Our drive to New York redefined road trips for me. It was quiet. There was room for my feet. The car air was not tainted with the scent of diaper. I had packed our favourite picnic foods: Havarti, chorizo, olives, baguette. . . And the quiet offered us an opportunity to get lost in an audio book. At the border, I felt that familiar knot of nerves in my stomach. But the guard asked me what I did for a living. "Mother of five," I said. "Well," he laughed, and ushered us through to our vacation.
We arrived at 6:30, or so, and were met by Micah and Ellie at the door. Susanna said she had told them they could stay up until we arrived. Those kids are irresistible. Ellie wasted no time in scampering into our laps. She was especially taken with Aidan-- even with his dark beard. It was very easy to settle right in.
My first day was a Brooklyn day. A rainy, chilly Brooklyn day. Susanna and I wandered up 7th with the two girls. We popped into an art store. Then a linen store. And her favourite coffee place. I was very impressed with the relationships she has established with the local shop owners. She knows lots of them by name, and takes a genuine interest in their lives. That's how community is built.
That evening we were gifted with a night on Broadway. Sus and I had decided to see Phantom of the Opera. Without having ever known what the story was about, I have always shied away from it because I suspected it had a dark plot line. It did, indeed. But I was moved deeply by it.
The Majestic theater was heaving with huge touring groups when we arrived. We were swept up in a tide and squeezed into the front lobby. May I just say, all of my veteran-usher sensibilities were affronted by the rudeness of the "ushers" of The Majestic. First, we were rampaged by a frizzy blond woman who seemed angry that we were there at all. "Wait for me!" she growled, even though we hadn't moved an inch. Then she pushed us back out into the main lobby, (even though our seats were about five rows from where we stood,) making fun of Susanna as she went.And just as we were piecing together our dignity, we were met by another usher who was bristling with irritation and directing patronizing comments towards a pair of Asian girls who were having a hard time finding their seats.
Thank goodness music transports.
All was immediately forgotten when the performance began. Truly, it was deeply moving, and I couldn't reign in a few shivers. I could have been lost in the depth of the darkness of the story, but my mind kept being held in check by the truth of the human experience-- that without God, the mind is a prison without comfort or direction. So many people in this world are trapped in isolation and loneliness. I found myself praying over the audience and the City: Be free!
We wandered into Times Square on the way home. I was blasted by neon. An important lesson I filed away for future days of New York travels: There is nowhere to pee in New York City! I was told 'no' again and again. I made a mental note to drink less coffee for the rest of my stay, or I might find myself in an awkward situation.