I moved to Sutton Terrace on York Avenue and East 63rd St. in October 1967. My husband John had found the apartment, a short walk from Rockefeller University where I would be a postdoctoral fellow starting November 1. Although the rent for the two-bedroom apartment was $425 a month, more than four times that of our spacious six room Boston apartment, we felt very lucky. A terrace looked down on a large enclosed garden area where the children could play. As friendly doormen manned the exits to the street, it would be safe to let the children go back and forth to the garden by themselves, a tremendous boon to a busy working mother.
Amy, Andrew and I had stayed behind in Boston when John left to begin work at the New York Times. I packed up the house and arranged for movers. It was fun to have John come back on weekends to regale us with exciting anecdotes about famous writers and editors. I was full of anticipation about our New York life.
The last day at the lab was tough. I went into Dr. Nauta’s office to tell him I was going. He stood up and formally shook my hand and wished me good luck. Tears welled in my eyes as I realized an extraordinary chapter was closing. We had all shared a paradigm change in the scientific exploration of the mind. Due to discoveries in this lab, we could now chart the fine detail of neural networks for thinking. I had had daily contact with young investigators who would go on to be pillars of the new field of Neuroscience. I knew I was losing something irreplaceable.
On our last night in Boston, I took Amy, age 1 1/2 and Andrew, age 5, to the International House of Pancakes for a valedictory dinner, before taking the night train to New York. On the bus to South Station, I was appalled to discover that the antique setting on my engagement ring had vanished, uncut diamonds and all. I realized that the handle of the sturdy Mexican raffia bag that carried our travel essentials must have carried off the setting on one of the many times it had slipped over my left wrist on the way to the bus stop. Although the ring wasn’t really my engagement ring, it had symbolized my commitment. It was a family heirloom that had been given to me by my Brazilian aunt when I was nine. She had told me that it was made of uncut diamonds and was very precious. I had switched it from my right hand to my left in college when I had fallen in love with John. Later he had given me an engagement ring that I hadn’t liked so after a couple of years I had gone back to wearing the antique ring instead. Now I felt that I had lost my childhood. I showed Andrew the hole in the ring and we considered whether we should get off the bus and retrace our steps. The train didn’t leave until midnight. But it was getting dark and a search with two children in traffic would be dangerous and probably pointless. It occurred to me that the loss could represent the final break with our former life. We had been poor struggling students, now we were part of the New York literary crowd. It was appropriate for the slate to be swept clean. I wore the ring with the empty setting for years.
We didn’t sleep well on the train and were a disheveled lot when we reached the station. Instead of getting breakfast, I bought coffee, orange juice and doughnuts to go and took a taxi to the apartment looking forward to being welcomed by John. But when Andrew ran into the apartment shouting for his father, there was no answer. He had already left for work. We were all disappointed. He had not shared our vision of a triumphal family reunion to start a new life. I had wanted recognition for successfully negotiating the move and this big trip by myself. Crestfallen, I took the children out onto the terrace and opened the orange juice. A dark flake of soot floated down into the cup. I looked at Andrew and Amy and said, “Welcome to New York.”