A New York Education
“Nice pillow pet,” said the man behind the information desk at Baltimore’s Penn Station. Indeed, it was a nice one – a medium, tie-dyed, very soft bear.
There was no time to stuff him into a suitcase while rousting his owner out of bed at dawn; I set him on the counter while looking for our train tickets to New York, scheduled for departure in about 10 minutes.
I can’t recommend Google Map. Even though familiar with Baltimore, I had tried to follow its convoluted description of how North Charles Street wends its way around the Washington Monument, and was running a little late.
There had already been a “Mani Pedi” in Frederick, along with my first dilemma. Should a nana intervene when a little girl wants her toenails lime yellow and her fingernails teal? Answer: NO! Just take a breath and love the nails. They match the clothes in Aeropostale and H&M.
Unlike her brother (See “Dancing with Connor in New York“), who spent the weekend virtually cart wheeling his way through the city, this lean, doe-eyed beauty was a bit more of a challenge. Any hint that I might break into the “happy dance” in response to the wonders around us, elicited a stare that would stop a Marine platoon in its tracks. To call attention to oneself by asking something of a clerk, or requesting that someone take your photo, elicited, at least for a moment, a similar response.
Fourteen years tall, 10 years old, still wanting to stand on the windowsill of our hotel room, but with head touching the top of the opening, this girl is a wonder. Frequent calls to Mom and Dad, who both accompanied their girl to the Florida airport for the trip, conveyed her journey along with many “I love yous.”
Left to choose, she can eat so little as to become overly tired and hungry, so I learned the art of regular feedings. She, very clear in her fashion choices, simultaneously charming, willful, self absorbed and compassionate, comes from a culture of heading out the door to the car in shorts and flip flops. In the maelstrom of New York City, she transformed from the little girl who would ‘find a phone and call her mother’ if alone in the subway, to someone who could ride rather independently, cross the streets New York style, and recognize who to trust if in need of help, in a very short time.
We went back to the Hotel Edison, the aging Times Square Deco lady, always trying to get her makeup straight, who embodies old New York. We were privileged to be served breakfast, and nuggets of New York wisdom, by Mike and Nico, who are still pushing the oatmeal over the Frosted Flakes and doughnuts.
I learned a lot this weekend.
Addie learned, I hope, that, although you have to be aggressive to get anywhere in New York, you can still be polite. She encountered, underneath their gruff exteriors, some of the nicest people in the world. She observed that her nana could speak “New York-ese” to a vendor who drove his push cart straight at Addie, as well as Spanish, when asking directions.
What she says she learned is that New York is busy, trains and subways are fun, flying alone is boring (even when your seatmate throws up?), and that, when you get sprayed with very cold water, you feel like your hands are going to freeze off.
Addie can occasionally forget her manners, but exhibited great compassion for the gentleman on the Staten Island Ferry who carried on a loud and repetitive conversation with someone no one else could hear.
Freezing cold in line for the Ground Zero Memorial, she chose not to back out and return to the warm subway. Wind-splashed with icy water from the memorial pools, she exhibited solemn reverence during a spontaneous group singing of the National Anthem around a braced and wired tree left from before 9/11.
On the way back uptown on the subway, marveling over her wet jacket marks on the seat, she said, “I’m better now. I think I’m getting used to the cold.”
More important perhaps, Addie rode the Toys-R-Us Ferris wheel twice, took lots of pictures, got her picture taken with Batman, and saw the Naked Cowboy. She visited the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry, and Ground Zero, shopped the fashion district, and appeared on television in the audience of Good Morning America.
She carried on quite a conversation with a charming mendicant and “The Real Talking Dog,” donating a quarter to their cause, not to mention having her best lunch ever, a hot dog wrapped in pretzel dough with warm, soft, cinnamon sugar pretzel sticks dipped in icing.
Hey, world, it may not get any better.