By William Primavera
Thomas Wolfe wrote that “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but I have frequently revisited homes where I have formerly resided, even one I didn’t remember.
Just recently I enjoyed an almost surreal experience in revisiting my first home in New York, a five-story, walk-up brownstone in Greenwich Village. The experience also served to reunite me with a family member I hadn’t seen in many years.
From the time I was 10 years old, living in a small town in Virginia, I knew that I wanted to live my grown-up life in New York City. I had just accompanied my parents celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Almost overwhelmed by the excitement of the city and having a keen interest in theater and the arts, I knew I couldn’t live anywhere else. Not only did I choose Manhattan as my ultimate destination, but after I saw the film “My Sister Eileen,” the wacky comedy about the adventures of two sisters living in Greenwich Village, I narrowed my search to the West Village.
Upon my college graduation, I traveled to New York with two friends who had similar aspirations. At that time, believe it or not, there was a glut of apartments available in the city because developers sought to beat a looming deadline to upgrade building standards. You’ve probably never heard the term “concessions” offered on leases, but two and three months free rent were offered to lure tenants to new buildings. My two friends and I moved into a spanking new studio apartment at Greenwich Avenue and West 10th Street, with $180 a month rent, which we considered high.
I was living in a luxurious, albeit small apartment, on the ninth floor with a large picture window and a view of the Empire State Building. The only problem was that my two roommates and I were having a hard time getting along. Within two months, we all decided to find other quarters and move out.
Luckily, I found that a neighbor directly across the street from my building was looking for a roommate and I applied. I walked out on the lease I alone had signed, being the only one among us who was over 21, and moved into the top floor walk-up “cold water” flat, an apartment that lacked hot running water. When we bathed, we had to heat water on the stove and pour it into the tub along with the cold water.
The rent for the one (small) bedroom unit was only $37.50, which seemed extraordinarily low even at that time, but once again I didn’t get along well with my roommate.
Fast forward 50 years or so when I’m posting opinions on Facebook and, with one of them, I receive a “like” from my great-niece Teresa with whom I’d met only twice – once when she was eight years old and her grandparents had brought her to my home and once more when she applied to colleges in New York. I texted her to catch up on her impressive career as a journalist. After a couple of exchanges, I asked where she was living. She replied the West Village.
“Ah,” I said, “that’s where I first lived, on West 10th Street.” She said that she too lived on West 10th Street.
“Wow,” I responded, “my address there was 138 W. 10th St.”
I received a response, all in caps, “MY ADDRESS IS 138 WEST 10th STREET!”
There are about 77,000 apartment buildings in Manhattan. What are the odds that two generations apart both my great-niece and I would have chosen the same building to call our first home in Manhattan? Surely, it must be something more than coincidence.
After several other Facebook exchanges, I was invited to visit my great-niece at my old haunts, which I did within the week. Going back to that building after more than 50 years was quite an experience for me. I was almost overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia. It was amazing to me how the mere physical presence of an old home could conjure up that kind of emotion.
My older sister, the grandmother of Teresa, once told me that she never wanted to visit any of her former homes. “I don’t look back, I look forward,” she told me. Well I guess I’m one of those who likes to look back. That visit to my early domicile was bittersweet in all the memories it conjured up and I for one was happy to have had the experience.
William Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.