We only moved one block from East 73rd to East 74th Street so it should have been relatively simple, right? My adult autistic daughter Samantha took it “easy-peasy.” She didn’t seem the least bit curious about her new home or bothered that her room would be smaller. She didn’t even see the new apartment until midway through the renovations. Oddly, what interested her the most about our new apartment building was their gym and the post-pandemic prospect of exercising outside of our living room. Ever since the pandemic, Samantha has been exercising in her bedroom and our family living room while yearning for a better ventilated space to sweat without the need for Lysol (as did we!)
Unlike me, Samantha was not stressed out by the chaos of packing up mountains of boxes. She didn’t care when our movers did a terrible job of packing and unpacking. Nor was she choked up (the way her parents were) over leaving behind the only home she had ever known for the past 30 years. Her only upset was over the possibility of losing our internet connection the night before we moved because she had an online audition. Fortunately, Samantha was able to audition. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the part.
It has been a little over a month since we moved and we are finally (mostly) settled. Nearly all of the 50+ boxes are gone, the renovations are complete, and our artwork is finally off the floor and up on our walls. Simultaneously I experienced two failed steroid injections and spine surgery! Not to mention listening to my 94-year-old mother’s daily lament about her aches and pains. Thank God the move is over and so is my back surgery. Finally, I have some well-deserved peace and pain relief. Yay!
To my surprise, Samantha settled into our new nest immediately. I had expected some transition anxiety and resistance to change. That’s the way autistic people supposedly react, but not our Samantha. She seemed perfectly serene in her new digs. She didn’t mind that her mini-trampoline wouldn’t fit or that coop considerations would have stopped her daily round of jumping anyway. We did, however, manage to squeeze in all of her furniture AND her stationary bike now offers panoramic views while she sweats.
“Do you like our new home?” we asked her.
“I don’t like it. I LOVE it!”
“Why do you love it so much?” Howard is still skeptical about whether it was worth the financial and emotional upheaval.
“I love it because we have a concierge just like in a fancy hotel.”
Howard laughs. “Any other reason?”
“I love my room, the privacy and the views.” Samantha pauses. “And now we’re owners instead of renters,” she adds, sounding a bit uncertain about the benefits.
Taking more responsibility for her needs and triggers as an adult, Samantha had asked us to prepare her for changes and interruptions whenever possible. Patiently, over a number of months her dad and I had explained the benefits of ownership over renting. Every time we asked Samantha to sign documents for the coop board (which she found mightily irritating!) we reminded her that she was a part-owner of our new home, and one day it would belong to her alone.
There would be other new rules to follow that were not necessary in our rental (and predictably not to her liking). No longer would our songbird be able to belt out opera after dinner. Samantha would also need to learn to use new appliances and do a better job of cleaning up after herself in our new kitchen—another dubious prospect for both of us, because I need to teach her. But in return, she (and we) now enjoy more privacy because our bedrooms are split and no longer share a wall. Although we still live on Second Avenue, our 31st floor aerie is much quieter, peaceful even.
Samantha is now happily ensconced in her new green bedroom, biking “on top of the world,” like Jack Dawson in the Titanic. She lifts weights and does floor exercises in the front half of our living room, while I look forward to the day that my daughter’s fitness and sweat move to the building’s gym. From our very first day, Samantha has been eating breakfast and lunch at the kitchen counter, enjoying the amazing views. For her, the move has been mostly seamless which of course bodes well for all of us.
Although my husband still feels nostalgic for our previous home of 30 years, I’m a super happy camper, as my daughter likes to say. Howard worries about the mortgage, higher electric bills and the unforeseen costs of renovation. I remind him that we bought at the bottom of the market with the lowest interest rates of a lifetime. And what about having a real balcony with views better than we could have imagined? Isn’t it exciting to have a private view of the July 4th fireworks? Or how about watching the sunset paint buildings in liquid gold if you gaze out the windows at just the right moment? He is almost convinced.
Nothing is perfect, and everything is more expensive than we imagined. We are still waiting for furniture and there are still a few boxes on the floor and empty spaces to be filled. But our new nest—an aerie—is already home sweet home.