But fall break at work this year fell on the same week as I.'s two day school week, so I decided to put aside my resentment to take a day off and take my son to New York. I offered him the choice between the Cloisters and the MoMA. He chose the MoMA.
My parents would take us into the city once or twice a year when I was growing up, and I remember it as a stressful (because it inevitably involved my parents fighting over parking and directions and plans) but magical adventure. Once a year, we'd stand in line to see the windows decorated for Christmas, gaze in wonder at the tree at Rockefeller Center. And some other time, if we were lucky, we'd get dressed up to get last-minute tickets to see a show. My father, inexplicably, loved Broadway.
I discovered the museums myself, in high school, on class trips, and tried to go when I could throughout college, when I had access to the train. I learned then to love the trip in almost as much as I loved the visit to the city itself: watching the neighborhoods change, imagining the lives of the people whose backyards opened onto the tracks.
When my son was old enough, I started to take him, too: to shows (for kids), to the Met, to the Museum of Natural History. He loved trains as much as I did, and was always a delightful companion.
My daughter, who has less patience for long rides of any sort, and less interest in sitting still in a theater or contemplating any sort of display, made our trips the the city more complicated. We take her along sometimes, but when we can, we go alone, just the two of us.
We arrived too early to get in to the MoMA, so we had a decadent hot chocolate and macaron breakfast at La Maison du Choclat, and then walked down towards Rockefeller Center, where to our delight, they were unloading the enormous Christmas tree from a tractor trailer with two cranes. We gawked with the other tourists until we were too cold, and then continued our walk north back to the MoMA, where we spent the day marveling at the Picasso sculptures, and at the Applied Design exhibit, at objects where art and architecture collide. We talked about art, and about cities, and about poverty and homelessness and the waste of so many plastic lunch bags in office buildings and the people whose job it was to put up Christmas decorations.
It couldn't have been more perfect.
On the way home, in the quiet car, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm of the wheels on the tracks, I was reminded of a song I heard when I was sitting with my son in a cafe downtown five years ago, before his sister was born, when we used to go and get a bite to eat and watch the passersby. On first listen, it sounds like a song describing two lovers on the last train home, but it turns out that the lyricist wrote it after a trip to New York with his mother, realizing for the first time that his mother would some day leave him, but somehow also holding time still, knowing that for the moment, that space together was enough.
I hope that someday, my son will hold on to moments like this, too, the moments when I'm exactly the parent I've always hoped I could be, when we're together on the last train home.
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