Monday, February 21, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 1)

This was written months ago, but it needed to be edited, and I never posted it. After taking a quick pass through, I'm going to upload it, however out of date it is.

There are these moments when we travel, where Brian and I look at each other in horror and wonder what on earth it is we’re trying to prove. It happens early in the trip, as we deal with a tantrum or some discomfort or confusion, and the entire trip seems like a mistake before it’s barely even started.

We went to New York in September and the what-were-we-thinking moment came not too long after we’d made it into the studio apartment we were renting for a week. Brian was there for work for a week, and rather than face seven bedtimes on my own with both girls, we were all there, but I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of our decision as we moved furniture so that the bathroom door could open even when the sofa bed was unfolded, and we dealt with the reality of trying to get the girls to bed when they were in the same room.

But in the morning, once everyone was fed and dressed and Brian was leaving for work, suddenly it seemed fun again. It wasn’t that we were trying to prove anything. It was simply fun to travel and fun to do it with the kids--a new kind of adventure. And with a little apartment and a Starbucks on every corner in a city where I could always find someone who spoke English, it wasn’t a very complicated adventure.

I started out every day the same way--with our typical morning struggles (Adriana is so not a morning person), then Brian leaving for the subway, and a while later, heading out the door with Lyra on my back, Adriana buckling herself into the little umbrella stroller we’d brought, the diaper bag and a bag of snacks hanging from the handles. We’d stop at Starbucks to get a latte for me, vanilla milk for Adriana, and one of those fruit puree packets they’re selling now to make feeding Lyra easy.

Our first full day, Monday, didn’t go exactly as planned. The previous night we’d grabbed some snacks and breakfast stuff at the Fairway a block away from the apartment, but I’d planned on doing the real shopping for the week in the morning. However, when I realized that Brian had left with our only key to the apartment, plans changed: I wasn’t going to buy groceries if I couldn’t put them away. I called Brian and we made plans to have lunch together and hand off the key. I realized that we were only a few blocks up from Lincoln Center, and I figured Adriana would like to see the fountain there on the way to Brian’s office, so we started walking...only to discover when we got there that Gilmore Girls was filming there, and we couldn’t get close to the fountain at all. I used my phone for directions, forgetting I had it set for walking directions rather than transit. And the walking directions it gave me looked so easy--just head straight down 9th Avenue for a couple of miles and I would be there. So I started walking.

The walk was longer than I expected (I should have checked cross streets and gotten it into my head that it was fifty blocks away), but it was fun. Adriana occasionally hopped out of the stroller to walk, and Lyra napped on my back. We stopped to eat carrots and grapes from our snackbag on occasion--usually when we spotted some construction, so we had the entertainment of seeing diggers and cranes at work while we ate. I love just walking around cities, and I got my chance to do that, even with little kids in tow, seeing the different neighborhoods 9th Avenue took us through on our way to the office in Chelsea. Before this life with Adriana and Lyra, I might have planned my walk to take me by certain points of interest. This time we saw whatever was there on our way, which was kind of fun. A huge garage of giant mail trucks wouldn’t necessarily have been on my list, but Adriana was fascinated.

After lunch with Brian, I braved the subway for the first time with the girls, and found it surprisingly easy. We entered at a station with an elevator, which certainly helped, although I think that was the only time we used a subway elevator during the course of the week, and it was nice that our next destination, the American Museum of Natural History, was a straight shot on the uptown train. Since Adriana didn’t need a ticket on the subway, after she helped me unclip my bag so I could carry it and fold the stroller, she slipped under the turnstile and helped me maneuver the folded stroller through it after I swiped my card. She held my hand on the stairs to the platform and bravely sat between two strangers (both women--I think if they’d been men, she wouldn’t have done it) when she was offered a seat. I was also offered a seat but opted to stand, since I had the baby on my back. When we got off the train, Adriana was thrilled with the animal mosaics in the Natural History Museum’s station, and helped me get the stroller unfolded and my bag into it, informing me, “I don’t need to ride. I need to see dinosaurs.” When Lyra woke up from her nap, we did let her ride in it. It was nice to give my back a break and as much as she loves the closeness of the carrier, I think she was relieved to have a bit more space for a while.

I wish I could really know what Adriana thought about seeing the dinosaurs. I don’t know how much she understands when I tell her that these are the bones of animals who lived thousands of years ago, that these kinds of animals no longer exist. But she ran from dinosaur to dinosaur, making dinosaur faces and asking me the name of each one. She liked touching the screens on the computers for more information, and I would read the information to her, but I think most of it went over her head. Still, she kept asking me to read her more and I obliged.

After a long walk and being on a different time zone, one floor was really all we could manage, although I would have liked to see the space stuff. So we picked out some postcards for Adriana to send to her grandparents and a dinosaur magnet and headed back to the apartment.

Adriana napped in the stroller on the way back, which I knew she would do. The problem was that I thought that would lead to a good mood for the evening, and I let her have a bowl of cereal for a snack and planned on going out to dinner when Brian returned. That turned out to be a horrible mistake. Even though she was awake until ten that night, she was not fit for public consumption, and we ended up getting our food to go after experience a horrible public meltdown. It was another time when I wondered whether traveling with a preschooler was a good idea, but it was the last time for the trip.


Caitlin said...

Is it wrong that the thing that peaks me most about this post is that they were filming Gilmore Girls at the Lincoln Center despite the fact that they finished the show in 2007, which can only mean MOVIE?

Or is it just wrong that I wrote that incredible run on sentence?

Elizabeth said...

I had no idea the show was over. In fact, I didn't even know what it was until I griped on Facebook about it at the time and someone clued me in.