymore. Their sublease ran out.
I think we are still friends on Facebook, but I haven’t checked in a while.
Maybe I should stalk Mary’s page and try to spot our bottle of Jagermeister in the background of one of their parties.
I haven’t the heart. They taught us a lesson on that fateful evening: We aren’t the cool kids. We aren’t kids at all. We are parents.
Against the mayor’s order, our youth had scurried outdoors, to be swept along at 100 miles per hour along with the brittle October leaves.
Bio: Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor, dancer, former nanny and mother of one two year old. She was graduated from Columbia University and studied at The Neighborhood Playhouse. Her writing has been featured in Nanny Magazine, on Mamalode, Mamapedia, Off The Shelf and The Huffington Post. She lives in NYC with her husband and daughter and writes essays at Hungry Little Animal when her toddler takes a nap.