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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : When Friends Leave » When Friends Leave

When Friends Leave

Rusty - August 24, 2009

Living in Park Slope, Brooklyn comes with many perks: Prospect Park; living in the city but not of the city; amazing brownstone architecture; close-knit community; access to wondrous cheeses; diversity; the prodigious Park Slope Ward; summer concert series in the park; the pervading family culture; best restaurants ever; etc. But more than anything else here it is our friends we love the most.

Our first place in Brooklyn was an enormous 1,000 sq./ft. loft in the industrial, non-residential section of Sunset Park (romantic and Brooklyn-y, right?). Well, the romance faded within a week after our third 4:00AM wakeup to men brawling and cops breaking them up across the street at the Sweet Cherry (if you’re thinking pie shop, you’re way off). That third night, when guys were banging a bat on the door to the fine entertainment establishment, was when Sara decided enough was enough. Though, now that I think about it, her decision was probably made a couple days earlier when the bus driver that picked her up tried to actually “pick her up” by mentioning the heat her thighs were giving off. Or something.

So through a chain of events I called my friend’s son who happened to live in the Park Slope ward (and whom we’d never met) and he immediately invited us over and offered his help to find us a place in the neighborhood. We stepped out of the subway in wonderment of the beautiful tree-lined streets and lovely brownstones and immediately needed to live in this neighborhood. By the time we got to their cute little 240 sq/ft studio apartment our new friends had already found three apartments for us to check out, one of which was perfect and only $200/month over our original budget. Because this is New York City the landlord wanted an in-state guarantor on the lease, otherwise no deal. Ironically the only people we even knew in the state were our new friends of two days. Because they owned their apartment his signature would apparently satisfy, which he offered without a blink. The apartment was ours. Later that evening they introduced us to their small group of friends (4 other couples) who all lived within a few blocks from each other. After six years and five move-aways later (us and one of the wives are the only ones still in New York), these 5 couples remain some of our closest friends.

New York City, and Brooklyn by extension, is an expensive place to live. A natural byproduct of this is transience. People come for the opportunities of work and/or education and once they’ve accomplished what they need (by way of a degree or getting “New York” on their resume) they leave for more affordable pastures. This is perfectly understandable, as it is what we will likely do some day. The problem is that these damn people become our friends. And because we stay, we are constantly being left. First it was the Wonnies. Then the Rawlins. Then the Woodies. Then my friend Chris Williams. And the Reynolds, the Smiths, and the Beans. And the Remingtons. And the Stratfords and Palmers. And then Christian. Ugh, that was a blow. Now the Barths, the Lows and the Rissers. That last one being especially difficult for my wife as they grew so close together, each surviving their first year of motherhood only by leaning upon each other, a tough void to fill. But we recognize that the stars aligned for us to even be in a position to have had so many wonderful friends and we are grateful for every minute we spent with each one of them.

As a new parent I can only begin to imagine that the sentiments in that last sentence are similar to what I will feel the day my children move away from me. Replace “friends” with “children” and you’re speaking the feelings of almost anyone with grown children. And because I often think of parenthood as a symbol of our relationship with God, I wonder if those were God’s sentiments when we left His presence to come to this life. A few months ago I wrote a post about the role friends play in my idea of eternity. This one conjures up images my idea of pre-mortality. I guess that’s the difference between friends reuniting and friends leaving.


  1. Just wait. We have kids all over the country. We HATE it. It’s bad enough that they’re so far away, but they’ve also married wonderful people who’ve had the misfortune from not being from our town. Therefore, we get to “share” holidays. One year, our home, next year the inlaws. It sucks. I told our next son, currently on his mission, that he has to either marry someone from here or marry an orphan.

    Comment by Yet Another John — August 24, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  2. At least you didn’t have too much experience of the “friends get married” fun. (Which is basically like them moving away because they don’t hang out with you anymore. You realize I’m about two years away from being the oldest Clifton EVER to be single?

    Oh and yeah, get out of New York before the earthquake hits.

    Comment by Bret — August 24, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  3. We had lots of mixed feelings leaving Brooklyn. So many things were difficult there: walking three blocks home with your groceries, pushing your stroller through the snowdrifts, the offensive smells of a hot and humid summer, the horrible flu the kids always seemed to catch in the winter, Saturdays spent at the laundromat, etc.

    And yet, we still miss it. It’s been almost two years since we left.

    We left Brooklyn to be by my family, so our kids could know their cousins and their grandparents and play outside year round. And life in sunny southern California is pretty nice.

    But there is something about the friendships we made in Brooklyn. Maybe it’s because life is harder there, and we had to reach out to each other more. We spent Thanksgivings and Christmas with our Brooklyn friends because tickets were too expensive to fly home.. Over time, those friends really became our family.

    We miss all those families you mentioned. And the ones still surviving the Brooklyn winters.. the Jeppesens, the Riches, and yes, the Cliftons too.

    Comment by Brooke Reynolds — August 24, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  4. As a permanent resident in a mostly student ward in Seattle, I know of what you speak. I’ve found myself sometimes disengaging with some wonderful people because of the prospect that they’ll leave in a year or two. I envy friends in suburban areas who get to feel a greater sense of permanence in their wards than I do.

    Still, I sense when I’m doing this and stop myself. When wonderful people leave, they’re replaced by new wonderful people, and my life is further enriched. I just wish it wasn’t so hard. And I feel guilty about counting down the years until I can leave too, which is our ultimate goal (not wanting to live in this neighborhood forever).

    Comment by Jana H — August 24, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  5. Bret … are you still obsessing over being single? That’s so last post.


    Comment by Silus Grok — August 24, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

  6. I second everything. We miss the entire BK crew (past and present).

    Comment by Travis — August 24, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  7. Rusty, I’ll see you and raise you 5 fold.

    The Johnsons, the Waldorfs, Goodsons, Eltons, Ethel Kelley, Edith Cromley, Grete Linde, Reggie Allen, the Morgans, John and Kathleen Himes, Russ and Barbara Stankiewiec, Mike Russell and his lovely wife, Lorenzo Davis, Rick Lyman and Aurora, Faye Caldeira, where did you go Joe Dimaggio (actually, he was never in the church in Brooklyn), and on and on and on to the short list you added. Sometimes it feels like a whole lifetime of saying goodbye.

    One day, they’ll all come back! You gotta believe!

    Comment by Mark B. — August 24, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

  8. Bret, honestly. Appreciate the principles for what they are and apply them to your situation. We’ve certainly all grown weary of your frequent and constant comments about your present marital state. ;) Great article, Rusty.

    Comment by Rachel Spencer — August 24, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  9. It’s funny how a lot of us left Brooklyn in search for an easier and happier life. But it doesn’t always work out that way, Brooklyn is a magical place that even in the worst circumstances, seems like heaven.

    Comment by alysha bean — August 24, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  10. Too close to home.

    I miss your wife. And your squishy baby. And your home with the constantly open door. You people are part of the Brooklyn magic.

    Want to move to LA?

    Comment by Susanna — August 24, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  11. It’s hard not to obsess over it when you live in a place that constantly puts it in your face!

    Ok I’ll stop. Well yes. I certainly miss Brooklyn. My niece named Brooklyn, that is, as well as Lucca:)

    Comment by Bret — August 25, 2009 @ 6:57 am

  12. I’ve been mulling over a post of this sort for a few years now. Except mine would have been titled:

    Why My Ward is a Rest Stop


    Why do American Mormons long of the Suburbs?

    I have to admit, my tone would have been a little different as well. I actually don’t like to hear people say they miss it – If you miss something enough, then you find a way to make it work. Its like they miss the idea of Brooklyn (or the city in general) but conditions on the ground aren’t worth the hype.

    I’m not too naive to be unaware that things get tougher as kids get older – but the comforts of the suburbs just don’t compare in my mind. We’ll see.

    Back to the OP – yes people leave Rusty – and it sucks. The worst part is that, after 6 years, I’ve become numb to it.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — August 25, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  13. It’s not just the pull of the suburbs–the overwhelming majority of move-outs (I was going to say “deserters” but that seemed unkind :-) ) have left the New York area altogether.

    Which is as it should be. If you leave Brooklyn, you may as well move back to Orem.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 25, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  14. The suburbs for me are a draw in that you get (well, in most places) the best of both the urban and rural worlds without being immersed in them. You can drive a short distance to either and yet live in a quiet place with (hopefully friendly) neighbors nearby with kids to play with your kids etc etc.

    But I grew up a burb. So I’m biased?:)

    Comment by Bret — August 25, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  15. Military wards are fun for this reason.

    Comment by Andrew S. — August 25, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  16. I’ve got no love for the burb. None. Friendly neighbors? Yeah, when you see them … but what you get most of is isolation. Kids trapped by distance, moms stuck being a taxi driver, the poor and the old trapped by lack of transportation options. All for what? A bigger home that’s more expensive to furnish and maintain — and a lawn that poisons the kids who play on it and taxes our over-taxed ecosystem.


    Comment by Silus Grok — August 25, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  17. Kids trapped by distance, moms stuck being a taxi driver, the poor and the old trapped by lack of transportation options.

    They have this new thing, Silus. I think it’s called a bicycle. Newfangled, yes, but worth a try for those poor trapped suburbanites.

    Comment by MCQ — August 25, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  18. I’m with Silus. I prefer inner-city neighborhoods or completely small town, rural areas. Suburbs suck.

    Of course I live in the epitome of a suburb, but it’s a surf town so I can deal.

    Comment by Susan M — August 26, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  19. For a moment there I thought I had written something that MCQ quoted. But then I discovered that Silus was channeling me.

    All the bicycles in the world, MCQ, won’t cure the essential lifelessness of the suburbs. Visiting family in Provo this month, in neighborhoods north of the temple, I thought global warming must have killed all the people. Ridiculously wide streets with no traffic, broad lawns (why?), sidewalks too narrow for two people to walk comfortably next to each other, but not a soul to be seen. Reminded me of that Seattle scene in On the Beach.

    I’ll see Silus’s “Bah” and raise him a “Meh!”

    Comment by Mark B. — August 26, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  20. Perhaps not, Mark, but I wasn’t talking about lifelessness, just the separation caused by the bigger homes and lawns. There’s no reason why kids or other healthy people should feel trapped in the burbs. Kids and others can walk and ride bikes and in my experience, they do. There are certainly things wrong with the burbs, but that’s probably not one of them.

    Incidently, I can’t answer for all neighborhoods, obviously, but in mine I know my neighbors well and see them often. We look out for each others houses and kids and pets and pick up each others’ mail during vacations. This has nothing to do with Mormonism, since both my neighbors next door and across the street are non-members, but I don’t recognize my neighborhood in the burbs you guys are talking about. Maybe you just need to find the right neighborhood, regardless of whether it’s in the city or the burbs.

    Comment by MCQ — August 26, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  21. MCQ,
    Maybe they see in the Burbs what they want to denigrate.

    Comment by psychochemiker — August 26, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  22. Having preceeded Brooklyn first with Los Angeles, then Salt Lake City, then Denver, I have to say that the most fascinating parts of all cities are those that bring people face to face in a conversational manner, that are condusive to social interaction, and New York has more of those than any other city I know. When I first moved to BK I was conscious of the fact that people were right outside my door all night, brushing against me on the subway, and talking over my shoulder in resturaunts. Then I grew accustomed. Then I came to welcome it. Most of all, I’m gonna miss the people. I’m also going to miss the shared experience. I’m also going to miss the inspiring energy. But we don’t all leave New York for the suburbs (not that I find anything wrong with that if it be your choice, it just ain’t mine). Some of us leave it for the same reasons we came to it; a good mix of necessity, exploration, adventure, and growth. You can come with us if you want. Or you can set down roots and we will come back and find you where we know you are.

    Comment by GK Risser — August 26, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  23. Rusty,

    The Lows moved? Out of the city? Dang, I was hoping to catch up with them…

    Comment by Dan — August 26, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  24. Dan,
    They move I think this weekend. To New Jersey, so they’ll still be close to New York (and you could still catch up) but far enough away that we won’t be hitting the Red Hook ballfields for yummy latin food every Saturday anymore. How do you know them?

    Comment by Rusty — August 27, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  25. Well said Rusty.

    I’m watching the movers pack our stuff right now. After over 10 years here in the city, it is really hard to leave — city and friends.

    And it may be that I am almost 8 months pregnant, but this made me cry — just a little bit.

    Thanks for this.

    Comment by Abby Low — August 28, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  26. Life is hard in Park Slope? pfft. I notice none of you waxing rhapsodic over Bensonhurst! :-) I did my time (nearly 7 years) in the ‘hoist, and all I can say is…Upper West Side, how I love thee!

    You guys do have a beautiful spot there in the Slope, Rusty. Hang onto it!

    Comment by EmilyS — August 28, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  27. Emily,
    Are you now on the UWS?

    Comment by Rusty — August 29, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  28. Rusty,

    Brian Low was in Romania on his mission at about the same time I was. We worked together in the same district for a while. I haven’t talked to him in a long time and have been meaning to catch up. Speaking of, Rusty, tell me more about these Red Hook ballfields on Saturday mornings. I think my daughter might be interested in seeing some of Brooklyn too. :)

    Comment by Dan — August 30, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  29. Brooklyn is indeed a special space – I always reflect so fondly and romantically on my time there (the Autumn leaves and farmers markets in Prospect Park, the cozy restaurants on 5th and 7th Aves, the gowanas (yuck), CobbleHill food, and good friends). The ward was fantastic – a great positive energy there…and I loved singing with all the kids and watching them grow. Being one of the few single people in the ward back then, I have to say how comfortable and chilled the environment was for me compared to the pressures of the singles ward…truly a breath of fresh air. There seemed to be a great influx of people moving into the ward towards the time I was leaving for the Village and marriage.

    And Rusty, when you and Sarah arrived – twas much fun getting to know you. Mahesh and I miss our few but memorable long religious conversations with you two and your keen perspectives and open minds. I recently remembered you have this blog so I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. I love the edge so often invited here and hope to be able to participate.

    Comment by Sherriann — August 30, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  30. You forgot to mention THE HOLBROOKS, geez. Just kidding, we were only barely in the Park Slope ward in 2003. I just stumbled on your blog somehow today and I’m wondering if we ever knew each other? I’ll have to hunt around a little longer because I’m not even entirely sure who you are at this point. Gosh, I loved the Lows and the Palmers and the Gunnersons and the Beans and I think about that time a lot. You’re right about the weird transitory nature of that ward, though, even in our one year there we noticed it.

    Comment by Natalie — September 19, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  31. Very neat blog article.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

    Comment by Chana Waguespack — January 23, 2012 @ 1:15 am

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