The Big, BIG Apple

A girl from Philly meets NYC. Hello, Jones Beach!

My daughter called yesterday evening from Queens, New York, where she’s staying with her friend Gabby for a month and working as an urban camp counselor. She’s never spent any time in New York City before, and it shows.

“Today we went to the beach. Jones Beach,” she tells me as I kneel in the backyard at dusk, halfheartedly weeding. “There were so many people! I went in the water, and when I came out, I was lost. I couldn’t find Gabby anywhere! I walked up and down and up and down, but I was totally lost. I was about to go up to the lifeguard and say I was lost when Gabby finally found me.” She paused. “It’s not like Ocean City, Mom.”

New York has a scale Marcy isn’t used to. “You can’t just go see a friend,” she reports. “You have to get on this subway—they call them ‘trains,’ for some reason—and then switch to another subway and then another subway, and it takes so long! I don’t understand it. It’s not at all the way I thought it would be. We’re all in New York City. Why should everything be so far away? You could never have a boyfriend who lived across the city. You might as well have a boyfriend in Mexico!” She should know; she’s had a few of those.

She likes Corona, Gabby’s neighborhood, though. “It’s like being in Mexico,” she says. “I don’t know how to explain it. The stores just look like the ones there.” The default language for shopkeepers is Spanish. The street food rocks. She’s worried, though, about the two days next week when Gabby won’t be working at the camp and she’ll have to find her way there on the subway—train—by herself.

I’m worried about those days, too.

But I’m glad she’s spending this month in New York City. I spent some time there when I was her age, and came away thinking the same thing: It’s not for me. There are personalities that are suited to that. Not mine. Not Marcy’s either, it seems.

“I could never live here,” she says, while I tug at a tuft of crabgrass. “It’s just. Too. Big.” It’s a fine lesson to learn, about yourself and about the Big Apple, when you’re 22. That way, you don’t spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been.

Marcy’s found an apartment in West Philly to move into this fall. “Philly’s not that big, is it?” she asks, a little anxiously.

“No. You could walk from West Philly all the way to the Delaware River and it would only be about three miles.”

“Three miles! That’s nothing,” my daughter says, sounding much relieved. Welcome home, hon.