Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 4)

On Wednesday night, Adriana and I decided that Thursday would be our Central Park day. We walked from our apartment to the southwest corner of the park and entered there. I had promised Adriana a zoo and a fountain and a statue she could climb on, but I’d kept other things to myself, and other things it hadn’t occurred to me were fascinating, but from her point of view of course it was incredible. She marveled over the horses with their feathers and jewels, as well as the rows and rows of pedicabs. I hadn’t mentioned the carousel at all, and we approached it just as it was opening for the day. “A merry-go-round! Can we go for a ride?” she asked. One of the most fun things about motherhood is getting to say yes to things like that. There’s no reason to say no, but the surprise of the carousel somehow makes my yes so unexpected to her, that it’s just thrilling.

After a ride, we continued on to the zoo. The Central Park Zoo is a little bigger and a little more crowded than the Prospect Park one, but it was still great for a three year old. We made a loop through the zoo, and itprobably wouldn’t have been a very long zoo trip for us if it weren’t for the snow leopard. I could not tear Adriana away from that snow leopard (not that I had any real desire to). The leopard was asleep, lying against the glass in its exhibit. Adriana waited patienting for there to be space up by the glass, and then went to sit and stare. As more people cycled through, she moved away, following me around as I read about the animal and its habitat, or sat with me while I nursed the baby, but every time there was a lull in activity, she was back by the glass, examining the tiger. It was very cool to be so close up to the animal, getting to study her paws and ears, the patterns on her fur.

When we finished our loop, we got lunch in the cafeteria, although we probably could have made do with what I’d packed for snacks. Looking back, I may have bought lunch just because there was actually somewhat decent food, which surprised me, since I am used to what’s available at the National Zoo.

Outside the zoo, I glanced up at the clock. I hadn’t mentioned it to Adriana, but it was less than 15 minutes until the next time it would chime the hour. I suggested to Adriana that we sit and wait to hear it, deciding not to mention that the animals would move. I nursed the baby, while she hopped around, and then the clock started to chime and told her to look at it. She stood completely still, totally surprised, as the animals circled around, and she got to see that it was more than just the couple of animals we could see when it was still.

From the zoo and the clock, we headed to Bethesda Fountain, stopping to climb on various rocks and on the sled dog statue. As we stood above the fountain plaza, Adriana observed, “That is the biggest fairy I have ever seen.” As with the wallaby milk yogurt, how could I correct her? Who needs the angel when you have a fairy that huge? I do kind of wish I’d asked what other fairies she’d seen.

I could tell Adriana was getting tired, and, fearing a meltdown, I suggested we head home. But I had promised her a statue she could climb on, so we headed to Alice in Wonderland sculpture. Adriana had never seen the movie or read the story (we started it when we returned home, but it’s still a little bit much for her), but she enjoyed checking out the White Rabbit and Dinah the cat. She declared that this was where she wanted to bring Brian on Saturday when he was finally free to join us sightseeing.

We walked out of the park by way of Strawberry Fields (which I didn’t even try to explain to Adriana), and as we headed back toward our apartment for dinner and I wondered at how quiet the Upper West Side residential streets can seem, Adriana asked suddenly, “Are these houses? Do people live here?” I told her that some were houses and some were apartments, and yes, people do actually live in New York, and then she was quiet down in the stroller, thinking about that, and whatever else three-year-olds think about.

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