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Into the belly of the beast

18 Jun

New York City deserves its own post. I mean, it’s the Big Apple. The City. Gotham. Manhattan. And we took it. Just like the Muppets. Me and my three spent all day Thursday in the city. And it was glorious.

Stayed Wednesday night in a hotel in Secaucus, NJ. The same La Quinta Inn we stayed in last year. Not because it is a particularly good hotel, just because it was a known quantity. And the access to the city was incredibly easy. My original plan was to drive into the city and park in the parking garage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Last year we parked in the garage at the Museum of Natural History. Reasonably priced for Manhattan, guarded, underground garage – what’s not to love?) This year’s NYC stops were to include The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the Metropolitan, and FAO Schwarz – so we’ve got Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Central Park South. A decently tight little triangle that should be easy to navigate via cabs with an obligatory subway ride thrown in for fun. So we got up, ate our free lobby-served breakfast, and were ready to roll from the hotel by 9:30am, which was perfect timing because the museums opened at 10am.

I’m going to tell you a secret. I love driving in New York. Yes, driving my minivan into the city via the Lincoln Tunnel. It was fun. Of course, I do have a rule that the minute we leave the tunnel the children are not to speak directly to me or otherwise behave in a distracting manner. And I fully admit that I map out my route the night before. But I love the aggressiveness. There is no time for fear, no place for hesitation. You just go and you trust that the other people are as skilled at driving as you. If there is a gap, you slip it. If there is a lane, you ignore it. It makes me feel powerful and in control in a way that little else does. And I dig that feeling. But I digress. I was telling you about the plan. Into the city and directly to the Met garage on the Upper East Side. Except that the last time I was in NYC I dropped by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to see if it was a place the kids would enjoy and I remembered there was some street parking available. So, altering the plan, I just winged it a bit and drove straight to the CMOM on the Upper West Side. And sure enough, I scored sweet street parking on 83rd, right in front of the museum. As I deftly parallel parked the van in a spot that was just big enough, I thought of my dear friend and college housemate, Erin, who once accused me of making sacrifices to the parking gods because I always scored one of the 2hr spaces right in front of the D-Hall.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is pretty good. The traveling exhibit there now is Curious George and it was really cute. The kids certainly seemed to be having a great time. But I admit that I rushed them a bit. I mean for goodness sakes, we’re in New York City! And the weather is beautiful! Let’s get out there! Or, at least, go to the art museum! But I have to give it to them. The kids were having fun, but when I told them it was time to go, I got no arguments, no attitude, just happy compliance. Awesome.

We piled back in the van, went through the park on the 86th Street Traverse, and down 5th Avenue to the garage entrance at 80th. Avery delighted in telling the ladies at the membership desk that “we are members” and “we drove from Florida to get here.” Beau said that he wanted to see “mummy art,” so first things first we went to see the Temple of Dendur, which elicited a few wows. Then we traipsed through the Arms & Armor and the Musical Instruments. I wanted to show them my favorite painting (Pygmalion & Galatea by Gerome), but when I was in New York at the beginning of May it wasn’t on display. Apparently it had been loaned to the Getty for a Gerome exhibit and had since been returned, but was still languishing in the basement. I was hoping it was back on the wall in its rightful place, but alas, no. Harper said she wanted to see some “princess paintings,” so we went over to the European paintings and found a few pretty girls in fancy dresses. By this time it was past noon and the energy was starting to wane. Given the neighborhood surrounding the Met, I wasn’t likely to find a slice shop or the type of food my kids will eat, so I just sucked it up and took them down to the Met cafeteria. Figured it would be expensive, but there would have to be something they would eat, even if just a bag of chips. Um, yeah, it was expensive. But my one eater, Avery, got a kids’ meal hot dog and it came in the cutest cardboard taxi. She was so excited about it and spent the rest of the day carrying it around. It’s a little battered now, but nothing a little scotch tape can’t fix.

During lunch I tried to map the rest of the afternoon. A friend had tipped me off that there is a Lego store in the shops of Rockefeller Center, so I knew I had to find a way to fit that in. And I really needed to manufacture a ride on the subway. But I preferred to work it in to our actual travels, not just take a ride. So we exited the museum by the front entrance, giving the kids the opportunity to see the scope of the facade, and caught a cab to the Lego store. Okay, yes, we spent too much time in there, but they had some really cool sculptures and hey, Beau had some of his own money to spend, and frankly I’d rather him spend it on Legos than on random stuff at FAO just because he wanted to spend his money. And I may or may not have bought a set of my own. I saw one of the hard-to-find sets on the shelf in the Star Wars section and picked it up. I had to have it, because as Beau said, “it reminds you of your childhood, doesn’t it?” We walked a few blocks and went down into the subway. Caught an uptown train, went 2 stops, and then we were on Central Park South. Took the obligatory pictures with the toy soldier in front of FAO. I even bought the commemorative shots since that darn toy solider is just about the only thing that differentiates it from a regular Toys’r'Us. Again, we spent far too much time stimulating the economy. Though I will admit that I was highly amused to see the Barbie section. And if I only had $25k laying around extra, I would have picked up the Barbie foosball table. That’s right. A foosball table where the players are actual Barbies. Ridiculous. But awesome.

Now, I can’t go to the city without seeing my friend, Kris Pollina, the one and only Crazy Yankee Chick. And since she stayed with us for a night when down in Jacksonville for a friend’s wedding, the kids were clamoring to see her as well. But she works for a living, apparently really hard, so if we wanted to see her, we had to go to her. But hey, that’s why there are so many cabs roaming the city, right? So from FAO we grabbed a cab and went down to the historic Daily News Building, where she, and by happy coincidence, her sister Lauren both work. We visited with the Misses Pollina for a few minutes and then realized how late it was getting. It was already almost 5:00pm and I still had to not only get out of the city, but drive to Fairfield, CT. Hopped another cab and I have to say, this might have been my favorite part of the day. Harper spent the entire ride holding onto the strap and staring out the open window. It all seemed so natural. Avery fell asleep resting against me. We were all quiet and contemplative. I was basically in awe of my children. Their wonderful behavior. Their adaptability. To watch Beau and Harper strolling down the city street, sharing a soft pretzel, they just looked like little urban kids. As if the city bustling around them didn’t faze them. Like I said, it just felt so natural, all day long. And they were total rock stars. Aside from some whininess right before lunch, when everyone’s blood sugar was dropping, including mine, they were brilliantly well behaved. They were great listeners, they used their nicest manners. It made me feel so happy and proud.

Of course we still had to get to the Tison’s house, so our adventure was not quite complete. As I was getting everyone strapped into their seats in the garage at the Met I wanted to give them a little snack. And when they asked if they could just have some of their candy they got at FAO, I agreed. This was a spectacularly bad idea. It didn’t really affect Harper and Avery. They were both so incredibly tired that after munching on their candy, they were asleep within about 15 minutes. And it was all going so smoothly, the traffic thinned quite quickly, we were making spectacular time, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And in this case, it did involve shoes. As in Beau puking on his own. Yeah, he started complaining that he felt bad, and then he got more specific saying he thought he might throw up. So, I immediately pulled off at the Larchmont exit and found him a side of the road place to empty the contents of his stomach. There went all that expensive bulk candy from FAO Schwarz! Now, what the heck caused that? Was it just too much candy? I don’t think so. But maybe that in conjunction with some motion sickness? Perhaps there was egg in one of the candies? I have no idea. But it was sudden and out of the blue. And not at all the way I want to arrive at someone’s house. But hey, what are you going to do?

And arrive we did. Finally. And the whole Tison family was sitting out front waiting for us. It was great! With the exception of Beau being down for the count for about an hour (he threw up once more then rallied and was totally himself by bedtime), the Willim and Tison kids just started playing immediately. Of course the girls shared a mutual love of dress-up. They were so happy and so engaged, that I couldn’t bear to ride herd and tell them it was bedtime. So we just ignored it and let them play. To round out the evening, right before they finally went to bed, the kids put on a show together. It was called “Pajama Dance” and the best I can tell, Beau was freestyling a called dance (kinda like a square dance) and the older girls were showing off their ballet moves. Avery was just smiling and spinning in circles, but it was clear her heart was in it. Thankfully they did eventually go down and I was able to sit around talking and laughing with Tina and Joe.

It was a long, exhausting, wonderful day. And while I could have done without the sick boy, it was superlative in every other way. I was happy. The kids were happy. It was a big adventure. But it was also like a lot of days we have at home. I’m hoping they’ll remember it. Even just one moment of it. Even if it’s just a cardboard taxi holding a hot dog. Or a two stop subway ride. Or the way the city looks from the backseat of a cab. Or even the cool Lego sets they have at the New York City store. At least I know it made an impression. Just today, as we were driving to Boston, Avery asked me: “When are we going back to New York City?” Not soon enough, baby girl, but one day. I promise.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim