Sunday Dresses and Subway Grates
“Stop spinning around, all over the aisle, young lady…”
Shopping for a few last-minute items necessary to complete Easter Sunday dinner, I overheard these words, uttered in complete exasperation, between mother and her tiny daughter.
“But I just look so pretty today. I just have to spin…”
She was dressed in her Sunday best for the Saturday Easter services. Lace and chiffon, ruffled anklets and patent leather shoes. She had to be no more than eight.
Her sister joined in, matching fluttery spins. Mom’s arms were filled with packages. She tried to quell their reverie, this time in a much sterner tone. “Stop Spinning! Just stop it! There are people trying to shop here.” They held back a bit and walked behind the weary mother. They spun again, quietly as they grabbed more groceries. They needed to play their not so secret, secret game for a few more moments.
• • •
I felt the guilt and weight of the above scenario almost immediately. Sometimes I am so very quick to stifle what appears to be useless nonsense in my eyes. Sometimes it is a necessary lesson in decorum, other times is it stupid grown up rules of “how to behave” and overall lack of little person patience.
On the car ride home, I began replaying the montage of Jack stifles I have doled out over the years, clocking in my head all the hours and wondering which one will be the ONE he tells a therapist about in later years. Hours of stifling laughter and mischief into a myriad of different versions of the phrase, “What the heck do you think you are doing? Saying? Eating? Etc.?” Sometimes I feel I am snuffing the life out of his childhood curiosity, one phrase at a time.
• • •
I had planned on a working, photo project oriented, NYC trip, but my travel partner’s illness and other circumstances altered the chain of events. At 11 am on the day before the trip, I called my husband and asked if he could take tomorrow off. I am usually not this spontaneous and I could have gone by myself, but Dave and I love New York and we have always wanted to share our love of that city with Jack. So we snatched the little one from school and headed east on an adventure.
Our trip became one of those unplanned, jump in the car and pick a direction, whirlwind family vacations. We had no idea what this adventure would bring but the weekend left us with some simple and truly magical in moments. There were so many little moments that the memories play out like snippets of text written out on an old-fashioned teletype machine.
The trip was simple. The moments were simple.
• Jack asking us to spell the word “colorful” as he carefully scribbled every moment of this weekend into his journal. • Mom and dad singing to Foreigner and Hall and Oates. • Small hotel, the queen size bed nearly took up the whole room. Walking sideways was necessary to sneak around each other in order to get to the bathroom. • Four TV stations. The Food Network made us hungry for everything. • Saturday morning Starbucks and a walk contemplating the possibilities. • Jack on his first cab ride, more fascinated with the little televisions inside than the city view. • Walking the length of Times Square, ooohing and ahhing at giant M&Ms. • The Toys R Us had a giant kiddie ferris wheel piercing through three stories of merchandise. • Afternoon with an old friend, lunch, MOMA and Cindy Sherman. • Sleepiness and Washington Square Park. • West and East Village. • Tiramasu and people watching in a tiny restaurant in little Italy. • A walk to ground zero. • Three little rings, one for each one of us in Chinatown.
Our first evening there was our most magical one. We had no expectations for this day, so it made it all the more simple. Prior to the plan of taking the family on this trip, I had made plans to meet a friend for a drink in the city. So Dave and Jack made plans to check out the area around our hotel while I journeyed in the opposite direction.
We walked towards the village. I had always wanted to see Manhattan from above in real life. The weather was perfect. The sky was clear. I wanted to capture the moment from every angle. My friend found a place not too far from the hotel that had a rooftop bar. We crashed the fancy dinner party that was taking place around the bar and out on the roof. I was still slightly haggard from my long drive east. I was keenly aware that my less than dressy outfit complete with very worn tennis shoes and frayed pant cuffs looked very out-of-place. They asked if we were with “the party” and my friend immediately said yes. I drank my free wine and made it outside to the edge of the building, and looked out into this city that I love so much. The people looked so close yet so far away. I wanted to stand on the edge of the building and just dive into it all. I wanted to yell “helloooooooooo, I am hereeeeeee!” to the crowd of people rushing off to begin their Friday evening plans.
We walked back to meet my family, stopping at a tiny bakery along the way. We sang cheesy 80s tunes loudly, badly, joyously as we made our way through the beginnings of everyone’s evening. I felt the energy of everything. The energy of the possible. We all met up outside the hotel and began to walk around the city and chat. I felt alive. As Dave and my friend chatted about New York and the subways and the city sites. I turned to Jack, grabbed his hand and said, “Are you ready?” He giggled and said yes. We took off running down the block leaving our walking companions behind. We ran and jumped on the nearby subway grates, listening to the loud booms as we landed. It was the only thing I could think of to do to capture my excitement for being in this city with the people I love most. I was running toward something, feeling inspired and overwhelmed, unstifled.
I couldn’t sleep that night, too excited, too something. I listened to the cars outside and felt the subway roll underneath. I watched the thigh high boots and the late night walks of shame, and waited until dawn so I could step out into it all again. I felt like those little girls in their Sunday best and I just had to spin…