Ms. Funk views herself as a Manhattan expatriate, despite a Rockland County, N.Y., upbringing, attributing that status to the years she lived here during her formative 20s. After college, she rented two apartments, first on Sutton Place and then on West 82nd Street. Following Harvard Business School, where she met Mr. Funk, a Los Angeles native and former newspaper publisher, she rented a walk-up on West 77th Street. Now, as a self-described “fully formed” adult, she has returned to the city and, specifically, to the Upper West Side, for its energy and its closeness to the stage.
“Theater is the reason I’m here,” she said. “I don’t know how the passion began, but I remember going to Playwrights Horizons when I first lived here and was poor and didn’t see much.”
Nostalgia is not part of the re-entry for Ms. Funk, who, while in Seattle, started and ran a think tank focused on diversity issues in the technology industry and now is studying to become an accredited executive coach.
“I actually tried to find where I used to live, but I couldn’t figure it out,” she said.
Sometimes, though, returning to a place where childhoods happened, first jobs were held and mates were met can evoke strong sentiments about the passing of time and life choices. When people haven’t regularly seen the spots where seminal experiences occurred — both good and bad — they can feel walloped, emotionally. Across the street from the hospital where I was born is the hospital where my father died; I have to bolster myself before walking by or choose a different route.
“You have to be part psychologist,” said Ms. Haney of helping people relocate. “You have to be very sympathetic, very understanding of what they’re going through.”
In 1993, after six years of city life, Randy Gilman agreed to leave York Avenue and East 79th Street for Livingston, N.J., when her husband, Zvi Bolimovsky, expressed a desire to raise children outside Manhattan. “From Day 1, when I was pregnant, I was on a countdown to come back once my kids finished high school,” said Ms. Gilman, 63, who was born on Long Island and grew up near Hartford, Conn.
After Ms. Gilman’s father died in 1990, her Bronx-born mother, Evelyn, moved to Manhattan, renting an apartment at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street, with a park view. Six years ago, when Ms. Gilman’s younger child was 15, the women bought, together, a 5,000-square-foot apartment around the corner, on Park Avenue and East 65th Street, into which the elder Ms. Gilman moved. After Ms. Gilman’s daughter graduated from high school three years ago, Ms. Gilman and Mr. Bolimovsky joined Evelyn Gilman, who is now 91, on the premises.
“My daughter left in August and we moved in by October,” Ms. Gilman said. “I felt like I always belonged here.”
While leaving New Jersey stirred little emotion, sharing space with her mother, who has her own suite, has prompted Ms. Gilman to reminisce.
“I feel sentimental about living with the beautiful art and artifacts that she accumulated on her many trips with my father,” Ms. Gilman said. “Living here also helps remind me about when I was a child and my parents took my sister and me to museums, theater and dance performances.”
When Charles and I landed in New York, there was no party, no ticker tape. The confetti was in my mind, raining down feelings of finish lines, relief, exhilaration, promise. People here ask where I lived before, and when I mention my 17 years in Texas, they seem uniformly horrified. They crinkle up their faces and ask, “Did you like it?” expecting a certain response.
I would have provided that reply, at first. Now, I feel that I should defend the place that I desperately did not like, and that I would want to do this surprises me a little, but makes me feel encouraged about my time there. I tell the people about the efficient air-conditioning and the civility of the children who shake hands when they are in preschool. I tell them that I raised two daughters there, two daughters who speak softly, saying y’all and ma’am and sir. I feel good about the place, standing in Carl Schurz Park on the East River, with Charles on a lead. I do, really, I do.
This realization has played emotional tricks with my return, which, for years, I viewed as a simple construct, an escape from exile. Here, whatever was missing would suddenly exist, and I would feel energized, nurtured and safe. I would feel like me. I must say that this has happened, and in a magnified way — my old friends are more wonderful, the ballet more breathtaking, the brownstone facades more stunning. But is it home? Does it feel like home? I do not know.
Sometimes, the transition is not what people envision it will be.
After 40 years, Howard Bloomberg, 70, chose to return to Manhattan and his family’s Upper West Side neighborhood — not because he was nostalgic necessarily, but for its prewar architecture and residential ambience. “In 1976, I escaped. There was crime, filth, graffiti; on the subway, you couldn’t see out the windows,” said Mr. Bloomberg, a retired investment banker who has lived in London, Boston and, most recently, New Hampshire. “But then, New York became a fabulous city, and it more closely resembled the time when I grew up.”
Mr. Bloomberg and his parents lived at 685 West End Avenue; his grandparents, uncle and aunts lived at 697 West End Avenue. Mr. Bloomberg’s childhood apartment had bedrooms and baths on one side of a hall, and common rooms on the other. He hoped to duplicate that layout.
But Mr. Bloomberg is not one to act rashly. He started his hunt in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he settled on Riverside Drive, across the street from Joan of Arc Park, where he used to play football. The 2,175-square-foot apartment in a 1902 building designed by Ralph S. Townsend overlooks the Hudson, has 11-foot ceilings and the details that Mr. Bloomberg was looking for.
“I am very particular. It took three years to renovate. It didn’t even need a renovation,” he said. It took another two years to sell his house on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, delaying his return to the city until this spring.
Mr. Bloomberg was ready to make the transition, to be less sedentary and more engaged in city life. “Over the decades, I’ve lost touch with just about everybody,” he said before he arrived in early May. “I look forward to having a big dinner party with them in my new apartment. It will be great fun, though we are no longer young men.”
Upon moving in, however, the anticipation turned rapidly to upset. Mr. Bloomberg walked into and out of five supermarkets, unable to navigate the narrow aisles. His phone wouldn’t work. His television and computer wouldn’t turn on. He was dismayed to see litter.
After four days in the city, he thought to himself: “I can no longer cope. I don’t think I can possibly live here again.” Now, some weeks later, Mr. Bloomberg is still here, though still out of sorts. He contemplated selling the apartment and leaving — where to, he was not sure — but the expense of such a turnaround dissuaded him. He did secure a New York City phone number. Adaptation, could it be?
Expectations vary, according to Jeff Feuer, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate and Mr. Bloomberg’s real estate agent for 10 years. Typically, he said, the adjustment is a lot more difficult if you are leaving New York than if you are returning.
“I have a house in Woodstock, and I love it,” he said, “but even after a couple of days, I just want to come back.”