a view of Central Park

As kids get older, my Bay Area bliss can finally meet my New York state of mind

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We’ve been traveling back East for the holidays to see family since our kids were little. Thankfully, we no longer have to schlep car seats. And I no longer have to carry an extra bag filled with diapers, wipes, snacks and a change of clothes. The days of quieting screaming babies and frantically trying to keep fidgety toddlers busy on the long flight are behind me.

I’m grateful for the time we get to spend with our extended families. I’m grateful for meals filled with uninterrupted conversations with in-laws, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. (Fortunately, I don’t have to take anyone to the bathroom anymore while I’m in the middle of such conversations.)

No longer do I have to stress about our kids being overstimulated and overtired because they are away from their routines, in a different time zone and haven’t had much sleep. I’m grateful for strong, sturdy legs that can now walk miles on New York City streets. I’m grateful for children I no longer have to pick up when I’m walking and strollers I no longer have to push.

And, thankfully, I don’t have to build my day around nap times anymore, either. I’m grateful our kids get to hang out with their cousins on their own without me needing to be there. I’m grateful for the next generation.

I’m grateful that my sister, Lillie, feeds us all day long every time we visit, and I’m grateful for her couch because it’s the best place to nap. (This year, Samuel has his first real bialy at my sister’s house, and it exceeds his expectations.)

At Eppes Essen, the Jewish deli in my hometown in New Jersey that was around when I was growing up, I’m grateful for the blintzes, the Reuben, the knishes and the matzah ball soup always tasting just as I remember and never disappointing. Our kids love this kind of food in this kind of place as much as any trendy restaurant in the Mission District, and this for me is almost everything.

I’m grateful for the free mints at restaurants that Samuel takes and keeps in his pocket for me all week long while we are away. I’m grateful for the errand he does for his grandfather because I am tired. And later, I’m grateful I remember these two things about him.

I’m grateful that my father took me to so many museum exhibits in New York when I was younger and we always talked about what we saw afterward. I’m grateful that I can now do this with my kids.

I’m grateful for warm chestnuts from a New York City food cart on a cold day; my family knows how much I love them and even though there’s not many in the bag, I eat most of them and no one gripes or complains.

Our week wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Economy Candy on the Lower East Side, a favorite candy shop from my childhood; the kids like the BB Bats, Caramel Creams and Turkish Taffy the best. Our kids also like to roam around the Strand Book Store for what seems like hours, just like I did when I was their age.

When I think about our annual holiday week back East, I am filled with gratitude; for big kids that used to be small, for being able to share the favorite places of my childhood with my kids who appreciate them as I still do, and, of course, for time with our families.

But it’s been 20 years since I left New York for the Bay Area, and this is our home now. I love traipsing through my old stomping grounds with my hubby and kids. And there’s nothing better than catching up with family. But it is here where we’ve made our home. It’s this place where our newborns took their first breath and our toddlers took their first step and then, all of a sudden, elementary school children grew into interesting and capable young adults, and for this I am most profoundly grateful.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.