I am in New York City for five days on my own with my three girls and I have big plans – plans that include art and history, bright lights, pastrami and, most of all, falling in love.
I love Manhattan. I love the horizontal vastness and the way the tops of the buildings frame the sky, creating gorgeous works of ever changing art. I love the smell of street corner hotdogs and pretzels and in the winter, roasted chestnuts. I love the surge of the crowd in a crosswalk and the jostle and clank of the subway. I love standing on the corner to hail a cab and watching them unfurl down Park Avenue like yellow streamers. I love the bursts of color in the planters along the fancy side streets on the Upper East Side. There is art to be ogled, Broadway shows and street shows to entertain, delectable restaurants tucked inside converted warehouses, famous statues staring from traffic circles and lining park walkways.
I want my girls fall in love with Manhattan, to love it like I do, with longing, wonder, exhilaration and, at the end of the day, a fulfilling kind of exhaustion. But they do not.
They do not notice the owls carved into the stone façade of the posh building on E. 67th street, the one next to the police station where my great-uncle Ruby was a cop. They only half listen as I tell them the history of the Armory, that the Abstract Expressionists believed process was as much art as the art itself, that Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States.
They do not want to walk 11 blocks, not even the short blocks. They want to take a cab. They do not want to go to the MOMA. They want to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar, gorge themselves on sugar bombs and take selfies. They do not want to go to the Lower East Side; they want to go to Bloomingdales for boots and oversized sweaters and crazy patterned leggings. I am frustrated, but I’m also in over my head. Schlepping three kids around New York City on my own is more challenging than I expected.
So I give in. I take them to Dylan’s, which turns out to be my own personal Little Shop of Horrors. The sickly sweet smell is nauseating. I turn a blind eye when the three-year-old unwraps and licks several lollipops, then puts them back on the display stand. We spend $83.29 on bags of bin candy and a Frozen nightgown for the three-year-old. Bloomies traps us in a maze of shiny black and white walls and glass counters and escalators to nowhere. They try on a gazillion pairs of shoes and countless clothes. Nothing fits. Everyone’s hungry. We go for a late lunch, then back to our hotel having covered a mere five-block radius. Ridiculous.
In the morning I march them into the MOMA and plant them squarely in front of Monet’s Water Lilies. They use my iPhone to snap a panoramic photo. We find Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the one work they noticed was missing from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam this summer. They are appropriately awed. I walk them through Matisse’s cut outs and we talk about creating our own cut out art back home in California. Things are looking up. Hope settles in a corner of my heart. The next day, we eat lunch at Katz’s Deli, pastrami sandwiches all around. A few pleas of “Can we go back now?” flutter across the table, but I act like I don’t hear them. Instead, we head to the Tenement Museum.
“Oh, American Apparel!” squeals the 12-year-old as we walk down 2nd Avenue towards Orchard Street. “Can we go there mom?”
Um, no style-obsessed tween, we can’t. We’re on our way to learn how your immigrant great-grandparents lived in squalor and worked endless days in sweatshops. We aren’t here to go to a clothing store, although the irony is not lost on me. We make it through the guided tour with limited grumbling. I have to drag them out of the gift shop. On our next outing, they use scraps of cardboard to whoosh down the concrete slide at the Billy Johnson playground in Central Park. We meet my Brooklyn-based sister and nephews at Pier 25 to play mini-golf along the Hudson. We blow bubbles on the sidewalk in Tribeca, the Freedom Tower gleaming in the background. We score awesome seats to Wicked. By Day 5, we are wiped out.
On the way to the airport, my girls serenade me with a chorus of thank yous: Dylan’s was a highlight and Bloomingdales was amazing (why, I don’t know). Katz’s was too loud, but pastrami is a new favorite. The Tenement Museum was “pretty interesting” and MOMA really wasn’t so bad. The big girls both agree that seeing Wicked on Broadway was “the best thing ever!”
Even though no one says the L-word I’m pretty sure I sense an inkling of love in the air. Still, I suppose a few more dates with the Big Apple are in order before I’ll hear the magic words I crave: “Mom, I love New York!”
I can’t wait.