Interview on a writer,traveler, and a single mom… AKA my mom

I love New York! New York has wonderful places to go to, wonderful food, wonderful everything! New York is a wonderful city to live, you never get bored! There are so many places to go, and so much to do. Today my mom took a break from her work to do something with me. We didn’t go anywhere, but we did make a wonderful science project. On the 17th or the 18th me and my mom are going to the science mueseum for the big science fair! See what I mean? So many things to do!

My mom is a writer, she reads me all the chapters of the new book she is writing, the book she is writing is called “Rainer Taupe and the Great Glass Turbine”. The book is about a boy about my age on a big New York adventure. The book involves talking rats, the sewage system, and some cool things about New York history. it is also scary- it made me cry once but it makes me laugh a lot. Because it is also a comedy. You should ask her to read it. My mom is also pretty, creative, and crazy, she sometimes makes me annoyed. But she’s the best, she does the best at being a mom. I think she should get a boyfriend, but she’s busy all the time. I think she works too hard! I love her so much!

Lets see what my mom thinks about New York:

Me: Do you like living in New York?

Mom: Well, my dear, we’ve been living in New York for over eight years. It’s been tough as all heck but I could be at the bottom of the ocean and, if you were there, still manage to feel in love with my life. Before New York we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While Madison was beautiful, it didn’t fuel my creativity in more than a peripheral way. I had felt a great need, for many reasons, to escape. From day one, New York felt like home. I think it feels this way to many people. In Madison I had felt, in my own tiny way, like a miserable somebody. In New York, I immediately shed so many layers that I couldn’t help but feel like a nobody in the best possible way.

Is this confusing to you, my darling daughter? I suppose I only mean that in New York it didn’t matter where I had come from. Here, backstories don’t really matter- it’s what we’re doing in the moment and where we plan to be that is most important. This feeling, so unique to New York, I think, really affords a person a great amount of freedom. Terror, too, but mostly freedom (ask me in a couple of years about my thoughts on sublime experiences).

I’m an artist, writer and single mother to your sweet self. In New York, we’ve met thousands of interesting people doing at least as many interesting things. We practically lived at the Met Museum the first couple of years we were here. I’ll never forget your tiny little limbs clambering up and down the main staircase. We went to a million gallery and movie openings, you had weird famous people draw your portrait at parties. We dressed up and had fun.

When you started school, things changed a little. Public school, we found out, is no joke. We both had tough schedules, and it weighed on me that you, my dear, were always tired. I feel a lot better now that you’re about to start a homeschool and after having had such a great summer of being with family and friends. Traveling around a bit helped. It makes New York feel habitable again.

Speaking of habitable…  Williamsburg, the neighborhood where we lived for our first seven and a half years in New York, was once great, filled to the brim with passionate, irreverent, unequivocally wonderful outsiders. Sadly, it’s become vanilla- a cleaner/wealthier version, as I’ve heard you say more than once, of the Lower East Side. A few years ago, new, god-awful constructions started to go up along the East River, and the prices followed suit. One by one, the creative people who moved to W’burg moved out. Why, this coming weekend even Monster Island is having it’s final block party! Money and a host of other things eventually forced me to move us out of W’burg, too, into Bushwick. At the end of the day, after downsizing, getting rid of a lot of crap, and painting our new place to make it a home, I feel pretty great. Life is good. 

I think, however, that my love affair with New York is waning. Call it my eight-year itch (Google ‘seven-year itch’ to see what this means, my sweet), but I’m feeling ready to cheat on my favorite city with the rest of the world. We’ve talked about it extensively- how I’d like to show you the world while you’re still a kid. I think, just as I once felt that I was leaving Wisconsin to break into something larger, I feel as though I owe it to you to help you do the same, even if it’s just for a few months here and there.

To come back to your original question- do I like living in New York? Absolutely. I love it, in fact. I think it’ll be home base no matter where the road next takes us. But I do hope the road takes us!
 

Me: What is your favorite thing to do in New York?

Mom: You mean, in addition to spending time with you? Hm. Spending more time with you?

I suppose, if I must answer, that I also love going to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It’s a magical place. Catching the magnolias blossom in spring takes my breath away- no, it makes me cry. You know this, as you make fun of me to no end. I don’t really love the Queens Botanical Gardens, as you once bust your poor little head open there on a perfectly idyllic day, resulting in a rather horrid visit to the emergency room.

I still love going to the Met, to the Natural History Museum, PS1, the Queens Museum. I love that we have friends in all of these places who can bring us behind the scenes. I think Wave Hill is a treasure. Sitting along the East River makes me feel nostalgic thinking about our first few years in NYC, while sitting on the Hudson generally makes me want to escape. I really like sitting in all the little community gardens in the Lower East Side and eating outside in the thick of it in locations throughout the city. I enjoy cheap little eateries and love going out for the occasional over-the-top meal (this happens once in a blue moon). I still like to go see live music and LOVE dancing, but because of my crazy schedule and responsibilities, am more often found going to bed early. I can’t wait to go to the Science Museum. That place it nuts. YOU’RE nuts while you’re there.

I love sitting on rooftops. I love sitting on OUR rooftop, looking out over Brooklyn. Come to think of it, I think I’d rather like to be up there now, watching you drink a cool glass of water while I sip on a Corona. Maybe we can even dance for a bit. How many questions you got left, kid?

Me: What do you like best about New York?

Mom: A few years back, I read a book called THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion. Do you remember me talking about it? In it, Didion wrote about losing her husband and the illness of her daughter. Her daughter died soon after she finished the book. A couple years (or a year or twenty, I have no since of time) after the book came out, Didion wrote an adaptation of it for Broadway and opened with Vanessa Redgrave as its sole actor (you probably remember me going?). It was so shockingly beautiful that I bawled like a baby (and ran head-on into Faye Dunaway immediately after I left a rest-room, sick as a dog with some sort of stomach flu, but that’s another story). A few years ago, Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter died after a tragic accident on a ski slope.

Why do I bring up these sad things? I suppose because the best aspect of New York is that you are here with me. If you weren’t here, I’d be liable to shrivel up and beat my chest. Sure, you aggravate the heck out of me (you’re a ‘tween’, after all), but I really can’t think of anyone cooler or smarter or kinder than you.

Being in New York, one must have a real passion for living. What better passion is there than love? I love you, I love my friends, I love that I can walk down the street and fall in love with the city, again and again and again.

As far as my all-time favorite think about NYC (besides you)? The Empire State Building. It featured, in many ways, as a character in one of my books (couldn’t keep it to just a setting). What a crazy place. That said, I hate visiting the Empire State Building. My goodness, just thinking about those lines, I’m liable to scratch my eyes out. I’ve sat in that line only once. Never again, not if I can help it.

Me: Where did you live before New York, What is your story?

Mom: Born in Rhode Island, lived in Wisconsin, moved to Brooklyn. I went to a few schools, made a lot of bad art, fell in love a few of times (yet had my heart broken only once), wrote a great book, and had the most amazing kid ever. Currently I’m planning a trip around the world…  with YOU, kiddo (and anyone who wants to join us). If people are gluttons for punishment, then they can read more about my travel planning adventures here: breakoutofbushwick.com

Me: What do you do for a living?

Mom: Good question.

I recently started a writing, editing, design and lifestyle design business: melissabanigan.org. Clients are slowly rolling in. I’m a fiction writer looking for representation, help people with various projects.

Honey, I feel weird writing to you about what I do for a living. I make money, a little bit, and put food on the table. I’ve worked every job under the sun, and then some. I think, at times, that I can scrape by doing anything. That’s good enough. I love you. Are you nearly finished asking me questions?

Me: What is your most  memorable memory?

Mom: Besides giving birth to you? I suppose my second-most memorable memory is more a conglomeration of many memories- it’s a feeling, but mostly scents. It’s the smell of the top of your head, your sweet morning breath when you were a baby, your stinky little arm pits. It’s the smell of your Nana’s (my mom’s) mints when she took me to church when I was a little girl. The horrible smell of boys’ cologne when I was in middle school. The ocean. I fall in love with smells. I wish I weren’t kidding.

I work really hard in this life, and tend not to relax very often. Instead of focusing on the stress of it all, I try to remember the tiny little moments that make everything worth it. Seeing you on the beach this summer, running around like a banshee, will be one of my favorite memories forever.

Insanely enough, I remember particular hugs from specific people. Yours are amongst my favorite. My friends and family members are all great huggers.

I used to be an abundantly nostalgic person. Not so much these days. Sometimes, I forget what happened yesterday. But I sure do live for sweet, calm, happy moments. I like holding hands, I love snuggling, I love falling asleep on the beach, I love watching you sleep, I love the feeling of finishing a chapter (and I really love the feeling of finishing a book!). I love hearing you tell me that you love me. I love, more than anything, your laugh.

Life is wonderful.

Is this your last question? It’s nearly your bedtime!!

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Well, that’s the scoop on my mom. The End.

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