Some genius has created a tumblr site to document every New York City store that has been replaced by a frozen yogurt place. Delis and restaurants, bars and bodegas, bookstores and clothing stores, spas and pet shops – all have froyo shops where they once stood.
And I’m in the same boat.
I used to have friends. Now I have froyo shops in every direction.
Over the past few years, three of the families in our neighborhood, the ones to which we were closest, have left the city. These were the people we could count on for a last-minute meet up in the park or playground or for an indoor play date in the winter. Mothers were pregnant together. Our children were born close in time. Our children grew up together and attended preschool together. In short, these people were family and were the ones who made life here in this dense metropolis less lonely.
Is this sort of loss part of what it means to be a die-hard, “never ever leaving the city” type of New Yorker? Is the hole left by the loss of good people really replaced by more frozen yogurt — sorry, froyo –options?
One family we lost was our next-door neighbors in our old building. We shared sugar, salt, milk, bread and eggs. We offered to pick up grocery items for each other. We took care of each other’s cats. We watched each other’s children. Our baby monitors worked in each other’s apartments and so we watched Netflix together after children fell asleep. Sometimes we just watched our little ones run back and forth in our hallway.
One family is old friends, friends my wife and I have had since college. We were at each other’s weddings. We went out for dinner to announce pregnancies and life plans and careers and joys and struggles. We celebrated Jewish holidays together and were honored guests at brises and britot bat alike. Our children grew together from infancy. It was a comfort to know they were within blocks of us even as we sometimes each scurried about the city doing our own things.
One family were new friends who we were connected to through a local mom’s group. They, too, have become like family and perhaps this is in great part to the fact that my 4-year-old daughter and their four-year-old son attended preschool together and bicker like an old married couple (they have known each other since they were four and ten months old, respectively).
Each of these families, for their own unique reasons, chose to move from the city (one of them only temporarily, I hope). For the most part, this is not a new tale. It is understandable to want to avoid the crushing rents in the city and to opt for ownership of a much larger space for the same money. This is true even if I would never choose this for myself. And, as I’ve recently discovered, it is also rational to avoid the public school system which needs a tremendous amount of work.
As my childhood friend from Brooklyn – Harry Siegel at the Daily News – reminds us, “the nature of the city is such that someone is always elbowing out someone else, and eventually getting elbowed themselves.” But, for those of us that remain to watch others get elbowed out or who chose to remove themselves before any elbowing occurs, it can be painful. I agree with Siegel that it is far more valuable to “invest our lives where we live” rather than opting out of “our shared civic life — our common schools, streets and politics.” But, I also understand that each family must chart its own course.
We recently moved and we rarely walk by our old building with my daughters. We have felt a certain amount of trepidation about whether seeing the old place would cause them discomfort or confusion. Similarly, when we walk by the buildings where these families once lived, it is not unlike the sadness that overcomes New Yorkers when they see a restaurant or bookstore that was once a staple of the neighborhood gone forever. At least with friends, I can tell my children that they are only a train or car ride away.
“Who used to live there?” my daughter might ask as we pass one of these buildings. “Our friends” I will answer. “Now, do you want chocolate or vanilla froyo?”