It felt very hip to us, this desire to raise our child in the city. But to my grandmother, who died a year and a half ago, well, it just felt like we were choosing something closer to her life. She grew up in a Jewish enclave on the east side of Pittsburgh. On Sunday nights, she and her family would join other cousins and siblings for dinners that featured rice-filled porcupine meatballs and Grandpa’s “special cookies” (day-old cookies, hard as a Frisbee). The local kosher butcher and bakery owner knew her by name. Weekdays were spent with her best friend, Thelma, dancing with veterans at the VA hospital or volunteering at the synagogue. When my grandfather died in 1986, leaving my grandmother a 63-year-old widow, my family assumed she’d move to New Jersey, where all three of her children were living at the time. She looked at them like they’d served her a rotten apple. Pittsburgh was her home.
That’s how we felt, too—or at least we did until our house alarm went off at 2 a.m. six months after moving to Cleveland. My husband crept downstairs with a knife while I huddled in Max’s room, second-guessing our decision.
If anyone was trying to break in, the alarm must have scared them off. Still, after our security company told us that one-third of the time robbers return to the same house, and another neighbor reported that they’d had cash stolen by burglars disguised as cable repair guys, I began looking through listings in the suburbs.
But it is Max—and the network our family has begun to create—who keeps us put. Two doors down is a family with three kids, the youngest of whom is only three weeks older than Max. Many nights, they call out to each other from our backyard stoops, frustrated at the fence for keeping them apart. On other days, Max likes to skip down the road to our scientist friend’s house, whose backyard is a breeding ground for exotic plants. “What that is?” he asks, listening politely to long explanations about Asian lillies before moving on to the next flower—and same question.
Instead of moving, we’ve started researching dogs. Our neighbors are excited about the possible new addition but have warned us that the pet competition at next year’s 4th of July parade is shaping up to be quite fierce. We’ve assured them we’re up for the challenge.