“New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the groun’.
New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!” – “On the Town”
In August I sounded the alarm bells that my son and I were in trouble. The response was overwhelming from Facebook friends who donated their money to help us get to New York City, a trip that had been planned and then sadly cancelled due to financial stress, actually bankruptcy. I really wanted to fulfill this promise to my son and give him a well-deserved treat after a difficult year.
I grew up in New York and I still feel a very strong connection to the place. It was important to me to have my seven-year old see where I grew up as he’s always asking questions about me. The answers were in New York.
The trip was magnificent. We had a comfortable plane ride, a lovely friend donated transportation to and from the airport, and we stayed in an apartment on Central Park West with one of my late mother’s good friends. When we woke up in the morning Central Park beckoned across the street and on Thanksgiving Day the floats and marching bands for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were assembled right on the street below.
We began the trip with a day at the Museum of Natural History (http://www.amnh.org/) down the street. I had gone countless times as a kid and the memories flooded back. Sitting in the Planetarium again gave me chills. The dinosaur exhibits are the best anywhere and the 3-D film on the Great White Shark was great. We watched a show about the Universe and visited the Butterfly Exhibit (which we’d seen in Los Angeles) and witnessed a butterfly hatching from its pupa.
Before the museum however, I took my son on a tour of my childhood, showing him the buildings I lived in, the schools I went to, and the shops I visited (those that were still around). I showed him the spot in Riverside Park where we buried our gerbils who died when I was six, the rocks we climbed – I showed him where I came from. I drank it in so brilliantly., He really cared!
The next day was a biggie. The Statue of Liberty (http://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm). All the way down to Battery Park and then onto the ferry. When we got to the island we walked the stairs and went all the way into the crown. Walking down was a little scary for my son as it’s dark and very tight but he made it through like a trooper. We loved the museum there and when we got off the ferry we watched some amazing acrobatic street performers and then caught a subway (what a concept!!) back uptown.
The next day we wandered around then made our way to midtown where a friend had graciously given us a free night at a Times Square Hotel. The weather was horrendous – sleet, slush, freezing. My son finally got what I was saying when I told him cold weather and snow and rain was not always fun! The hotel was nice and from our room on the 40th floor the view was terrific! I had a business meeting down the street (a blog on that to come next!) and we returned afterwards to relax in our plush beds before making our way (buying cheapie umbrellas on the street) to The Yale Club where we met my Dad for dinner. My son loved the pomp of the Yale Club with its portraits of Presidents who attended Yale in the club room and the stuffiness of the Grill Rom where we had dinner and played pool. To get back to the hotel, as the rain had stopped, we took a rickshaw and then stood in Times Square and wow – It’s a horrible place really, just deafening, but the energy is undeniable. It’s madness and the video screens now rival Tokyo.
We watched a movie and when we woke up the next morning, still snowing and sleeting, we went to Grand Central and got the train to The Botanical Gardens in da Bronx. http://www.nybg.org/Grand Central is an amazing place for a seven year old, from the clock to the stars on the ceiling to the massive amounts of people. The rain was cool as well but the weather continued to be awful! We made it through even though much of the Gardens were closed due to the weather and it was snowing when we got there. We trudged through, saw the Train show there (fantastic!) and walked through tons of plant exhibits. The gift shop is one of the loveliest places I’ve never been too and for some reason I had never been to the Botanical Gardens! A long cold wait for a train home made us get back to the hotel and out and up to the apartment as fast and as warmly as possible.
The next day, Thanksgiving, we awoke to the parade and walked around, meeting with a friend and her kids to be driven to Ancramdale in Colombia County where her family was and whom I’ve known all my life. Her mom was my mother’s best friend in the world and we spend countless weekends there growing up. The snow was over a foot deep and untouched. The beauty was amazing. Seeing our old friends was sentimental at the very least and the Thanksgiving meal was great. Teddy, stunned by what true (not city) snow can look like, drank it in. We walked through the woods, the family’s dogs chasing after us, falling over because the snow was so deep and having snowball fights.
Later that evening we took another train home and then, instead of taking an easy way back to the apartment we complicated matters (deliberately) to take 3 different subway trains to get home. I was proud of myself! I got us directly where we needed to go and my son loved the hustle of the subway and the energy of people that night was infectious.
The next morning we hung around exhausted and spent time with our gracious host. We packed up and waited until it was time to go to the airport. We missed our pets by this time and though I was feeling very connected to NYC, I had to get home and back to the rather depressing (at the moment) reality of life. Also, we were out of money so that kind of makes decisions to leave easier!
The trip was stupendous. The people we saw, the things my son experienced and the memories that were created are indelible and won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The effect being back in the city had for me was special – I felt as though I’d never left. People are as lovely as they are rude in New York and each holds a special place when you’re there.
We had a wonderful time and couldn’t have done it without the help of GoFundMe and the lovely generosity of those who contributed, whether it was $10 or more. Every bit of money went towards tickets for events or transportation around the city or food. Nothing was spent frivolously and it was all guided towards showing my son where I came from. It’s possible he’ll be a New Yorker some day and I may be yet again too. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I really recommend taking a trip back home, if you don’t go there regularly. Do it before your child hits the “I’m bored, you’re not cool” stage. I feel closer to my son than ever and it’s surprising how being in that place where you were raised reminds you of times you’d forgotten you’d had and with countless stories to be told.