As part of Minute Maid’s initiative to acknowledge parents who are #doingood, I am dedicating this post to my dad, just in time for Father’s Day.
My dad is a character. That’s what everyone always says to me after they meet him. He’s eccentric with a big personality and he can talk to anybody. He’s very, very New York.
When I was ten and my parents separated, my dad got an apartment in downtown Manhattan. From that point forward, my sister and I would leave our split level home in the suburbs of Long Island every other weekend and go to live with my dad in a loft space in the East Village.
Just to be clear, going to the theater district to see a Broadway show is a very different NYC experience than living in an East Village apartment. Especially in the ‘80s, when the East Village was full of artists and drug addicts, as opposed to families and David Chang restaurants.
My dad’s first apartment was a one bedroom on the ground floor, with the main entrance in a back alley which acted as our driveway. There was an accordion metal fence with a big pad lock that separated the alley from the street. At the time, I had no idea having a driveway in Manhattan was something special. It all just seemed very gritty and different from home.
We were just a few blocks from Tompkins Square Park, but that was not a place you would ever take children back then. I don’t think it even had a playground. It was a place people used to conduct a drug deal or sleep on a bench; not to have a picnic lunch. To be fair, I don’t think Central Park was safe to take your kids then either.
The apartment had a long hallway that my sister and I used to ride our bikes up and down. This just goes to show how we were really lacking for outdoor activities while we were with my dad. It also had an elevated loft in the living room that my sister and I would sleep in. We couldn’t stand in it (even at that age). The beds were two built-in raised platforms with futons on top. I remember the floor didn’t quite meet the wall on one side and if you looked down, you could see into my dad’s bathroom— not the whole thing, just a sliver. After my dad put us to bed, my sister and I used to wedge our heads up against the wall, waiting for our dad to come in, just so we could make creepy ghost noises through the hole. It was also a way to let him know we were still awake.
The days were often packed with activities, since you can’t really hang out with two kids in a NYC apartment (something I now know really well). We’d go out for bagels, then to an art gallery or a random thrift store and then out for pizza. Always pizza. I loved going to the flea markets on Broadway near Tower Records and would bring home weird jewelry and vintage clothes and obscure music you could never get back home. I developed my own style to make up for the fact that I couldn’t afford the kind of clothes the other kids were wearing in my home town in Long Island. We usually stayed downtown. I don’t remember my dad ever taking me to something like the Museum of Natural History or the Met. That was more likely something I would do with my mom.
My dad changed apartments a lot over the years, usually swapping the space with all the furniture included. He’d swap with an artist and suddenly we were living with modern angular furniture and a whole new array of interesting artwork. We got to know many different buildings and different views of the Manhattan skyline and would spend time looking across the street into the windows of hundreds of homes all at once.
I always liked the city. Being there made me feel worldly and more interesting. I liked that there was always something happening and people out in the streets at all hours of the night. For whatever reason, I’ve never liked the quiet of the ‘burbs.
Any parent who gets divorced wonders what that decision will mean for their kids as they get older. I’m not going to pretend it was all fine, because obviously it rocked my world in ways I can’t even describe.
But my parents separating opened my world too. Living with my dad on the weekends showed me a lifestyle totally different than what I was exposed to at that time. It showed me art and ugliness and hardship and the building of a new life. It taught me to seek out my passions and that I always have choices. It taught me to forge my own unique path and that “different” was GOOD. It toughened me up and built my character.
I now live just a few blocks from my dad’s first apartment. I walk past that random driveway almost every day. I take my kids to Tompkins Square Park and I mourn the spot that used to house our favorite bagel place. I can picture the man who owned the corner bodega, sitting on the sidewalk in a fold-up chair reading the Post, who always greeted us by name. I remember the video store we used to get VHS movies, being careful to avoid the adult section in the back.
My dad still lives and works in the East Village, just a few blocks away from me. Only now, I can see him whenever I want. He stops by to tell my girls a story before bedtime, he’ll meet Mike for a random lunch and sometimes, we’ll call each other to walk home from work together.
My dad holds a very different place in my life than he would if my parents were still together.
Thank you Dad, for helping me find my home.
Thanks to Minute Maid for asking me to be part of their “Doin’ Good” campaign which encourages people to recognize great parents (especially the ones who might not realize how great they are) and give them the appreciation they deserve.
You can watch this video, but I am warning you. HAVE TISSUES HANDY.
If you leave a comment below describing a dad in your life (your dad, your husband, your brother, a friend, etc.) who you want to recognize for #doingood, you could win a Minute Maid prize pack including a $250 Visa gift card to keep for yourself or gift to the person you spoke about in your comment. For a second entry, you can also leave a comment on the Mommy Shorts Facebook page.
Winner will be selected at random on June 26th.
Good luck and Happy Father’s Day to everyone!
And the winner is… Elizabeth.
Congrats! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.