Of course the things I miss most are the ordinary things. Life in Queens was a walking life and I miss those walks. Homesickness hits me hardest in the summer and today I miss the walks to Vitelios grocery store. It was three blocks over, two blocks up and I would slide frozen ice packs into the laptop sleeve of my backpack. It felt cool on my back as I walked and kept the popsicles cool on the way home. Vitelios carried every flavor of Outshine popsicles and we tried them all; pomegranate, watermelon, cherry, coconut, pineapple, strawberry… but lime was my favorite. I would listen to podcasts on my walk, I’d go at night after the kids were in bed and Richard and I were craving something sweet. I’d get the cheap brand for the kids, because all groceries in NYC are expensive and Outshine popsicles were $6.49 for a box of six and Richard could eat three or four in one sitting.
I also miss the walk to the library with the kids. The library wasn’t far, but it was hot enough that we felt the welcome reprieve of the AC when we walked through the door, along with welcoming smiles from librarians who recognized my kids. Inevitably we would encounter elderly neighbors who were astounded by how many kids I have. Amirah colored a picture while the kids made their selections, and then we would walk across the street to 7/11 where we bought slurpees to keep us cool on the walk home. Under giant sycamores who shed their bark in large plate-size pieces, we compared the colors of our tongues and laughed about brain freezes. The library was next to a McDonald’s and sometimes I’d time our library trips just before dinner so we could fill ourselves with chicken nuggets and french fries and ice cream cones for dessert.
We also walked to Chipotle and Shake Shack for an easy dinner on a weeknight. On the weekends Richard and I would grab NYC style pizza for the kids from Lillian’s around the corner, and then walk up to Austin Street where over a few blocks we could choose between Thai, Indian, sushi, dim sum, tapas or Italian. If we hopped on the subway and rode one stop to Jackson Heights we could get Nepalese tandoori, Peruvian pio pio chicken, or Venezualan arepas, my favorite.
Of course I also miss the places I would drive to. In the summer months we spent countless days at Rockaway beach. The beach was less than ten miles from our house but it was a 30 minute drive, so we listened to Top 40 playlists and crooned to our favorite songs. Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Macklemore. At the beach we spread our towels and put up our umbrella. We ate summer junk food like Twizzlers and Cheetos and drank CapriSuns and Dr. Pepper. (Oh how I miss Twizzler and Dr. Pepper!) I would also pack veggies and hummus and lots of fruit. Cameron and I would sit side by side in beach chairs, spitting cherry pits into small holes we dug in the sand with our heels. We built sand castles, Amirah napped on the giant Costco towell, Miriam collected seashells, Simon kicked a soccer ball with any random kid he met and Eli read a book. By the time we dragged our hot and tired bodies back to the car the kids were ogres, growling at me when I insisted they carry the cooler or the beach bag.
I miss the winter too. On days when it was bitterly cold, but sunny outside I would time my errands so that Amirah would fall asleep in the car. I would hit the McDonald’s drive through and order a Dr. Pepper, small fry, with three chocolate chip cookies and eat them in the warmth of the car in the parking lot while listening to an audiobook. I definitely ate too much McDonalds in Queens.
During sub-zero arctic freezes in January and February we would wrap our faces in scarves so only our eyes were showing while we walked to dentist appointments and piano lessons. We learned the hard way not to park on the right side of the street during a snowstorm because the plows dump the snow on the right. One morning our van was so buried in frozen slush that Eli and I had to get an Uber to make it to a doctor’s appointment.
I miss all the familiarity and routines of our life in leafy Forest Hills, the proximity of everything we needed, the convenience of DoorDash and a CVS on every corner. Things like chapstick and infant tylenol were easily acquired, quality pizza literally moments away. I miss these things about NYC. But I also miss them about the U.S. I’m not just homesick for my most recent home, I’m homesick for a whole country.