Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ghosts

There are ghosts around here. And Smartmom isn't talking about the spooky kind. They're friendly ghosts, like Caspar: ghosts of friends who have moved away from Park Slope for greener pastures elsewhere.

These friends have left behind pieces of of themselves that appear from time to time when she walks past their apartments or the well-worn spots on Seventh Avenue where they used to stand and talk.

Some of these ghosts are good friends, people she tries to stay in touch with. Friends who, regardless of the fact that they have abandoned her for, say, a huge Victorian in Rockland County, she continues to love.

Smartmom's friends from across the street fall into this category. They're here but they're not here. She checks their window everytime she leaves the building. What she is checking for is anyone's guess. Now that it's spring she half expects to see her friend weeding her flower boxes, or pulling her shopping cart chock full of Food Coop bounty.

And then there are the friends who up and left Smartmom for a big Victorian in Upstate New York. She still dials 718 when she calls them on the phone. Yesterday she addressed a postcard to them and wrote Brooklyn, New York instead of...

There's also the family downstairs, whose kids were best friends with hers. "I'm going down to Eddie's," was Teen Spirit's constant refrain until the day Eddie moved away. Eddie and his sister were like family, as were their two younger siblings, and their parents. Even if they were wildly different in their approaches to things, the two families found common ground on Third Street.

This block is also full of the ghosts of people that she never got to know but still wonders about: the single mother with the adopted son from Viet Nam, the woman who writes T.V shows for PBS and her husband and son, the two moms with the two kids who moved to Montclair, the family from Yemen with the spunky daughter (does she wear a veil now that she's grown up?). And there are more. Plenty more. And they're all still here in their way.

It's been hard to figure out how to be friends with the friends who have moved away. it takes time, a year or more, to accept that their ghostly apparitions are just that, and that they're NOT coming back to the Slope. Denial can be deep.

The next step is learning how to be friends at a distance. Phone calls, addresses and email must be memorized. New conversational topics must be substituted for the old standbys: local real estate, 321 teachers, Coop gripes, and Third Street gossip. The ease of shouting up to a window Brooklyn-style, must be replaced with the effort of picking up the phone

But it can be done. First come the good-byes. Then the ghosts. And then, after a very long time, the acceptance that they're no-longer in their too-small apartment in Brooklyn, but a suburb or town that's really not that far away.

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