Going Home Again: A Story of Nostalgia in NYC

Date: 12/09/2022
If you’ve ever moved away from home, going back can bring up all kinds of wonderful forgotten memories. Here is a little bit about my experience traveling ‘back home’ to lovely old New York City, and what I remembered from a life lived so long ago. 

Even though I wasn’t born in New York City, I still say I grew up there. Little did I know when I first stepped off the plane back in 1993 that I would end up calling that new, unfamiliar city ‘home’–since that’s just what NYC feels like to me: home. That’s where the heart is, as they say. 

When I decided to step outside of my current California bounds for the first time in a while, I flew to New York City to see what turned out to be a world-bending jewelry exhibition from Hermès’ Creative Director, Pierre Hardy 

Yet on the plane I kept having this deep sense of deja vu, as if I were only just coming across the ocean from Ukraine as a young girl. The excitement to arrive was the same, only this time my mom wasn’t waiting for me behind the gates at JFK – she was sitting beside me on the plane the whole way there. Still thriving in the thrills of this nostalgia, I thought I would share with you a little more about my recent trip to New York City this November. 

On Arrival: Fashion in New York

When I arrived in the Big Apple for my first time as a young girl, I was enamored immediately with fashion. I remember seeing so many powerful looking women dressed up in clothes I had only dreamed of, in every color you can imagine. I watched in awe as these strange but exciting city people rushing by in trench coats and flashy accessories, and gawked out the cab window on the way to Bronx where mom lived at the time. Steam rose from the buildings and everywhere there were people expressing themselves through what they wore. 

Turns out…that’s one thing that hasn’t changed at all about the city (even though so many other things have!). Everyone looked completely brilliant in late-summer layers, wide-legged patterned pants with long tunics draped over top and of course scarves galore. Through each street, I mentally shopped for next season’s wearables on the bodies of those we passed. Behind them the cafes and restaurants my husband and I used to visit flashed visions and memories of my past against the windows of the car, all while I watched  the streets I used to walk for hours fly by. It surprised me how much of the city remained familiar on our way into Manhattan, even as I watched ‘closed’ signs pass us by in the dusty windows of shops I used to love. I wondered if the pandemic had hit them, or if they’d been gone for much longer, and passed on in quiet reflection, my mother and Aunt chattering away.

I remember the car being hot…it was even hotter there than in LA, so when we got into the cool lobby of the Ritz Carlton Central Park hotel I was thankful to sit for a moment and take in the splendor of the air conditioned lobby…it’s not every day a girl gets to stay at the Ritz! 

As I sat back in one of the cozy chairs by the lobby fireplace, I realized that some of the memories I so often visit – of my husband and I during our early days of marriage, before our health declined – had happened in these very rooms. While I absent-mindedly gazed at other guests checking in, so many memorable weekends escaping from school and work and the world with my husband came flooding in, back when we used to spontaneously leave our home behind for a few nights as a true ‘staycation’… 

And yet there was also an exciting sense of creating new memories in the same place–of returning to a time capsule and recognizing what’s changed. Only in moments like this do I really get a sense of how much time has passed, with my mother by on one side, and my Aunt on the other – herself lost in the moment, a new refugee from Ukraine amid so much splendor. I sat petting Faro and thought of the strange twists and turns that had led me all the way back here. Was I truly so different from how I was back then?

Soon we decided to get out of our traveling clothes and freshen up a bit in our rooms. I have to admit, I hadn’t expected that the city would still be sweltering in the mid-70s so late in the year. I had packed light with more fall-forward clothes thinking it would be cooler and well into fall; thankfully, I had a ton of interchangeable pieces to choose from, including a daring black and red dress suit ensemble that I wore the day of the jewelry show: 

New York Doesn’t Change: Traveling in NYC

If you’re curious about the Hermès show itself, I recommend you read about the whole thing here (it was incredible), but the true highlight of the trip was being back in my old stomping grounds. It sounds cliche – and even downright strange if you’ve never been to NYC – but there is a smell to the city that tells you exactly where you are in the world, and the people there have stayed a generous mix of kind and mean, while the buildings still have a mind of their own.

Like when I ordered our Uber Black Car to go to the Hermès jewelry event. My mom and I were ready and waiting outside our room, only to have the car get canceled as we arrived in the lobby! My mom and I looked at each other and shrugged…thinking it was just the thing that would happen in this huge city. We laughed and flagged the valet to hail us a cab, and caught one quickly. We chatted quietly in the loud city street as the driver loaded my wheelchair into the trunk, assisting me while I got in the backset. As we drove, he asked where we were from and upon hearing we were from Ukraine, insisted on talking to us about the war and his love for President Zelensky. I’ll admit it was encouraging for us all to hear such talk, when so many seem to have already forgotten about what’s going on just across the water. 

When we arrived at the venue – the Shed at Hudson Yards – the cab driver was about to continue his friendliness, helping us take the wheelchair from the trunk, when a truck that had gotten stuck behind us began honking and yelling. Without hesitating, our cab driver stood up and started yelling obscenities right back! I had forgotten the curses that can come from even the friendliest faces in the city, and laughed to myself again at this typical NYC moment as we waved goodbye. 

Taking it All In: The Sights, The Sounds, The Scenes

In the days surrounding the main event, my mother, aunt, and I took ourselves on an incredible journey of food, fashion, and self-love. We spared no expense, really treating ourselves to the amazing restaurants we had dreamed of, so full of character, light, and life. We went for lunch at Le Bernardin, where I had never been before, and enjoyed an absolutely amazing fish dish I am going to try and find here closer to home—and recommend that you try if you’re in the city! Next, we managed to snag a reservation at Per Se for dinner, where the serving staff were truly kind about catering to my eating restrictions and we enjoyed the culinary excellence of Thomas Keller—from Oysters and Pearls to Lobster “Galette” to Icebox Cake and Mascarpone Sherbet! As I relished the textures, tastes, and clean-lined presentation of each course, it struck me again that I was here, enjoying the very meals my husband and I had dreamed of tasting, and remembering the incredible meals we did taste during the first year of our marriage at Keller’s original establishment, The French Laundry. When we had moved away from NYC, and as our health declined, the possibility of coming back here had taken a back-seat, becoming a distant dream. Perhaps because of that, I paused and let the sounds of the room fill my ears. I closed my eyes and breathed in the smells of the food, and gave thanks that I was being given this amazing weekend of freedom. It is something I will cherish just as much as those original memories with my husband, especially on those days when our health isn’t at its best. 

Sadly, as with all good things this short trip had to come to an end–and yet the trip did end on a really fun high note: on our last day in the city we witnessed a marathon going by in the most iconic NYC fashion I could imagine. People cheered from the side-lines while others ignored the festivities, heavy in thought as they hurried to meetings or brunch. I had lived in New York all those years and had never seen a single marathon, so this was a new experience for me – and a fun one for my aunt. I couldn’t wait to take it home and share our excitement with my husband! 

I said goodbye to my old home for the time of being, the warm air all around pushing us on as we strolled for a bit. I thought of all the things I’d seen and done in the three days we’d been there, including a quick trip to visit my nieces and nephews surrounded by family. I’d stopped by to check in on a dear friend, and even visited the old building where my husband and I first met. I closed my eyes and thanked my body and my mind for their clarity over those few days, so I could have a truly stress-free trip filled with deep memories remembered, and new memories made. This wasn’t meant to be a trip of fatigue and exhaustion, stuck in my hotel room for days. It was as if by going to a place where I had been healthy once had given me a little taste of that health once more. 

Have you ever gone back to visit an old place you called home? How was the experience for you? There were so many emotions crossing my mind during that trip, even now I can barely write them all down! I can only imagine what you must have felt when you found yourself in your old homing grounds. As always, I’d love to hear about your experience if you want to share, otherwise I can’t wait to update you next on some more of the fashion trends that keep me excited about clothing design in 2022 and beyond. 

Look out for more in my next articles, and sending all my love until then: