It has taken almost a year, but it’s official. Los Angeles feels like home. While I’m not about to turn in my NYRican identity card and I sure as hell am not about to claim Angelena status (I’ll save that for those who were born and raised here), it took me returning to Queens and a little teen rebellion to realize my place is now this sprawl that dresses itself like a city.
When I returned to Queens last week, the trip had a clear mission beyond seeing my mother, sister and some friends. I was dropping off my younger daughter, Poroto, so that she could spend summer vacation with her father. I had to fill out some papers for summer camp and give her dad the 6-year-old’s prescription eczema cream. Once I reunited papi and hija there was very little else I needed to do -- and to be honest there was very little I wanted to do.
Back in Los Angeles, my oldest daughter had other plans. She couldn’t wait for me to even land into LaGuardia Airport before testing some boundaries and breaking some rules, including inviting her boyfriend into the house when no adults were around. This left my partner having to step into a stepparent role he wasn’t quite expecting to assume and left me trying to coordinate discipline and consequences from across the country. Even before I arrived in New York, I was ready to return to Los Angeles.
That’s not to say that the city that bore and raised me didn’t seem beautiful. In fact, as the plane hovered over the Manhattan night skyline, I pressed my face against the window with a tourist’’ sense of awe. For the first time I saw the Freedom Tower on the tip of lower Manhattan attempting to fill the cavity left by the 2001 destruction of the Twin Towers. I named the buildings for my daughter: “Look there is the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Citicorp Building,” I told her. My daily view over Downtown Los Angeles and it’s unimpressive office buildings have nothing on New York City. I felt a sense of pride and ownership over glowing Manhattan landscape. I had been inside each and everyone of those buildings. I walked past them countless times, never once to take a picture or even marvel. That night though, looking down, returning, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and a lot like a first time visitor.
But I didn’t rush to catch the subway into Manhattan. I honestly didn’t feel much of an urge to move beyond Rego Park and I didn’t need to. It had been months since I had seen my mom and I worried about her health and well being. I looked for signs of accelerating age on her 66-year-old face and inquired almost invasively about her health and financial situation. But she looked healthy and relaxed. We sat drinking coffee and sharing what cousin had done what and how so-and-so looked. We ate my New York comfort foods like pizza, bagels, and baked ziti. I reveled in the accessibility of my mom’s hood, stocking up on shoes and clothes for myself, my pareja and my daughters. I took advantage of everything I don’t have in Los Angeles.