A death in the family brought me back to New York.
The last time we were here, it was a month before we were set to depart for Japan to get married.
This time, there was nothing of the sort to look forward to. On top of that, I had to go it alone…sort of. Our infant daughter accompanied me.
It was an interesting flight. She was as fussy as an infant can be expected to be on an airplane. It was not so fun trying to change a poop diaper one-handed while holding the baby, in the tiny bathroom while the plane was going through turbulence. One of the flight attendants gave me grief for being out of my seat but I wasn’t having it. I was contained in a bathroom, not loose in the cabin.
While there it was more than a bit depressing. I thought I might distract myself by keeping up on coursework but ended up breaking down and telling my professors I’d be late on everything owing to the nature of the trip. Not that I had time, anyway, as my hands were full of baby.
We held a small funeral at the local funeral home. Friends, neighbors, and long-lost relatives all showed up to lend their support for the family. One of the sadder parts was the stories of the friends; the looks on their faces suggested this wasn’t the first funeral they had been to, nor would it be the last. Their peers were all of the age where loss had long ago become a common occurrence.
After the funeral, it was a bit congested in the house with everybody who turned up for the event. I don’t do well at post-funeral parties, so I took the baby on a lot of walks. Plus, it gave me an excuse to get something new to eat. Friends of the family had inundiated us with so much delicious ziti that if I never see pasta again, it would be too soon. At any rate, though the weather was chilly, I saw the writing on the wall and knew that my family wouldn’t have any presence in the state of New York much longer, so I wanted to get some last looks at the neighborhood. I doubted anything would bring us back here in the future.
We took walks to Francis Lewis Park, the corner deli and the bakery. I remembered from my childhood the houses and stores that were present in the immediate area, but I had never been east past a certain street and had no idea what lied beyond. Maps take all the fun out of exploration so the baby and I ventured forth into the great unknown. We discovered a Dunkin Donuts and kept walking, in no rush to return.
The area is very different than I remember it. It used to be strictly middle-class, but nowadays the houses are being built out left and right with multiple floors, 3-car garages and the occasional statues, marble columns and chrome adorning newer abodes. They’re looking more and more like Italian villas for the obscenely wealthy, so maybe there’s something to the rumors that the Mafia has been expressing a heavy interest in these waterfront areas.
Speaking of water, we eventually reached water ourselves, having discovered the East River. We had accidentally trespassed into Cryders Point and from there we could see the Throgs Neck Bridge. Had we gone just a little farther, we would have reached Little Bay Park and enjoyed a non-illicit view of the same. It makes one wonder how many explorers from history stopped or changed direction right before discovering something significant.
We spent some time with the family too, who had flown or driven in from all over. It was a touching reunion, and a rare occasion to see some of the more extended members of the family again.
A curious thing happened on the flight back. In a three-seater row, the guy who bought the window seat also paid for the middle seat for himself. This was a man who really wanted his personal space. But when he saw that I had a baby in tow, he lent me use of the middle seat to allow her to sleep. It made the return flight much easier, which was appreciated given the events of the past few days.
From the loss of one member of our family comes the birth of another. The newest member is due later this year!