Even if I go again someday, my first trip to the Big Apple was an event of such epic proportions that I came away from it a totally new girl - pretty impressive since I'm now officially an antique!
But it wasn't so much the big city or crowds, or even the amazing food and art experienced there that made my escape to New York so refreshing. It was the people I was with. A family so different, and yet so incredibly similar to my own, that I couldn't help but fall in love with them. I was their fortunate guest, along with Firstborn --- which makes sense since it was El Boyfriend's family.
When they first asked us to join them, we were both more than hesitant. It's awkward being the"have-nots" mooching off the "haves". Firstborn and I both tend to feel undeserving of extravagant gifts. That is not to say we don't enjoy them.... they just make us feel guilty.
But what's a good Catholic without a little guilt, huh?
I actually got over most of my qualms by being the only member of our household not to succumb during what seems to be our yearly major flu epidemic. Nothing like nursing achy, feverish, puking family members for several endless, exhausting days to make you feel like you've earned a vacation. (If you've seen the post about last Lent, well, that was tame by comparison.)
El Boyfriend, who has been on the scene since her sophomore year, worked on convincing Firstborn. His argument? Since she couldn't visit Mexico to spend time with his family, this was the next best thing. Combined with the rationale that if she saw any potential future with him, she should see if she could fit comfortably into his world (logical Momster input), he finally convinced her.
By the time our departure date arrived, we both began the adventure excited and bubbly. El Boyfriend and his sister Princessa, also a boarding student here, traveled with us, and needless to say as I chauffeured, none of the homework that was expected to be done during the ride to the airport was. I relinquished my role of helicopter mom the moment we got there, becoming instead a gaping tourist.
Not counting a trip to the Midwest when she was still a toddler, this was Firstborn's first flight, but she took it all in stride. I, on the other hand, was giddy over the Airtrain, subway, and my first ever cab ride, following wherever El Boyfriend led like a puppy on a leash. We met up with the rest of his family at a high-rise hotel overlooking Times Square. An array of Mexican confections had been laid out in welcome, and we couldn't have been greeted more enthusiastically.... making me realize I 've got a whole lot to learn about hospitality.
We did more in a few short days than I would have ever dreamed possible. And certainly more than Firstborn and I would've been able to do on our own. But rather than bore you with an endless sightseeing litany, here are a few highlights of the trip....
Oh, the lights! The WIND!
Liberty Island, missing the boat, and that famous photo wall
Playing at FAO Schwartz
Morning at the MOMA
The Barber at the Met
No more photos, please!
Dinner at midnight and more friends
Mass at St. Pat's
Baby, it's cold outside!
Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum
Lost on the subway
... and here's a poem I began the first evening:
Times Square below,
gracious hosts asleep in the room next door,
I look out upon the
simply amazed that I am here.
Me - nearly 50! – living a girlhood dream. And yet…
how ironic to be dependent on hospitality from south of the border,
enjoying fruit plucked by foreign hands,
while elsewhere in this great land of opportunity
my countrymen put guns into the hands of Mexico’s native sons,
and fence Her daughters out.
Tomorrow we will visit a memorial inscribed with names from around the world,
hollows in the ground where once stood Twin Towers,
absence where trade and commerce once unified, a job now left to tragic memory.
We will see Lady Liberty, though our hearts won’t race with the same anticipation
as did the huddled masses’ awaiting America’s embrace.
We will pose for photos,
hoping that snapshots of Battery Park, New York Harbor, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
will capture the echo of liberating freedom surrounding us.
We will eat sushi, see an Italian opera,
view paintings by Flemish/Spanish/French masters,
each experience highlighted by the easy laughter of friendship- no!- make that sisterhood.
As middle-aged offspring of both North and South
who must return eventually to our respective lives and borders,
let’s linger a while in this American Mecca- this melting pot,
drinking in the sights,
feasting on such pleasant company,
enriched and oh! - so young again.
Everyone expects the "small town girl goes to the big city and discovers there is so much more to life" scenario. But how often does someone my age, born and bred in the sticks, but living on a mountain by choice, not circumstance, head for the bright lights to get away from it all ---- and come back refreshed and appreciating her rural life anew?
Never, that's when! People my age head to the hills or the beach to rejuvenate. We go where the people aren't. Or if we do go to the city, we stay put.
To my hosts, I can never thank you enough. Whatever the future holds for Firstborn and El Boyfriend, we will always be friends.....