Fort Greene and Long Island City 17th September
It’s my last day in New York and I travel to Fort Greene for a meeting. I consider the bus, but decide that folding the pram is more trouble than carrying up and down and up and down and opt for the subway. The sidewalks of Fort Greene are paved with beautiful huge slabs of stone, many of which are cracked or raised, forced up by the heating and cooling of the earth below them, or by the roots of trees forcing them out of shape. In some places the stone has been replaced by concrete, and gaps have been filled replaced and repaired, then broken again.
The attuned eye of the stroller walker navigates over these smoothly, but if you get caught out (if you’re not paying attention) you can strike them at a bad angle and jar, jolting back with a shock through the wrist.
Other slabs look smashed, like a weight has been dropped on them, creating map-like patterns of stone fragments – a city within a city.
After Fort Greene I make one last trip to Long Island City, and find another of these maps. Perhaps I am on the lookout for them as I have just been to the ‘Handstitched Worlds: The Cartography of Quilts’ exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum’s outpost in Queens. This one feels like an island, perhaps Manhattan, the gravelly stone of the river making an obstacle that’s challenging to push wheels over.
Our final exit – I leave the pram at the bottom of the stairs to the apartment and carry Astrid up to collect our luggage. I can’t bring myself to do that final up and down. Just the stairs from the front door to the street and we are off.
As we leave I think about what this project might be like with a more extended stay in New York. I reflect on the conversations that I had with mothers – those who came on the Perambulator walk at Flux – and others I have met with. In contrast to the UK experience so many women here have to return to work very quickly – sometimes weeks after their babies have been born. We also discussed part time work and its general lack of availability – the right to return part time (although not always easy to negotiate in the UK) is another thing that I took for granted. Several women comment to me – when hearing about the Perambulator project – that it is nannies who walk with prams (unless it’s the weekend). I return to the New York State ordinance on breastfeeding and read it again – looking at it in a new light with the imagining of a maternity leave of 6 weeks. In the UK I had been thinking about the project as (amongst other things) a creative/active method for processing of the life shift to new motherhood. Walking and talking with other mothers and carers as a way to work through our new roles, new mobilities new lives. I’d love to explore further the way this might function in contexts where mothers’ transitions are more compressed – on the temporal scale of returning to working life routines and then through their experiences of parenting mobility with their children outside of working time.