A brand new start of it
A New York minute is so at odds with a toddler minute. True in both cases the goal is to cram in as much in as possible, but to New Yorkers, toddlers are always in the way. Though little kids want to run and bounce off walls, they don't want to hurry. As my friend Morning put it, being with a toddler is great as long as you're not rushing. A cousin of mine, once she had kids, gave up meeting people at definite times all together; it's really the only sensible thing to do. Like in the Halloween post, "I'll see you out there sometime in the late afternoon."
I was trying to buy diapers recently, and the store did not have any left on the rack of the kind I wanted, even though the price was listed. The guy working there said he'd go look in the back if I could wait. I would normally have tried another store, but that's the only one that has the Earth Friendly (supposedly) kind. So I waited. Then later when I was a few minutes late to meet Hein I told her that the guy had asked, "Can you wait?".
"Can you wait?" Hein repeated, incredulously. "He's asking if a New Yorker can wait? Of course not. It doesn't matter if you have anywhere you have to go. The answer is always no."
So that is a central collision. New Yorkers cannot wait for anything. Trains, vodka gimlets, movies, news, answers, Chinese food. Whatever they want has to be there that second. Yet with a little kid you are always waiting. Waiting to get out of house (captured perfectly in link Rhonda sent a while back), waiting for crying to stop so you can sleep, waiting for them to finish putting their pants on. On the one hand, there's the expectation that your bagel order no matter how complex with tofu-lite cream cheese, half toasted, sliced tomato, salt no pepper, will be ready in the 10 seconds it takes for you to walk from the guy who took the order to the guy taking your money. On the other is a preschooler who is somehhow still chewing the half peanut butter & jelly sandwich no crusts she started eating an hour ago. Move or you'll get run over versus you better have the patience of a saint or you'll start banging your head into walls. And in so many ways that I've mentioned before this blog, New York just doesn't seem a natural place for kids to get to be kids. As my friend's mom put it when describing how they moved from Park Slope, where my friend was born, to Massachusetts, raising a kid in New York did not fit her vision of an "american childhood".
It was in the rushing, pushing, dark, I-can't-stand-New York mood that I set off with Wally for sensory gym on Tuesday morning. In this same mood that I glared back at all the people who gave exasperated looks that I was taking up too much space carrying the stroller up and down the subway stairs by myself. But then, after the gym, we stepped out into this pale beautiful New York morning on the edge of Central Park. There was that great hot dog vendor smell. (I have been a vegetarian since I was 6 -- Eliana's age -- with no slipups that I know of except the accident of anchovy-stuffed olives on my French foreign study. Yet I still really love the smell of certain things -- bacon, hot dogs, and sometimes whatever is cooking on holiday dinners.)
The air felt so perfect, warm enough for t-shirts but in a kind of magical, sleight of hand way, like you knew any second that perfectly comfortable feeling would vanish. I let Wally loose and he ran around on the statue of Columbus, pointing at the boats with the musical names that pleased him. As he stepped around the guys who sleep out there, he said, "Be careful", a reminder to himself not to step on them, or to the guys not to roll off the giant concrete steps, or maybe both. College girls interviewing business people eating an early lunch were laughing at Wally as he darted through their conversations. The fountains were in full swing. It was great in that crazy way New York moments are great. I was able to even step back for a second and think about where we were. Walk a few minutes in any direction and we'd have hit the Natural History museum, the MOMA, Lincoln Center, the Plaza Hotel, and of course all of Central Park stretched out before us. And the great thing is how I've been enjoying these things again, going to museums and parks I haven't been to in ten years. Making time for things I haven't done since first moving to the city. When I was telling my friend Anon that having a baby was the impetus for NYC Take 2 and that we were off to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that morning, he wrote this:
"Love how babies love the classics: parks, botanical gardens, zoos, old fashioned ice cream, pizza places... there is something a little "last american childhood" in their natural inclinations."
Certainly plenty of those to be found a stone's throw from any block you happen to be on in old New York. Perhaps in this city of millions of people fighting their way through cavernous streets, this little unrushed 2-year-old, one who wakes up (so ridiculously early) every day in the city that never sleeps, will have to be my guide.