Friday, November 25, 2011

I Love New York


We are just back from New York City and my girls are playing on the floor of the motel room with their American Girl dolls. If you don't know American Girl, you probably don't have daughters or you're a sensible shopper. American Girl makes outrageously priced dolls packaged the way Steve Jobs would have packaged and sold dolls if he hadn't been busy with computers and i-things. The whole thing is nigh irresistible to my girls and, if truth be told, to their mother and me. The store is several floors of wonder and watching my girls wander through it together, talking about what will be the best toys for their girls (dolls) and how something will or will not work for them, is the purest kind of pleasure I know.

I understand the contradiction in the facts that I find pure joy in watching them acting the part of consumers, but that's not really the whole picture. What I love is seeing them so happy and so together. They talk, they consider, they plan as partners in a way that I think they are bound to remember or, at least, continue through their lives. I find this irresistible and, holding my wife's hand, leaning in to listen as she whispers in my ear about the two of them, and then smiling together I realize that there isn't anything more that I need or want in this life than to follow behind them as they make their way through the world.

New York is becoming their city in a way that makes me proud of the ways in which we are raising them. Though I was a life-long resident of New York State, I didn't make it to the city until I was twenty-two. I wasn't courageous as a child or as a young adult. New York seemed beyond my abilities. It was too big, too busy, and too unfamiliar. I thought that I was somehow not able to make it work. I thought wrong.

Now I drive through Manhattan happily and confidently. I know my way around (how hard is it on a grid). And I feel sure bringing the family there. Of course, my wife, a life-long downstate resident has long been comfortable in the city and has always planned to bring our girls there. This is now something like our fifth or sixth visit and this time, more than others, I could see that they have become confident with themselves there. What took me twenty-two years, they have each found in themselves within their first decade.

New York is a big city, obviously, and it has everything that I could ever ask for in a destination. I've yet to ever have a bad time there even the time that my wallet was stolen and I missed the first three songs of Rent (original cast!) because of it. There is just too much goodness and excitement. I'm unlikely to ever run out.

More than all that, I find that I'm big enough for New York and that my capacities for joy seem to be growing as I pass farther into my forties. At forty, I was a lost soul, grabbing at straws, believing in fool's gold, and making mistakes large, small, and gigantic. Looking back, I'm embarrassed by forty through forty-two. I never thought midlife would strike me down so hard. But thinking of it now, I have to laugh a little at how much I thought I knew compared with how much I realize that I failed to understand. There's still so much that I don't understand. Happily, now I realize some of that and I realize that all the answers are in following in my daughters' footsteps, holding my wife's hand, and being calm inside my own mind.

New York, you see, is just a tremendously large and busy metaphor for love and I return to it over and over again, bringing my girls, walking beside my wife, and putting my one foot in front of the other. I don't feel tension in New York, I don't think about what I have to do next or what I have done, I am simply standing on whatever street or avenue and moving forward to wherever I need to go next.

My girls would tell you that their home in New York City is American Girl Place and they can tell you the address. Drop them just about anywhere in Manhattan and they can navigate their way to the store. These days they make a beeline for it only occasionally looking at the things they pass by. But with each trip they notice more and more of the city around them. Soon enough they will casually stroll, looking at people passing by, listening to the taxis gunning their engines through the intersections, and feeling a quiet peace that only a noisy city can bring. They will feel at home wherever they happen to be.

Perhaps, like me, they will think of their family, the ones they truly love as they revel in each step they take through the city that speaks to them of life, and family, and the purest kinds of love. And like me, but hopefully long before they turn forty-three, they will realize that this kind of love is all they will ever need.

I love New York. Write on.