Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 9, 2022

Growing up in Brooklyn

By LEELA GEBO | April 21, 2022

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COURTESY OF LEELA GEBO

Leela on her first day of kindergarten.

My childhood is chronicled by the first-day-of-school photos taken on the stoop of the apartment building I grew up in. Though my backpacks, hair and outfits change over the years, the limestone columns and wrought-iron door remain constant behind me, a familiar backdrop despite so many other markers of change. 

No matter where in the city I was headed that day, I always came back to the familiar, tree-lined street, climbed the two flights of stairs to our apartment and headed to the bedroom at the very back. Even after moving to Baltimore for college, Brooklyn still felt like home, and I was able to slip comfortably back into old routines when I returned during breaks (or pandemics). 

Earlier this semester, my parents told my sister and I that they’re planning to move. This wasn’t entirely unexpected — countless weekends of my childhood were spent going to open houses, and shortcomings of the apartment were frequent dinnertime conversations while I was growing up — but it’s still impossible for me to imagine “home” without thinking about the block I’ve lived on since I was two years old. 

My childhood memories are inextricably tied to the apartment: taking the cushions off of the brown sofa in our living room with my sister to jump on the couch’s springy bottom, listening to “You Belong with Me” on my green iPod Nano at the dining table, running down the long hallway and always making sure to leap over the slightly water-stained patch of wood because I once overheard my grandpa saying he thought it might give way to the apartment below. 

Home is more than just the apartment, too. It’s the first place I was allowed to walk by myself – to the bodega on the corner, with a $5 bill clutched in my hand to buy a pint of ice cream. It's the park on the opposite corner, the urban oasis where I spent hours of my life sitting with friends, running around and playing sports. 

It’s hard to let go of places, especially ones with so many happy memories attached to them. When thinking back on these memories, however, I realize that there are two common threads: the place, and also the people. Places shape us, but we also shape them. I don’t know where my parents will move, nor do I know where I’m going to end up after college. I do know, though, that I will be surrounded by the same people that made the apartment I’ve come to love so special. 

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