My family, and New York


When my grandmother was a little girl, she lived in a pretty and stylish brownstone in Brooklyn with her mother, father, and two uncles. Her father worked hard, and her mother was a teacher from a fairly well-off family, who didn’t think twice about dropping $100 on bright feathered Dior hats in the late 1940s (I even brought a few of them home in their original hat boxes). Anyway, point being, she was fabulous.

One of my grandmother’s uncles worked near the Waldorf Astoria, and while he was passing the hotel entrance, he noticed a sparkle in the sidewalk. Wedged in between the sidewalk tiles, he picked out what appeared to be a diamond, lost from its bracelet or ring or necklace, or wherever it came from. So, being the honest Irish Catholic that he was, he brought the gem to the front desk of the Waldorf, and told them that he had no idea if it was a diamond or a shard of glass, but asked the concierge to hold the diamond in case anyone reported it missing. Good deed for the day? Check.

Fast forward two years. The concierge at the Waldorf Astoria contacts my great-great uncle (I’m not sure how accurate that is — I’ve never really understood genealogy titles in English) and tells him that he’s held on to the rock for two years, and that no one claimed it, so it belonged to its finder. So Uncle MacIntyre goes back to the hotel, picks up the gem, and takes it to a jeweler, who confirmed that it was, in fact, a diamond.

He had the diamond made into a ring, which he gave to his brother’s wife (my great-grandmother).

My grandmother now wears the diamond on a gold necklace.

She first told this story about a year ago, when I was visiting California and having dinner with the rest of the Gerrity family. It was a story that she hadn’t even told her own children yet, and something that she remembered when I came home, glowing purely from talking about the possibility of moving to New York.

I do admit that I am smitten with the wistful love for New York that the converted-Californian New Yorkers have. The feeling I get when I can sense my grandma’s excitement about my prospects of moving to New York sometime in my twenties is comforting, opportunistic, and inspiring. Her excitement is bright as day. And for the past few years, she’s been pushing me to visit my great aunt and uncle — earlier in January, I finally saw the twentieth floor one-bedroom apartment on Central Park West that they’ve owned, now, for upwards of forty years.

And my grandmother uses the same words to describe every minute detail when she talks about it, which is, essentially, every time I talk to her and New York comes up in conversation. So I’m pretty excited to catch up with friends and family, but I might be even more excited that my grandma can talk about the full circle connections between California, DC, and New York in our family — it’s so easy to tell how much it means to her.

I wrote this post while sitting on a train to the big city, a trip temporarily delayed in scheduling but not in sincerity. I couldn’t wait to fall in love with that city again, and then to spend the next few weeks wistfully frustrated that I’m not living in New York. If I told you I didn’t spend the week after that trip plotting a move to New York, I’d be lying.

Baby steps. New York, I ‘ll see you soon. And one day, I will be saying that every morning.