My 7-year-old nephew told me yesterday in his adorable voice that it was awkward when I was crying at the table at the Mexican restaurant in Times Square. I knew it was and it was not how I imagined our day would end.
I started the day off so strong. The kids and I took the train from Westchester where my sister lives outside of the city to Grand Central Station. We bought a Metro Card and then took the 4 5 6 line downtown to Union Square. I even took the opportunity to teach Simon some street smarts when he was afraid of a guy on the subway yelling obscenities.
Bam. I felt like it was back. I lived in the city for a very brief window in my 20’s and I was still a city girl. When my other sister who met us from Oregon texted me not long after to see if I could take her 7 year old twins with us after the 2 o’clock School of Rock musical because she was going to fly to Nashville to see our dad who was sick, this New Yok city savvy girl did not hesitate.
Our plan was to leave School of Rock and head uptown to the Shake Shack and then to watch the balloons being inflated for the Macy’s Day Parade. Maybe we would even check out the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. Bam. I was so confident that morning but when I walked out of the musical into Rush Hour at dusk in New York City the night before Thanksgiving with double the amount of kids I usually was in charge of; I began to feel like a tourist.
I knew the one chance to hold onto my city girl savvy was to hop on the subway and take it uptown; but the line to add money to our Metro Card was long and I could not stop imagining the scary man from the morning yelling at my wide-eyed niece and nephew. I started feeling very claustrophobic. So then I decided to try to find a taxi. I held my nephew’s hand and Zoe had my niece’s hand but with thousands of cars and people whizzing by and the noise of the city, it was hard to focus and impossible to find a taxi. Every few seconds I would panic and yell out “where are Harry and Claire?” Thank goodness Claire had on a hot pink coat.
We were able to finally catch a taxi but it was one of those taxi bikes with a carriage behind it. I was up for it because I felt like it was our only way out but it was one of those parenting moments when your kids act like the police and make you feel like you have the worse judgement ever. They all four said strongly that it was unsafe and not legal (?) so this is when we found ourselves in a Mexican restaurant in Times Square. It looked fun and funky from the outside but they took us to the windowless lower level that smelled like the subway. I think it is where they put the tourists and it fit our mood anyway.
I wanted a margarita and I was regretting that I ever went to the Freedom from Chemical Dependency talk at my kids school a couple weeks ago where they said it was OK to have a drink or two around our kids as long as we did not make it seem like we really needed it. I really needed it so I ordered water instead.
My 14 year old was giving me the look and everyone looked as deflated as those Macy’s Day floats were before this afternoon. I tried to rally the audience so it would not be obvious that I truly imagined there was no way out of this Mexican restaurant basement. “OK guys raise your hand if you are grumpy and sad” I said. “I am. I am just going to say it. I am grumpy and sad.” I wanted to add many other word but I was trying to keep it PG.
At this point pretty much no one was talking at all and my 14 year old was angrier by the second. My kids were at each other's throat. My nephew Harry was the only one who I could kind of get to smile because obviously he was sensing awkward was about to come. He was right. Zoe said she wished she were in Houston’s with her dad’s family. She knew this was going to be a horrible trip. And this is when my tears came and Harry suggested we should get our food to go.
I did not want to give up on our uptown plans but I knew we had to call it a day. I dragged my very unhappy niece and nephew and kids through Times Square to Grand Central. With heads down, no one noticed the lights of Times Square around them. We got our train passes and headed to the track to wait for the train.
When we arrived at the track, we saw a dog that looked identical to our puppy Benji at home. It was the cute furry face we all needed to see and even Zoe smiled. The couple that owned the dog was so friendly and Simon, who was just getting back into magic tricks for the first time since Jay died, asked if he could show them a magic trick.
On the train, a group of a few heavily buzzed middle-aged couples sat next to us. It was obvious they were having fun and Simon sensing they would be a good audience asked if he could show them a trick. One trick turned into several and $50 later in Simon’s pocket, Simon's fans were making so much noise, the man collecting tickets had to tell everyone to be quiet and to that, our new friends responded “but it’s an 11 year old doing magic. Watch him do a trick.” Simon did and even that brought a half smile to his face.
“You should let your son drop out of school and do this for a living” our drunken friends said who by at this point knew Simon by name. “Where’s your dad, Simon?” they asked. Yes that too was an awkward moment but it was OK. It's healthy to put the truth out there even if it is awkward.
I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself this year looking up from what feels like a very low bottom and having absolutely no idea how to get up. I felt this way exactly in the basement of the Mexican restaurant. Somehow we made it to the train where a cute fuzzy face and complete strangers began to pull us out and inflate hope into our exhausted bodies and the next day, still feeling deflated, my brother-in-law took Simon for a bike ride and Zoe for a driving lesson and my sister fed us our yummy first Thanksgiving without Jay and Simon entertained us with his magic with the help of his older cousin and his other older cousin and boyfriend played the piano and sang a litttle Elton John and we laughed.
Everyone told me this would be a year of firsts. Maybe it's because I am not a big fan of Thanksgiving food but I have not been feeling much of an appetite for this holiday as it approached and I was not looking forward to a first serving of it. I never know how to get through these firsts and if I think too far ahead, it is overwhelming but somehow I found myself in bed that night with both kids by my side and although I wished it was different for us all, I was inflated for the moment and decided I would be content for now on to call myself a tourist. After all, we are all just visiting, right?
New York by Ryan Adams, Pic in NYC a couple years ago