Through The Eyes of A Child…
It was in the elevator after seeing “Wicked” that I simply had to dance. My joy at spending a weekend in New York with my 10-year-old grandson simply blossomed into an elevator waltz. Every moment of this adventure was a miracle, for him and for me.
His miracles began with finding his very favorite restaurant right at the 50th Street and Seventh Avenue subway stop, on our way from Penn Station to the Hotel Edison. When his Nana asked if he would like to have lunch, he leapt at the chance. So we schlepped our suitcases up to the second floor dining room and did just that.
Not only was it Applebee’s, but the biggest one in the world, and with the exact same incredible spaghetti that Applebee’s always serves. Then, to top off Connor’s good luck, he found a souvenir Applebee’s lapel pin in our hotel newsstand, and a sign across the street that told that the Statue of Liberty‘s mouth is three feet wide. It just doesn’t get any better.
We flew through the city each day, from double-decker bus to Statue of Liberty, to Ellis Island, to the Empire State Building, to the ferriswheel inside the huge Toys R’Us Store at Times Square, right around the corner from our old hotel, and the Hershey Store, and the M&M Store.
Connor loved the restaurant in the hotel, with all the signs intended to keep customers in line. “Only Full Parties Will Be Seated.” “No Sitting in a Booth Unless You are Spending $6.00.” And my personal favorite: “In Case of Fire, Pay Bill First and Then Run.”
We had great conversations, about all the different languages we could hear on the street, about whether all the rule signs were because there were so many people around, about how to wink, and pick up things with your toes, how to properly cut your steak, escort a lady, and so on.
People were very kind and welcoming to us. We shared the story of our private adventure, a Nana and a little boy who live in two different states, traveling together to New York. Connor received advice about eating oatmeal from the counterman in our restaurant, fist bumps from the bellman for carrying my suitcase and walking on the outside of the sidewalk, Spanish lessons from the driver of our bicycle cart, and a very warm smile from our favorite cabdriver, Corey, a young man from Ghana. He was once even allowed to be first onto the boat.
I think the very best thing for both of us, if I don’t count the hugs and impish grins, was “Wicked.” It’s a very clever and engaging story, with incredible staging and very talented stars. Connor and I both loved it and discussed it endlessly for the rest of the trip. Our talk even continued at about 3 A.M. on Sunday morning when I felt small fingers tapping my shoulder into wakefulness, with, “Nana, I had a bad dream. I dreamt the monkeys were chasing me.”
Our biggest conflict was the trip to Ellis Island. Connor’s attention span was tired after several hours at the Statue of Liberty, and he didn’t want to go. I, overcome with emotion at the sight of the symbol of what my country stands for, told Connor I wasn’t about to get on a boat that stopped at Ellis Island without seeing the site of such a great migration into America, as my ancestors, and thus his, were immigrants.
Deeply moved again by the horrors these immigrants fled, and the prejudice they encountered here before we started closing the borders in the early 1920s, I thought about the world my sweet Connor is growing into.
Nothing has changed. We hated the immigrants then, and now. The grandchildren of those very immigrants hate the new immigrants. The signs even say the same words. (This does not, for one minute, address our government’s violations of our immigration laws, or the nonsense of developing a bilingual country.)
We used to hate black people, and make up stories about them. Now we hate Muslims, and make up stories about them. The radical Muslims hate us, and do the same thing. For more of the same, just look at the Nazis, or Bosnians and Serbs, or African tribes who take turns torturing and killing each other.
So much anger, so much fear, so little clear thought or common sense goes into any of this. We go from mindless hatred to thinking that not being allowed to buy soda with food stamps or vote in a language other than English, stigmatizes people.
When we wake up on the other side after this life, and open our eyes, we are going to be so embarrassed by how we behaved while here.
We are a nation of strength because we are free, and because we are a blend of people of different cultures, blend being the operative word. Why do we so often distrust instead of appreciating our own diversity?
Someone from the race we were lynching a hundred years ago is now our president. Now that we’ve gotten past that, can’t we get that the stories we tell about Hispanics make just about as much sense as those we made up about Italians?
All of us are generally perfectly fine people trying to create lives for ourselves and our families. All the different cultures, beliefs, skin colors, so vibrantly evident in New York, including our tour guide’s homeless, tutu-clad friend “Versace,” are represented.
Connor’s reaction was wonder, just as it should have been.
There are many little boys like my Connor, and many little girls, who are counting on us to give them a better world than we have been creating. We have the very special opportunity to vote in a few days, and always the opportunity to set an example of respect, fairness and common sense to our children, those who will live with the consequences of our actions, and try to build a future out of what we leave them.
For a review of Commonsense 101, go on a trip with a child.