First-Time Adventures in the Big Apple


NEW YORK CITY! YESSSSSSS! This trip much anticipated since last summer, our granddaughters, Jain and Sofia, could hardly wait to fly east for their very first visit to the Big Apple. But before that trip would come to fruition, their first days of vacation were spent relaxing after a long red-eye flight from California to Connecticut. After the delightful, unexpected attention their 92-year-old great-grandfather received from a group of middle-aged women (see last week's post) and the good-natured ribbing he took from all of us, things settled down and we spent quieter moments with him and their auntie Lynn.

The first thing our daughter was curious about were the newly redecorated rooms of my husband's childhood home: carpeting gone and wood floors resurfaced, fresh paint upstairs and down, new furniture in the living room. Poppa and my sister-in-law Lynn did a great job, although I think my daughter would have preferred that everything remain the way she remembered it from her childhood! Quality time was spent looking through old family photos, driving around the countryside of the southern and eastern parts of the state, listening to Jain play her viola and enjoying our traditional game of UNO as we rested and saved our energy for our upcoming trip to NYC.

NYC! Jain and Sofia were beyond excited! Jain even had a special outfit to wear. And a hat. The little fashionista! Very early on a Monday morning we drove to New Haven and took the train into that huge, sprawling metropolis. Coming up from the tracks into Grand Central Station is still a riveting experience for me. I especially love the ceiling there. It is just spectacular! I regret now that I didn't register the girls' reaction.

First up was a jaunt to Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park. Our daughter, Katie, pointed out NBC Studios, where one of her all-time favorite shows, "Saturday Night Live," is taped. We passed by Radio City Music Hall and the New York public library, and Jain, our young fashion designer, recognized the green in Bryant Park on which Fashion Week activities were once held. Naturally, she had to pose and model, imagining her own designs being featured there some day.

In Times Square, we pointed out the spot where the ball drops on New Year's Eve. The girls were fascinated by all the flashy advertising, the lights, the sights, the neon Broadway signs — everything that is typical New York City!

On we went by subway to the Battery to gaze out at the Statue of Liberty. We would have taken the ferry to see Lady Liberty, but didn't want to spend the time getting over and back when we had so much else to explore. Tom and I did, however, want to make sure the girls understood the family's connection to the statue. A poetry contest held in 1883 for the statue's dedication was won by Emma Lazarus, the well-known poet and advocate for the rights of immigrant Russian Jews. Emma, as it turns out, is related to my husband, Tom, on his mother's side. The last lines of that sonnet are achingly relevant today, with all the news of so many refugees from other lands seeking safe harbor. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Would that we take these best known lines of Emma's poem to heart and, like her, be advocates for immigrants everywhere; for people who just want to "breathe free" and live in peace.

Continuing along the New York waterfront, two more very important structures came to our attention. In the distance we could see the Freedom Tower, erected in memoriam of the fallen World Trade Center buildings. At first glance, my heart stopped for a split second, I drew in a sharp breath and offered up a prayer for the many souls lost and lives affected in that horrifying tragedy. Rising up much closer to where we were standing was the Korean war memorial, in itself a remarkable statement to freedom. Carved out of the center of a 15-foot-high piece of black granite is the image known as "the Universal Soldier." Standing on one side of this stele, viewers can look right through him and see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance! The monument also serves as a functional sundial, indicating the exact moment of the Korean conflict ceasefire. Every July 27 at 10 a.m., the sun shines through the soldier's head, illuminating a commemorative plaque at the foot of the statue. We discovered this information long after they'd gone home when my father asked about the significance of the way the monument was carved. I wish now we had been able to point this out to the girls at the time. It would have made the monument so much more meaningful. The juxtaposition of these two edifices for me was like the phoenix of hope and peace rising from the ashes of death and destruction. And the Statue of Liberty was there in the distance standing strong, representing freedom for all. I didn't think about it when we were there, but it would have been a great teachable moment to ask the girls what these individual monuments — the Statue of Liberty, the Korean war monument and Freedom Tower — meant to them. Reading this post, I hope they and their mama will have the opportunity to do just that, for I believe it will impart a deeper appreciation of their ancestor, Emma Lazarus, and make her poem engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty come alive for them.

Next week I will continue with the tales of our adventures in the Big Apple. Until then, gentle readers, please share what special moments you had with your grandchildren this summer. And remember what Grampy always says ...