Friday, March 18, 2016

Two On The Town

Being an only child for a long time and then getting a sibling can be tough. 6/12 years in Zach's case. I think he may still be in shock from Miss Naia's entrance stage left. I promised myself once she was old enough, I would take him away on a mom-and-Zach-only vacation for some much needed one on one time. He's always been a fabulous travel buddy, even when he was small, so I was looking forward to the ease of roaming about with just one kid. One place he's always wanted to go and I just didn't have the energy to do with Little Force Of Nature is New York City. It's just an easy bus trip away for us, and we have lots of friends in "the city" we could visit and crash with. So away we went.

I was blown away by how easy it is to travel with just one kid. How easy it was to do anything and everything with just one kid. Of course, parents of many would never send the other kids back into the womb, we love them all madly in their own ways. But whoa. So. Much. Easier. Of course part of that is that Naia is still so little. Being on the town with just the big kid meant lovely uninterrupted conversations, no arguments, the amazing freedom of being spontaneous, and we covered so much ground so very quickly.

The NYC subway was a little intimidating at first, especially just glancing at it and comparing it visually to the Candy Land map that is the Washington DC metro. But once I got the 30 second lesson on how it works, it was a snap. Fares are half that of DC Metro, it's super fast, and very safe and easy to use. We were zipping all over Manhattan.

NYC has a reputation for being super expensive, which of course it totally can be. Crashing with friends took care of lodging. Eating simple street food with a lot of pizzas and hot dogs not only made the little boy child happy but kept food pretty cheap. Taking the subway everywhere keeps getting around affordable, and lots of walking of course. And we only did one outing that required pricey tickets. Everything else was just walking and looking and taking it all in.

Zach was impressed by the tall buildings. I grew up in Chicago, so tall buildings are old news for me. But for a kid who's grown up in wee little Annapolis, with Washington DC being the closest big town which also happens to have height restrictions on the buildings... it was quite awe inspiring. He wanted more than anything to go to the top of the Empire State Building, so up we went. 102 floors up, 1250 feet up in the air.

He loved that you could just walk a few blocks in any direction and buy pretty much anything you could ever think of. He loved seeing the swarms of yellow taxis buzzing the endless city blocks. We both loved the people watching and the little street scenes playing out all over the place.

I loved seeing my old friends. There's nothing like old friend to warm your soul. No matter how long it's been between visits, we fall back into that old pattern, comfortable and laughing. These people who know you sometimes better than you know yourself, who you can say anything to, who you can effortlessly travel and eat and wrangle kids with.

My old friend Steve and I worked together many moons ago, he and I traveled the country when I was his producer on HGTV. He has a heart of gold and the best sense of humor ever.  Zach had met him a couple of time when he was younger, but this time they got to hang out and chat more. Steve was infinitely patient with Zach's endless questions and tween-ager sass. Hanging out with Steve and his friends was such a treat, they spoiled us rotten.

Jeremy is one of my oldest friends. We were friends in high school, stayed close through college at different universities, remained friends after college when he moved out east, and I was even a groomsman in his wedding back when I was very pregnant with Naia. He had a solo weekend with his kids, and was kind enough to let us invade his beautiful apartment just off Washington Square Park. It was so heart warming seeing my old pal fall into his role as super dad. And I loved how comfortable we were wrangling our kids tag team, laughing about parenthood and adulthood and how funny this would all seem to our 16 year old selves.

The things that struck me the most about NYC were the energy and spirit of the city. I have always been biased towards Chicago because that's my hometown, but I think I get it now with New York. I get why people are drawn here. Watching guys in a park play a pick up game of basketball, watching kids interact with street performers, seeing the ebb and flow of the subway crowds, people always offering seats to older folks and those who looked like they needed it more. Talking to the folks in a corner store or cafe, hearing their passion so clearly for whatever it is they're doing. Listening to buskers perform an insane variety of music so beautifully it would bring you to tears. Glancing at iconic pieces of pop culture in real life all around you. I get it. There is such an amazing soul to this place. And while I may be too much of a nature girl to ever call NYC home, I think I feel a part of me wanting to go back again and again.

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