I spent this past weekend in Manhattan.
It was not so much to see the city, to which I'd been many times B.C. (Before Children), but to meet Edwin, my friend whom I hadn't seen in ten years. Because we now live in different countries, we've been trying to find each other in various cities around the world but year after year went by without our schedules cooperating. This summer, the stars finally aligned and it was "Oh, you're going to be in NYC? We can meet! Okay, I got my ticket. I'll see you next month! Woohoo! Waitwaitwait... I've got kids. And someone has to watch them. Ooops. Uh..."
No, it wasn't quite as dramatic as that. This friendship, though, is. It has spanned decades and continents. But more on that later.
Let me begin by saying that having lived -and driven everywhere in my minivan- in Minnesota, I went slightly nuts in the 2 hours it took to get from the airplane runway to the apartment. Air train, walk, E train, walk, 6 train uptown, walk. People everywhere. Street food vendors selling generic edibles. Too many cars per square inch of road. It felt EXACTLY like Singapore, in other words, but with nicer weather.
What was especially lovely about meeting in a city in which we both weren't really tourists - me having done the tourist thing to satiation long ago, and he having lived here in the years while I was here doing said tourist thing - is that we could focus on just talking and eating. There was walking, of course - just so we could transplant ourselves from one eatery to another. And because we were so busy talking and eating, I did a very lousy job with photodocumenting the trip.
Here's probably the only shot of me in a tourist pose. In the rain, no less. And the only reason this photo got taken was because I wasn't the one taking it.
Here follow a series of photos taken with three different cameras (all mine, used according to whichever's battery wasn't dead at the time).
And just to ensure I had something artsy to actually show for this visit (it is NYC after all!), we went to one museum and watched one movie (between eating sessions).
We walked along the High Line to the newly-reopened Whitney Museum
to enjoy art and a lovely sunset (see first photo)
and stopped at various new and old haunts for (as earlier mentioned) food.
Most of our food stops, though, were for sugar. The Magnolia Bakery's caramel cake still gives me goosebumps - it was so good I ate all the icing, when I usually scrape off all the frosting from cakes because they're like cement which someone thought to sweeten and add color to;
and hot chocolate thick as melted ice cream - both hot
There was a little bit of token shopping - although I wasn't in NYC to shop any more than I was there to be a tourist. I made a pilgrimage to Mercer Street for this:
The staff let me take as many pictures as I wanted. Yes, this is a camper.
I am in love with those accent pillows. And the water jug on the shelf. And the print on the lampshade. And the entire retro cabinet. And everything.
I bought only one non-food item for myself during the entire trip -
this binder for my sewing room.
If you make the right kind of friends in your life, they will not only give you fabric as gifts (which Edwin does on a regular basis), but learn to sew so that all your vacations can include a bit of fabric shopping and drafting conversation. And it was after one of these conversations that it was decided: Edwin needed to sew a shirt in the very near future. Because Mood Fabrics (people who watch Project Runway will know which store this is) was closed on the Sunday we wanted to go fabric shopping, we ventured into Brooklyn to the very charming Brooklyn General Store,
which, as the reviews so aptly put it, felt like your grandmother's sewing room.
There, we bought the fabric for the shirt.
I did not buy any fabric. Well done, me. But I fell in love with this toadstool. Wouldn't you?
Shared fabric obsession aside, this is a friend who is game for anything, including forgoing sleep to continue the talking-and-eating. We lay awake into the wee hours of the morning, unpacking our lives in increasingly deeper layers and being completely unsurprised at how much we have changed while staying exactly the same. The thing about psych. people (he's a therapist and I am a lapsed-license counselor) getting together is that we now possess a shared vocabulary with which to define the mysterious and nebulous emotional journeys we navigated in young adulthood. It was a treat not to waste time swopping superficial "how have you been these 10 years?" stories; we could now dive right into the richer strata underneath to swim the currents of catharsis.
While eating strawberries in chocolate fudge ice cream and nutella.
Then it was time to come home, both emotionally drained and revived, as one often is at that moment when one's soul is washed and made quiet. Saying goodbye was such a non-event by comparison - just a hug at the subway turnstile and reminders to "take the E uptown, not downtown!" and "I want to see photos of that shirt when you get it done!" There was no need for a backward glance when you have already found words for the things to say that matter. There will be other meetings, we promised, but -for heaven's sake -sooner than another decade.
As the train sped away, my thoughts turned to what to cook for dinner when I got off the plane in Minnesota. Life goes on, as it must. There are meals to serve, late-night stories to recount to the husband, hugs and kisses to apportion to the girls, sewing patterns to launch, zippered bags to make and teach.
Speaking of the girls, here's a bit of parenthood to share: this being the first time I've been away from home for an extended time since they were born, this trip was a big deal for them. There were tears and lost appetites and heavy hearts and tantrums, and other manifestations of the sorrow of Missing Someone. We'd talked about it and processed their feelings and anxieties beforehand and while I was away, we communicated by cellphone and Facetime. While observing the ebb and flow of their moods, I was tickled by how differently and creatively the three girls coped. One of them threw herself into responsibility, taking on the household chores and comforting her sisters. She emailed me to say, "Now I appreciate how much work you do for us, Mom!" Which made me giggle - there's nothing like your kid admitting, "You told us so." Another diligently journaled what they did during the time I was away and read it to me when I got home. The third made a shopping list and sent me on a kind of scavenger hunt for things to buy, like it was her way of assigning meaning and purpose for the trip beyond "Mom being gone."
Once again, I was reminded that it is exactly because children are so creative that they are also incredibly resilient. We just need to teach them the vocabulary of feelings so they can pull out whatever's deep inside them and process it. Even after being home a whole day, the girls still get the occasional rush of emotion that feels like they're continuing to miss me. I love that they're telling me this while simultaneously admitting that it sounds crazy. In return, I tell them that after their bodies and hearts have gotten used to missing someone, it takes time to stop missing them, especially if that person is precious.
And now it is time to return to work - I have a softie megapattern that you need and something else that I'm excited to launch soon!