Move somewhere new. Across the country. Quickly fall in love. With the sights, the sounds, the smells of the street carts. Know that deep down, this is it. This is the place you were supposed to be. Where you will put down roots for the foreseeable future.
Invite your parents out to visit. You want them to see how Adult you are, how your new duvet cover matches your sheets. How you do adult things, like grocery shop and buy towels and go to brunch. Your parents will make excuses not to visit. It’s a busy spring. They’re planning that trip somewhere else. They just put in a new deck.
But then, suddenly, they’re booking flights and asking you which hotel to stay at. They’re coming. After a year of asking them to visit, be suddenly overwhelmed by their looming presence. Maybe even try to get out of it. Feel anxious. Feel scared that they are going to hate the very city that has become such a large part of your identity.
It is a very odd experience to merge these two worlds. In one corner, you have your parents: the people that raised you, taught you, showed you what it meant to be a person in the world. In the other corner, you have this city, a non-person who has nonetheless done the exact same thing: raised you, taught you, and showed you what it means to be a person in the world.
Take your parents to the typical touristy spots: the monuments you’ve never actually stopped to see, the restaurant you can’t normally afford. But you will never be able to show them the real places that have made you love this city so much. You can show them the corner of 14th and 5th, but you can never tell them what it meant to kiss your summer fling there for the very first time. You can take your parents to a certain dive bar, but you can’t show him what it felt like to get happy-drunk with your first new friend in the city. You can take them on all the public transportation, but you will never be able to fill them with the sense of pride that you experienced when you were first asked for directions from a stranger. Take them to your favorite restaurant, but know it doesn’t mean anything to them that this is where you had your first New City Brunch, filled with bottomless mimosas, blueberry pancakes, and good gossip.
They want it, too. Your parents want to see your new home. They want to get it. They want to understand why you pay the outrageous rent, depend on the subway, pay twice as much for groceries. They want to know why, despite all the growing pains and the late night, tear-filled tears, you cling to this city, why you aren’t ready to go back to the safety of Home just yet. It’s like you’re introducing your parents to a significant other; one that you are wildly in love with but whom you also recognize is not exactly what your parents hoped for their kid. You’re pretty sure your parents won’t fully understand, and they definitely won’t fully approve.
Be hyper-conscious of your new home’s flaws, of all the imperfections you know they are seeing. They see your crappy 4th floor walk-up, the sketchy bodega down the block, and they can no longer be able to pretend that living in this metropolitan area is everything the movies tell us it is, but they aren’t seeing it. They aren’t seeing what you see. But that’s okay. In the end, you are happy here, even if they don’t get it. You show your mom and dad the typical touristy spots, take a quick tour of your apartment before they retreat to the hotel. You can show them everything, but you can never show them what it means to be young and making this place your home.
Realize that maybe the best part of this city is that you don’t have to share it with your family, that you experienced it without the safety net of your friends back home. But when they visit, you are sharing it with them, just in a different way than you really wanted.