Maria pointed up toward a building yesterday and announced:
"Look, Mami, a broken building!''
Actually, that's called a "fire escape.''
Welcome, Maria – smallish town girl – to New York City. For the first time since infant-hood.
And as I write this in the warm safety of my brother's house in Jersey, this Mami is breathing deeply that she didn't lose her kid in Penn Station or Central Park, and glad the big girl got a first-hand look – if a quick one – at New York.
As we departed yesterday morning, making our way through notorious Jersey traffic to the train station, I reminded my little runner that her mother would absolutely freak out should she slip away from me. I never used to be so nervous and though I spent much of my late teens and early 20s hanging out in New York at all hours of the day and night, I had to catch my breath a few times just thinking of managing the city with a pre-schooler. (Yes, I was what New Yorkers call "Bridge and Tunnel.'' Eighties big hair and all.)
My worry was all for naught, though. She held my hand in the station, jumped from train car to train car with native expertise as we searched for the bathroom, and stayed close enough as we walked through Central Park with the friends we were visiting.
I encouraged her to look up at the bigness before her, pointed out the lights of Times Square as we zoomed through in the cab, and asked her to notice how different a place New York is than her own hometown. I told her I hope this glorious city is one she'll visit often.
It was dark when we got back to the train station in New Jersey. We took the scary, smelly elevator down to street level before I realized we were on the wrong side of the tracks and a few blocks from where we parked. I admit to a slight panic as I looked down the dark street trying to figure out just how to get to the other side. We walked a few paces and then I thought better of it. I felt vulnerable and very much a tourist. I told her I wasn't sure where we were going. So, we went back up to the platform and asked a woman for help. In a few minutes, to my great relief, we reached the car.
As we made our way toward my brother's, Maria said "Mami, thank you for taking me to New York City today.''
"What was your favorite part?'' I asked, expecting to hear "ice cream'' or "playing'' or "seeing dinosaurs.''
"Getting lost with you,'' she said.
Nice to know my light is brighter than New York's.