In my twenties, my hangout was called Shopsin's—an extremely funky restaurant in the West Village that my friends and I frequented. In my thirties, having moved uptown and with a new baby in tow, I now had a floating hangout. Sleep-deprived and desperately looking for distractions, I'd take my son to the playground, the Met, to EJ's Luncheonette for chicken fingers, to storytime at the public library.
Then my forties arrived, as they inevitably do. It seemed time to change hangouts again, to do something explicitly for myself and my interior life, curling up somewhere deeply private and useful and extraordinary. My parents had given my husband and me an anniversary present of a membership at The New York Society Library, renewed every year since, a far better present than flatware. I began to realize what an extraordinary place the Library is, and I also began to fashion my life around it.
I can usually be found somewhere on the premises, frantically working (or trying to look as though I am), up in the research and typing rooms, or absorbing the sweet, Beverly Cleary et al. atmosphere of the Children's Room, or else shuffling through the stacks in the fiction section, turning on the lights with their ticking timers and ferreting around for novels I've somehow never gotten around to reading.
My own writing has been prolific in the Library. I wrote a good deal of my most recent novel, The Wife, there, and I am just beginning another book as well. I take my children to visit frequently, and my husband is a constant patron as both a writer and reader, but I still think of the place as my hangout. It's more formal than the motley assortment of places I'd go with my friends or with my baby penned into a stroller. Without a doubt, The New York Society Library is my favorite hangout ever: a retreat and an inspiration, a present not just for me and my husband, but for all of New York. Happy anniversary.