It was New Years Eve day, our first holiday season living back in the states. We’d arrived in NYC three days before, the kids excited to start investigating one of the few US cities they felt they already knew despite not having experienced it beyond a TV image, a news story or its reference in a song. It was also my mom’s first time to the Big Apple and her excitement oozed into theirs.
We started the day with big goals. After breakfast near Central Park, we walked our way up a notoriously demanding 5th Ave. The kids had never seen that many people in one place. Their eyes wide open, hands curled tightly in ours—I could feel their eagerness replace their fears. All I might have heard was the honking of car horns had it not been for Raegan’s incessant reminder not to forget that we were on our way to the American Doll Store. “Mommy, we haven’t missed it, right? Mommy, when are we going to be there?” “Mommy, do we turn here?”
About the time Raegan, my mom and I turned left to the American Girl Doll store, Sean and Braeden turned right to find the model airplane store Braeden had read about at the airport. Us girls spent an hour working our way through the American Girl Store. It was chaos for my mom and I but pure heaven for Raegan.
Two hours later, after a quick lunch, we met up at the Empire State Building.
The line outside looked ominous, and it was. We slowly but steadily made our way up and through the multi-level line. Two and a half hours later we were entering the elevator that would take us to our last climb of stairs before heading up the elevators to the top.
The doors opened and there she was---New York City at her best. The kids awed with delight. “Wow,” said Raegan. “Cool,” said Braeden. The door opening blew a freezing gust of wind directly at us. We buttoned up our coats, pulled our hats down over our ears and pushed through it. We were finally outside on the touring deck.
We paused to look at where the twin towers used to stand, Ground Zero. The rebuilding of the World Trade Center and the revival of lower Manhattan area was finally complete, 12 years later. One office tenant, subway platform and sidewalk at a time. The kids weren’t alive on 911 so as we’d prepared for our trip to New York, we’d told them what had happened that dreadful morning. I could sense the many questions in their eyes and told them we would continue to talk about it over the coming days.
Next our eyes landed on the most famous lady of all—standing tall, torch in hand, looking strong and brave in the cold,unsettled waters below. The Statue of Liberty.
“I thought she was bigger mommy”, Braeden said.
I put my hand on his hat covered head and smiled. “From here, everything looks smaller, but don’t be fooled my love. New York is as big as a city can be, and from here, we get to see her at her best.” Glove in glove, we continued to appreciate her beauty.
We swept our eyes to Brooklyn—trying todistinguish itself from its illustrious sibling. The kids commented on all the construction and new life thatbulged at Brooklyn’s borders.
Next: Central Park. There she lay, immaculately and intentionally created. At one end Harlem—with its own distinctive set of beginnings and endings. At the other end Trump Tower—another chapter of NYC’s legendary, evolving life. And in between lay a mix between nature and tradition—100 year-old trees barren from winter; the famous ice rink with tiny colored dots making their way around in organized circles.
Next: The Hudson River, laying cold and grey below. Braeden was intrigued by the story of Captain Sully, who only a few years before had crash landed his plane into the Hudson River, with all passengers surviving. He stared at the river silently, envisioning what might have happened.
So there she was, NYC at her best, being admired by thousands every day from the majestic Empire State Building. A viewing we will not soon forget.