Though I’ve never lived in Manhattan, I feel at home in its hustle and bustle. I walk fast, talk fast, eat fast and I fit right into this fast-moving place. I got engaged and married here to someone who grew up in New York. And now I have loads of wonderful family members throughout the state.
I feel very alive amidst the city’s sounds and noises, the sirens and honking and general cacophony. And I love sharing my excitement with my kids. Sure, it’s a little disconcerting explaining to my 7-year-old why the man on the corner is screaming obscenities at every passerby. Nor do I relish answering questions about why people are huddled in some doorways with threadbare blankets while we, wrapped in coats and hats and scarves, hurry by heading for the next warm place.
But this is New York City, raw and unedited and filled with all the ugliness and harshness that’s generally hidden from my kid’s suburban eyes. But along with that are the wonders — the man-made beauty with its towering buildings, the endless diversity of both people and sights and the thrill of just being in this incredibly alive city which offers culture and chaos all at once.
Things aren’t hidden away in New York. It’s all out there for everyone to see. It’s a good reminder of how big and disparate the world is. Sometimes it’s easy to start thinking life is only what you see each day and it’s good to get out there and see examples of people living so many different kinds of lives.
As a vacation spot, there are lots of great things to do with the kids. We ice skated in Central Park (much better than the huge lines for Rockefeller Center and the time limit they set for ice skating there), took in the gorgeous holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman, saw a kids show, stumbled almost by mistake into Ripleys Believe it or Not (yes, my 4-year-old ran from the shrunken head display screaming, “I don’t want them to shrink my head!” Great parenting moment).
Outside the museum we were treated to a show where a man hammered a nail into his nose. Daniel loved this. Sarah and I thought it was gross but she couldn’t wait to tell every single relative all about it in great detail later on.
For me, though, it’s not about what you do in this city. It’s simply about being there and appreciating all of it. So when my sister in law asked, “Do you see the city through your kids eyes?” I laughed and said that they probably saw it through mine since I’m like a great big kid when I’m there. I’m the one saying, “Look at that guys! Look at this! Wow, this is so cool.” And my kids are the ones saying, “Why do we have to walk more? Why can’t we go back to the hotel?”
But I must admit that after two days of being out in those busy streets, I was done. This place can wear the most energetic of people out. I was more than ready for some suburban Long Island calm.
And though I was excited when when my son stood in the middle of all the madness and said, “Mom, I think I’m a city guy” and proud when my 4-year-old daughter hailed a cab, I didn’t look back as we drove away and the city receded into the distance.
Lauren Menis is a Dunwoody mother whose column appears in The Crier each month. You can reach Lauren at Lauren.Menis@gmail.com