Some places just feel right

 The view from the room of my friend’s office building in Brooklyn, NY.

The view from the room of my friend’s office building in Brooklyn, NY.

I was in New York recently where I met up with a friend for lunch.

We met up outside his office and entered to building together for a short tour that culminated on the rooftop.

I’m not sure if it was the jet-lag, as I was still fresh from my trans-Atlantic travel, or if it was genuine emotion but I couldn’t stop smiling and exclaiming, “I’m in New York ahh!!”

I like to think it was the latter.

And I think my friend thought the same, too, because he suggested I read “Here is New York” by E. B. White. He gave no other preface other than I remind him of a character in the work that has been called “the greatest love poem to New York.”

I haven’t been able to read the work in it’s entirety yet but I’ve included an excerpt below to the part I believe my friend was referencing.

 

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was boen somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.”

— E. B. White, “Here is New York”

 

After finding this passage, I understand what my friend was trying to say.

When some people come in contact with New York, it just feels right.

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13

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It was a hot day in July. I remember because I really wanted a snow cone. I was 13 and awkward and had transition lenses but I still remember that day with clarity. I was at a youth group event with my best friend. My grandmother was late to pick me up, which never happened because she was always the first to arrive to everything. When she did arrive she grabbed me and said “She’s gone. But you’re going to be alright.”

That day, July 9, 2005, my mother left this world to receive her ultimate reward, to rid herself of a broken earthy body and gain a new, heavenly one.

And now it has been 13 years since that day.

I turned 26 back in April and now I have lived half my life with and half without the person who helped raise me and prepare me for this world full of disappointment.

But she didn’t raise me to sulk in self-pity, far from it. Nor did she teach me to focus on the disappointment of this life. She taught me to acknowledge that life throws surprises and hardships and to be always thankful for what we have and who we have. She showed me that strength of character is defined by how we face life’s obstacles and she taught me to raise my head high and accept life as it is, with dignity and grace. She taught me through her unwavering faith that everything, absolutely everything, in this world happens by design and is for the glory of God, who’s understanding is unfathomable from beginning to end. She had every reason to give up. But she didn’t. And neither will I. 

I was at an event recently where people shared personal stories centered around the theme “when life gives you lemons.” While I didn’t share a story that evening, I have been mulling it over in my head ever since.

Sometimes life gives us lemons. Sometimes life give us a lot of lemons. And sometimes life buries us in so many lemons that there is no way we could possibly get rid of all of them on our own. When life gives us that many lemons, we have no choice but to ask for help. But if we are too scared to do that, oftentimes people will come and take some of our lemons away for us, without even being asked to do so or for anything in return. That has been my experience with lemons, at least.

I knew my mom for 13 years and I am a product of her. But I am also just as much the product of the countless other people who have come into my life at exactly the right moments, who have helped shape me over the past 13 years and who have showed me the divine presence that has guided everything this whole time.

I am a product of the countless people who saw me buried in lemons, struggling to figure out what to do with them. They saw me and they saw a need to help and for that I will be forever grateful. It is in them that I saw my mom over the second half of my life, many of them acting like a “mom” to me when I needed one most. Others simply reminding me of her by their gentle spirits, love and humility. Others still by becoming the new friend, confidant and cheerleader that I once had in her.

It makes me sad to know that now my days with her will forever be less than those without her. Up until now I had known life longer with her in it than not and I will always carry the first 13 years of my life with me but they will stay the same as the past is final. The future isn’t promised, I have experienced that all too well, but I must continue. So much has happened over the latter half of my life, too much to mention now. But in essence it’s this: life isn’t easy or guaranteed, people come in and out of our lives for a reason and someday, maybe long after I’m gone, it will all be worth it. 

I think my grandmother would reply to that age-old lemon question with something like this: “If life hands you lemons you better get out the juicer and start separating some eggs ‘cause the merengue for this pie isn’t gunna whip itself. Life gives you lemons, make something with them. And add some sugar while you’re at it.”

I had no idea how my life would be turned upside-down and dumped out in every way possible on that hot day in July 13 years ago. But the free-falling pieces landed exactly where they were supposed to in a way more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined.

She’s gone. But I’m alright now.