|M and RH on the streets of Tribeca|
I had managed to appease the children for the time being. Although they knew well enough to remind me at every opportunity that I was supposed to take them from school to the restaurant to the airport, I had concocted a perfect excuse.
|Enjoying New York City|
"Airplanes need to nap when it's raining," I told them. "So the airplane is going to take a little nap, and while the airplane naps, we'll all nap too."
After naptime, we had met up with M for dinner at our restaurant, made a quick stop at Target (yeah, that Target) to pick up the two items I had forgotten to pack, and then made our way to the airport.
Despite all the traffic, and the rain, we arrived pretty much on time for our delayed flight. We found what was probably the best non-handicapped parking spot in the economy lot, and we shuttled all our stuff to the airplane.
I had been led to believe by state laws, FAA regulations, and the airline's own FAQ that we would need the girls' booster seats for the taxi in New York City. And so we were lugging with us three children, a stroller, one car seat, two booster seats, a pack n' play, a suitcase, my purse, M's computer bag, a diaper bag, and each of the girls' backpacks. Oh- and a doll and a care bear.
We took the monorail to our gate, and the girls ooh-ed and aah-ed at the airplanes on the ground en route. They pointed out colors, and squealed with excitement,
We were quite a scene.
|Poppa with RH and her security bread|
We got on the plane and got settled. M was with DD and SI, and I planned to nurse RH through the flight. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to a couple who were taking their first overnight trip without their six month old son. While I red RH, she pumped. Across the aisle from me, M and the girls talked about the wings of the airplane, the cities underneath, everything. All three of them had the time of their lives.
When we started our descent, the city lights of New York came into view. SI began yelling across the aisle to me- "Mommy! I see New York City! It's New York City, mommy! We are in New York City!" I would have hushed her, but everyone in earshot smiled and giggled each time she said it.
When we landed, they wanted to rush off the plane, but I explained we had to wait until we got to the "tunnel" back into the airport. It was already past midnight, and they were finally starting to show it."You have to wait a little longer," I said, "but you girls were airplane rockstars!"
The middle aged man sitting behind SI, the person I would have expected to be most irritated, leaned around the seat. "You WERE airplane rockstars," he added.
As we exited the plane into La Guardia, I was struck as I always am at how different airports can be. La Guardia is old, crowded, and dingy compared to O'Hare, which has gone through a lot of recent renovations. But to the kids? "Wow!" SI exclaimed as we looked at a stained emergency exit door and a cracked floor and some ancient seats with peeling upholstery, "This is such a nice place!"
While waiting for a ride to Brooklyn, the girls admired the pavement. It sparkled. This seemed to confirm every suspicion the girls had that New York City was a magical place. I was vividly reminded of Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon singing about Salt Lake City. The five of us crammed into a taxi, thanks to completely abandoning all hope of using the booster seats for the girls, and it was off to Brooklyn, where my family had rented a condo for the weekend. Ten people in a three bedroom with one bathroom. And the place had some... quirks.
|Playing with glasses|
It was predictably tiny, of course. It had fresh paint, but was mostly very run down. I'm pretty sure the black spots over the shower were mold. There was no living space to speak of, just a three foot wide hallway that led between the bedrooms.
By the time we got the girls to sleep on their lumpy futon, it was almost 3am, local time.
Four hours later, and it was time to get up. We ate, sort of, and bathed, sort of, and climbed into the chartered cars that would take us to the bar mitzvah in Tribeca.
M particularly enjoyed driving through the Lower East Side. He'd never been to New York. I always enjoy New Yorkers walking around completely un-ironically in "I (heart) NY" t-shirts.
I hadn't seen my uncles or cousins since my own wedding, nearly five years ago. It was amazing to be surrounded by them again. So many hugs, so many people picking up my children, hugging, making friends. DD and SI were a little nervous at first, but pretty soon they were getting comfortable with their relatives.
My cousin was phenomenal. He had a kind of rough bit of Torah- all about leprosy and sexist childbirth practices. But he handled himself like an adult, and we were all extremely proud. SI told me that she wanted to read the Torah for her bar mitzvah, too. For the tenth of probably hundreds of times that weekend, I held in tears of joy and felt the warmth of being with my family.
|My cousin becomes a man|
We walked down to the reception along the Hudson river. It was the closest thing we got to sight-seeing while we were there. SI walked with Aunt Something Funny, asking about everything, telling her stories as they went. DD walked with the crowd, swapping hand holding buddies, grinning at dogs, looking up at the buildings.
What I think might be a years-long infatuation with my cousins started up. It's amazing, I remember when I was her age, my parents' younger brothers held the same fascination for me. Adult men, who wanted to play, who played funny games and didn't act like other grown ups. Now I understand it, they weren't like other adults. They were 20 years old.
At the reception, we danced and danced and danced. I did the hora until I dropped. The bar mitzvah boy was, against his better judgement, hoisted up in a chair and celebrated. RH passed out with a dinner roll in her mouth, clutched like her favorite toy for comfort. As she moved from person to person, she would stir, take another bite, and fall asleep again.
M and I danced, DD danced with everyone, I cried and laughed and drank and hugged and took endless photographs. After everyone else had gone, my father's family all remained. My uncles and cousins and sisters and children, the only people left. Talking and laughing on and on.
|RH with her great-uncle S and her great-great aunt E|
We got back to our condo well past seven o'clock, and ate leftover pizza and Grandmommy's South African candies.
My great-aunt gave the girls a copy ofMake Way For Ducklings, inscribed with the promise that when they go to visit her in Boston, they will also ride the swan boats.
The next morning, we awoke later that we'd planned, and I spent a crazed hour repacking everything. We took another car back to Greenwich Village, and spent the morning with my father's family, eating bagels. (BTW- there are NO good bagel shops in Chicago. If it's squishy and fluffy and you can eat it without chewing, it's not a real bagel. Chicago, take note!)
The girls played and played with my cousins and uncles. It was wonderful. My uncles kept telling me how funny it was to them to hear their little arguments, and imagine that it was their mother and grandmother, DD and SI's namesakes, who were squabbling. I imagined my grandma pointing at my great-grandma and exclaiming, "She ate me!" and laughed outloud.
My uncle and aunt played with the kids and a giant bin of action figures. The girls were in awe of the diversity- not just Batman and Superman and the Hulk, but the Thing and the Green Goblin and Poison Ivy and host of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
|Pretending to feed the baby|
While we were there, my SD card became corrupted. I spent a solid hour with the help of Poppa and Aunt Genocide trying to retrieve my images, but to no avail. It seemed all my pictures were gone.
After a rushed dinner of Chinese food, it was another rush into a hired car (a minivan this time, thankfully), and off to the airport once more. In the car, the girls asked me to tell them story after story after story about the Green Goblin, and then other goblins.
All the goblins lived in New York City, and they all made lots of friends and Spiderman was happy.
When we got to the airport, the woman at the check-in recognized us. She had seen us disembark, and went out of her way to make our next flight easier. She changed our seats to the front of the plane, got us priority seating, and helped us rush through security.
Despite our flight home being delayed until after ten o'clock at night, the girls were cheerful and excited all the way onto the plane. As soon as we started taxiing to the runway, RH fell asleep. Moments after we were in the air, it was DD's turn to pass out. Five minutes later, SI.
M and I sat across the aisle from each other in the darkened plane and toasted our journey with a well earned cocktail.
Still, there's an epilogue.
|SI dances with great-uncle S, DD dances with Grandmommy|
When we landed in Chicago, we got off the plane as quickly as possible. We rushed down to baggage claim, but before we could make our way to our monorail M realized- he had left his wallet in the airplane.
He ran as fast as he could to the airline's help desk, leaving me with our mountain of things, RH strapped to my chest, and two overtired kids. It was 12:30 in the morning.
To keep them occupied, I told them the story of our trip.
I told them about two little girls who forgot their lunches, and an airplane that needed a nap, and the sparkly sidewalks in New York City, and their cousin's bar mitzvah, and looking at the Statue of Liberty in the harbor, and dancing and playing with their cousins, and sleeping on the airplane, and then Daddy leaving his wallet on the airplane, and how this was the sad part of the story.
That was when M finally came back, beaming. Miraculously, one of the baggage claim guys was able to go back onto the airplane, and found M's wallet.
Stunned beyond belief, we once again took the monorail, the girls pointing out airplanes and cars and busses out the window, and then drove home again.
The next morning, M went to work and all three children slept in until nearly 10am. I managed to retrieve two thirds of my pictures over the course of the afternoon.
|I couldn't help myself.|
The girls and I watched Tangled, and then we all had mac n' cheese with fake hotdogs and green peas for dinner, and the girls told me all the stories from their trip.
They told me over and over how their cousin said he would come to visit them in Chicago this summer. How they wanted it to be summer now. How they wanted to go to Boston and ride the swan boats with their great-great aunt. I shed a few more tears of happiness and love.
I hope with every fiber of my being that it's not five more years before we're together again.
Best. Weekend. Ever.