Last week we traveled to The Big Apple. Andy ran 26.2 miles from Staten Island through Brooklyn and Manhattan in the New York City Marathon while my children, my in-laws and I cheered him on. He had his best race yet! We then had the pleasure of staying a couple of extra days to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this one-of-a-kind city. You might have figured out by now that I enjoy taking photographs. It is my way of capturing the beauty I see in ordinary, every day moments and expressing my gratitude for the blessings by which I am surrounded. I hope my photos might encourage others to stop, take notice and be thankful and respectful of the world around them. I am not sure my photos are all that good, but it brings me to joy to take them and to go back and look through them, so I guess I doesn’t really matter. Here are some of the beautiful sights we saw throughout our adventures in this truly awesome place. You can view them as a slideshow by clicking on any of the photos. Read more below about what we brought back with us from the big city.
While it was definitely challenging at times to travel through our country’s largest city with three young children in tow, it was worth any bit of frustration we might have experienced. Tromping up and down the stairs of subway stations carrying a folded up stroller in one hand and a toddler in the other and walking blocks and blocks weighed down with a purse full of diapers and snacks was tiring. We were all exhausted by the end of each day. Andy had just run a marathon the day before, for goodness’ sake. But they were all troopers! And the sights we saw and the memories we made will always stay with us.
I had worked in downtown Chicago after college where I lived an exciting urban lifestyle for a few years. But twelve years, three kids and a minivan later I’ve become a bit of a middle-aged, suburban soccer mom. At first, the noise and crowds had some of us in a bit of a culture shock, including me. Rubbing elbows with strangers on the noisy, dirty subway, spending $80 for parking, sirens echoing against the streets of this concrete jungle day and night was all very different from our life in the little village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. We saw and did things we aren’t used to seeing and doing.
We visited playgrounds in Union Square and Central Park that had more children climbing and swinging than there were slides and swings. The bright lights of Times Square were mesmerizing. The beautiful sculptures and paintings we saw at The Metropolitan Museum of Art inspired the artist in all of us. Caroline asked me to take photos of her favorite paintings so she could try to mimic them. I studied the photography exhibits. We heard voices speaking many different languages and saw people from many different places. Every meal was delicious. We saw the city from above, below, far and near.
The kids noticed each of the unfortunate people we passed who were holding signs asking for money and help and who had no place to lay their weary heads at night. We stopped in a fire station whose garage door was open and talked with the fine firemen there who were kind enough to take photos with the kids before showing us the memorial of the ten souls from their station who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Later we visited the 9/11 Memorial where we read some of the names of the nearly 3,000 people commemorated there and watched the fountains flow like a continuous stream of tears.
It was good for my children (and for me) to step out of our little bubble to be reminded that there is so much going on in this big world. Much more than the small, sometimes petty problems, we all tend to complain about now and then. Like when the kids get upset if the ketchup on their plate touches the fruit, or when the new outfit they received for their birthday is too itchy or when little brother gets a bigger scoop of ice cream. I’m guilty of it too. I get caught up in my own little world focused on fitting in my workout, following my diet, baking goodies for PTO, doing crafts with my kids, organizing closets and making my yard look pretty. All worthwhile activities, that are not insignificant because they are things I enjoy and are important in my life. I definitely lose it pretty easily when the kids make a mess of the house I just spent the day cleaning up, when the laundry I just folded is balled up in their drawers, or when the girls miss the buss. So are my kids going to suddenly act like angels, eat all their food and not complain because they felt bad for the homeless person on the street? Sadly, the answer is probably “No.” They’ve already had pretty terrible behavior this week. Can I guarantee that I won’t turn into “Mean Mommy” when the kids are ungracious and bratty? Not necessarily. Since we’ve been home I’ve already told Elizabeth she couldn’t have a birthday party next year because she was complaining about writing thank you notes for the gifts she received this year. It is difficult to be gracious and mindful in the heat of the moment. All we can do is our best.
I do hope that the things we saw in New York City help us to pause in the heat of that moment and remind us that there are people in the world who aren’t as lucky. People who are finding their meals in the garbage at Grand Central Station, with holes in their shoes and dirty clothes on their backs. There are people who awake every day and go to work at the same fire station where their fellow firefighters were called to the scene of terror on 9/11 and never returned. They, and the thousands of others who lost friends and family, live each day with the grief and horrific memories they saw there. My wish is that we can find a way to remind ourselves and our children of this.
We are lucky to live in our spacious house in our quiet little village, surrounded by forests and streams, fresh clean air, and friendly people. We have a full refrigerator, warm beds to sleep in, clean clothes in our drawers, good, affordable schools and we have been blessed with health and happiness. It is fun to travel to the big city and the bright lights now and then to take in the arts and culture and broaden our horizons. Visits like these help remind me to count my blessings and do my best to keep things in perspective.