We went to New York this weekend. Harlan had been there to shoot over the past two years, but it was my first time since Aidan was born.
The last time I was in New York, the town that I considered home for 13 years, I was pregnant and doing book readings and it all felt overwhelming. I was glad that I no longer lived in the noisy, dirty city where you constantly schlep stuff.
This trip, however, made me nostalgic. I didn’t even get a chance to wander around my old neighborhood. (We were supposed to have brunch with my sister at one of my favorite restaurants, the Yuca Bar, on Sunday, but Aidan took an unprecedented almost three-hour nap and I joined him for an hour and a half of it and by the time we woke up, it was too late to go all the way to the East Village and all the way back to Chelsea, where we were staying with my saintly friend Dana, to try to get on the road back to Boston by 4:30, which was the plan.)
Even without an East Village visit, I felt in love with New York all over again. On Saturday morning, I took Aidan to the Chelsea Diner on W. 23rd Street for their fresh strawberry pancakes, which are amazing, and then we wandered down to the West Village and gawked at the cobblestoned cuteness and bought strawberry apple juice and one crisp, perfect Fuji apple at the small farmers market at Abingdon Square and sat on a bench outside Café Angelique and watched people and marveled at how stylish they all were. Well, I marveled while boo snoozed in the sun. Did I mention that it was a perfect, sunny day? A bit cold in the shade but delicious in the sun, which is why I didn’t get my butt off the bench for almost an hour.
The coolest thing that happened all weekend was my sister, Katya, got married. Her boyfriend, Luis, came to the States from Cuba on a fiance visa and they had to get married by the middle of March and were having a tough time pulling the trigger, so our weekend jaunt provided the perfect impetus to just go for it.
We had planned to leave Boston by 8, but didn’t actually hit the road until 9, then had to stop by Harlan’s office to pick up the camera equipment he’d checked out for the shoot he was doing in New York (a web pilot for Dana, the reason for our trip) and didn’t end up on the highway until 10. We were all scheduled to meet at City Hall at 2. Needless to say, we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper on the Cross-Bronx Expressway and kept everyone waiting for an hour and had to change our clothes in some underground parking garage that charged us $32 for the privilege. (My sister was worried pics of me pulling my dress over my head would wind up on some naked pregnant babe fetish site!)
It was worth every minute and every dime. We made our glorious way through a sea of beaming brides in white taffeta dresses, their nervous grooms and, in some cases, entire families. As Dana said, the marriage hall on a crowded, sunny afternoon is a documentary in the making. The ceremony lasted about 40 seconds—and I whimpered for every last one of them. The words, “I do,” uttered with genuine emotion, get me every time.
After they’d flashed their blissful grins and ringed fingers to the camera, we feasted at my favorite Vietnamese joint (and one of my favorite restaurants), Pho Nha Trang, and that was it. My sister’s a married woman!
Aidan was amazingly well-behaved all weekend. As long as we were out of the house, that is. At Nha Trang, he ate nothing but white rice, which he shoved into his water cup until it had all overflowed and then proceeded to drink the remaining water out and eat the rice, which might sound messy, but the boy was totally distracted and happy for the entire hour or so he sat perched in his high chair. He loved both trips we took to the diner (also went there for lunch with Luis and Katya on Sunday) and gorged on buttery toast with grape jelly and french fries with ketchup.
The only challenge was hanging out at Dana’s place, a beautiful two-bedroom on 23rd Street. He loved it there. There were no real toys, except the cars and stuffed animals we’d brought along, but he squealed while repeatedly climbing the back of an armchair and flinging himself onto the seat and running around with all the pens and pencils in the house and opening every drawer and cupboard and taking the tops off all the vitamin bottles. For the first 24 hours, all seemed okay. We thought, God, our little guy’s so great, he can handle himself anywhere. And then one night he broke a glass, spilled white paint on the floor, colored on the Noguchi coffee table in purple crayon and then—the coup de grâce—when I took his clothes off for a bath, he ran screaming into the living room and peed on the floor.
I lost my temper a bunch of times, but Harlan told me it wasn’t boo’s fault. It was ours. Boo doesn’t know not to drop the glass holding the pencils, lifesavers and whiteout on the floor. He doesn’t know why it’s more appropriate to play with toy cars than computer plugs or ceramic vases, but we know better than to let him play with them.
Every new situation with a toddler is a learning experience and we’ve got to keep ourselves open to learning the lessons offered. When he grabbed a bag of gummy bears out of the purse of a visiting friend and threw them all up in the air to watch them rain down on the shag rug, I almost lost it. Dana’s friend—the mother of a nine-year-old—grabbed a plastic bag and said, “Hey, let’s see how many we can find and put in this bag together.” It’s a game Aidan and I often play at home when he spills crackers or scatters a box of candles or incense or puzzle pieces, but somehow when he was messing up my friend’s house I lost all perspective and forgot I was dealing with a two-year-old, who doesn’t know any better and just wants to play.