I never thought it would happen, even after tumultuous freshman and sophomore years. When I applied to NYU, the thought of being kicked around by The City actually enticed me. I knew I would thrive in it, like a boxer who picks himself off of the ground just as the announcer reaches the end of the count, and then slugs his opponent for the win. A delayed-gratification kind of success. Sure, I would have to work hard, sure I would have to sell my precious time, my soul and my earthly possessions to raise $50,000 every year for four years. I even thought about letting a nice caucasian couple pay for the removal of a few of my eggs over the summer (luckily me Da came through). I do not regret my decision to live in New York City for college, and I even think I'll eventually end up here. However, never did I ever imagine that I would sincerely miss my Wal*Martian days in Upstate New York.
Over the past couple of months, penetrating pangs of nostalgia and longing have been shooting through my body. The most random incidents seem to set a spark in my brain. Whenever I see an episode of "Judge Judy" or "People's Court" I'm reminded of time spent in the living room of my house on snow days from school when I still watched television. I miss weird things. I miss feeling cozy and bologna and cheese roll-ups made by my Aunt Joan. I miss driving to our really shitty mall, Crossgates, through grey snow with my sister to see a movie and eat at the greasy food court. I miss when my niece, Emma, was still a baby and my sister forgot to strap her into the stroller at that same mall. She tumbled out onto the curb - unhurt, of course, but it's even funnier now because it turned out to be only number one of a series of unfortunate falls.
When my sister had just started dating her husband, we used to go to the mall all the time. Now that I think about it, I think many of their "dates" consisted of taking me to the arcade or going to Chuck E. Cheese. I think I was around 9 or so, very very short for my age. My brother-in-law is very, very tall - and strong! if you're reading this, Black Jesus. I was shy in general, but especially shy around large adults. Whenever I'm home and sitting on their couch during one of our heated life discussions, he always reminds me of just how short and shy I was. Whenever he would ask me a question, even something as simple as, "Andrea, do you want a root beer?" I would look up at him, look back up at my sister for approval, and then look back at him with a meek, "okay, thank you."
What solidified our friendship was The Ninja Ball. A blow-up beach ball with the ying-yang sign on it that I had painstakingly earned from the Crossgates arcade. He would hold it with one hand, and I would try to capture the holy grail from his super-human grasp. Because I was so small, this task proved difficult and I think I spent a lot of time rolling around on the ground. Like a young Jedi, he put me through a series of "Ninja Tasks" that I was to accomplish one by one. I can't quite remember what the rest of them were, but I'm sure they were equally daunting and fun. For some reason jumping on couch cushions fuzzily comes to mind. I also seem to vaguely remember some kind of grand task that was supposed to come with an equally grand reward. Most likely a trip to Chili's to partake in Molten Chocolate Lava Cake. I'll have to pester him about that...
My brother-in-law always had new sayings and new things for me to consider, even at the tender age of 9. There was always something to look forward to or watch out for, I never knew when the Ninja Master would be there to present a new challenge. "Don't fight windmills" and "They screw you at the drive-thru" have been some of the more memorable gems of advice.
As I've grown older, he's still around and every once in a while we have pretty great phone conversations. But, as everything else, things have changed. I don't live at home the majority of the time, I'm not 9, and I'm entirely too large for any Ninja Ball hijiinks. He's also busy making sure my sister gets an adequate birthday celebration, making sure my niece stops falling out of strollers, and making way for their incoming offspring. Whenever I'm working on a paper or getting through yet another ridiculous reading about the "racial education gap" I wish that I still had someone right there to keep things in perspective, make me laugh, and buy me root beers. Someone whose goal is to impress me because they want to marry my sister. I know I can call anytime, but it's not the same. Plus they're already married, so there's no pressure to impress me. I have to be my own Ninja Master, now. And buy my own root beers.
Stay tuned for more NYC frustration posts! Love and hate are so closely linked.