Doormen should really get more respect and recognition. Not only do they accept our groceries and amazon deliveries, but they have also learned to notice our every subtlety, they are regular spectators of our unfolding lives, and they never ever forget who we are.
This weekend my family took a stroll down memory lane as we gear up to leave behind the city we have called home for so many years. Although we have walked by our first apartment in Manhattan many times with our kids, this time we decided to enter the building and show them a deeper sense of where our oldest child spent almost his first two years of life and where our second son was conceived and spent the first few months of his life as well. Never did I imagine, that when we entered the lobby that the doorman, thirteen years later, would not only remember our names but would also quickly spew out the exact apartment that we lived in.
I was shocked. Literally, I struggled for words trying to process how he could possibly remember us thirteen years later when we barely spent one and a half years living there.
When we moved out of this building, we moved across the street to a new complex built by the same management company. In this second apartment, our daughter was conceived and we ultimately spent another year and a half or so there. Similarly, when we visited the lobby, a former porter recognized us and greeted us cheerfully. He too even remembered the unit we lived in eleven years ago. How were they able to remember so much about us when I couldn’t even recognize their faces?
They remembered our names, our apartment numbers, the interest of our tiny children at the time. Thousands of tenants have gone in and out of the revolving doors of both buildings, but somehow they remembered us.
While I may not remember these two specific people, I do clearly remember two doormen who especially took an interest in our family and made a big impact in our hearts. I also remember feeling grateful to be in such a beautiful building with doormen who treated our children with such kindness and love. I also have clear memories of our son’s first Halloween in one of these buildings and even meeting our neighbors down the hall with who we have remained friends for the past fourteen years. Our oldest son celebrated his first and second birthdays on the roof. Too many memories to share were made here. It struck me that the doormen from our past that we encountered this last weekend, were a part of these memories too. In fact, they have memories of us that we don’t have ourselves.
I’ve been thinking about this experience for the past couple of days. Although I tried to make light of our former doorman remembering us by suggesting that he donate his brain to science, I was deeply touched. I wonder how much he really remembers about my life during my first days entering motherhood and trying to navigate my new journey in life. Doormen are, in fact, part of the few people in our lives that see us each and every day. If they were able to recall what apartment number we lived in, I have a feeling they have access to memories of me as a newbie mom that I myself don’t even have access to.
Even today, we have extremely close relationships with our doormen. In our current building, where we have lived for eleven years, our doormen met me when I was pregnant with our third child. They have witnessed our children grow from newborns to tweens and teens. They showered us with love over the years which we have easily reciprocated ever since. One of the hardest things I will need to face when moving out of New York City is saying “goodbye” to the doormen who have made a huge imprint on the lives of our children and my own life as well.
I am not kidding when I share that saying goodbye to my doormen will be as difficult for me as closing our front door for the last time. There is one doorman in particular that I specifically cannot bear to think about parting from. Leaving him means letting go of constants in my life- a cheerful greeting every morning and a regular witness to the days of my children’s childhood. Saying goodbye to him means saying goodbye to all the years my children whirled through our lobby – first in strollers, then by holding my hand as they struggled to take their newly conquered steps, later zipping by on their three-wheeled scooters ultimately graduating to two wheels, eventually onto tricycles and bicycles, and nowadays they move in and out freely and independently without needing me at all. He has watched them in every phase of their life. He shares my deepest struggle with time and how quickly our children have grown. As a father of grown children, he gets me. He points out almost daily” how quickly they grow” and in the same breath shares “how much it sucks when they leave you”. Leaving him, and this lobby means leaving behind my tiny children who are now almost young adults, bringing me one step closer to that part of life “that sucks when they leave you”, but this time he won’t be around to talk me through it. In San Diego I won’t have him to cheer me on every morning nor will he continue to witness the growth they will endure for the next few years. Saying goodbye to him means leaving behind a huge part of my life in so many ways.
As soon as I close our front door for the last time, my next move will be towards the lobby to say goodbye to our doormen and all the years that we spent with them in that safe space. When our time in this building is replayed in my mind, it’s like watching a movie that was recorded over eleven years condensed into an eleven-second short film. It’s all a blur, and a shock really, but perhaps closing the door means leaving behind the beautiful memories that bring me to tears because I long for those days so badly it literally hurts. Closing the door means opening new ones and looking ahead. Saying goodbye to the places that harbor our memories means making space for new phases. Saying goodbye to our doormen is really saying goodbye to a huge part of our life, a part I know I can never get back no matter how hard I try. Closing the door means moving on from the agonizing pain that comes with knowing that our kids won’t stay little forever. Now that they have begun to grow at lightning speed, it’s time to close the door on the insatiable hunger to cling to the past, even if it means letting go of those incredible doormen who constantly remind me of how quickly our lives are passing by. Perhaps it is time to open a new door in a new place where there are no haunting memories of pudgy hands and silly giggles and calls for mommy. And whenever I’ll long for these days again, I’ll always have my New York City doormen to turn to relive the memories with me because they were right there all along.