In all my crazy during the past year, with a timeline in my head that is marked as BF and AF (Before February and After February, centered around losing mom to cancer), I had completely forgotten about a pretty amazing trip that I took last January with my then 13 year old son.
Yes, one weekend I decided to check out from all the caretaking I was doing and just go do something fun with my son. This was a last minute decision if ever there was one.
I am so glad I got this harebrained idea, New York in early January. We had an absolutely wonderful time, and I can’t wait to travel somewhere with this kid again! As it turns out, my son is a pretty terrific travel companion. And also as it turns out, January is a pretty terrific time to visit NYC! Because if you can take the cold, you have the city to yourself.
We can take the cold. And thus, lucky us, we did indeed have the city to ourselves. Or at least, that’s how it felt. We scored an incredible hotel near Wall Street at an extraordinary price (who in their right mind is traveling to NYC in January?) called Gild Hall, and I would without hesitation recommend it to anyone. It was a cozy little boutique hotel maybe a block off Wall Street, which put us very close to the World Trade Center Memorial (top of our list to visit) and close to where you catch a ferry to go around the Statue of Liberty (yes, we were total tourists on this trip!). And would you believe that across the (very narrow) street from the hotel is a family-style Italian restaurant whose pizza was so good that we went both nights that we were there? I don’t know if Harry’s Italian is a thing or not, but for this southern woman and her son, it is. It is a thing. This place got my son started eating SALAD, for goodness’ sake; teenage boys typically do not, in my experience, eat salad, but he took one bite of my caesar and then helped himself to the rest of the bowl, and has loved a good caesar ever since. And I don’t even have words for the pizza. Seriously, as far as my son was concerned, we could have gone home after that pizza and he would have loved New York City.
But we didn’t leave after the pizza, because his mama had plans. Last minute, on the fly, loosely formed plans, but plans nonetheless. I view travel as an education; we homeschooled and traveled the world for 4 years, after all, and old habits die hard. I’m also a huge fan of history and of knowing and understanding it; that whole concept of “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” looms large in my brain, especially these days. So, off to the World Trade Center Memorial we went, after, of course, our morning excursion on a boat around the Statue of Liberty. We boarded the boat as snow flurries swirled around our heads and treated ourselves to hot cocoa as we rode through the harbor that day, the iron gray of the water matched to the iron gray of the January sky. It was cold, but inside the little boat it was cozy and warm, the perfect vantage point for the various historic bridges and of course, our Lady of Liberty. We read Emma Lazarus’ poem to ourselves and thought about what it all means. We saw Ellis Island, where my very own great, great grandfather came through from Scotland before making his way eventually down to Texas and Oklahoma. I know that he did because two years ago, my mom and I went to Ellis Island and found his name…
We spent the early afternoon figuring out the subway system and then walking our legs off around the city. Of course he had to see Central Park, and Carnegie Hall, and of course I had to show him Times Square! And Broadway! And we only had a weekend!
But we did it. The kid was a trooper; we walked at least ten miles that day, in weather that never got above freezing complete with occasional flurries, and he never flagged. I did, but he didn’t. Oh, yay me, I have raised a traveler!!
Late afternoon brought us back down to Lower Manhattan for our reservation at the World Trade Center memorial. These reservations are necessary during busier times of the year, but I don’t think they were on the day that we went. Nonetheless, we had them, because the last thing I wanted to do was to miss this opportunity. No one should miss this opportunity; the memorial is beautiful and moving, the perfect tribute to those who lost so much on that horrific day. To those who gave so much on that horrific day.
And then to lift our somber mood, we went back for a second night of amazing pizza and caesar salad. There may have been a glass of red wine for mom involved.
On Sunday morning, we rose early in order to go up the Empire State Building, which is a miraculous occurrence for my son, and shows me just how much he wanted to see that building. Or should I say, he wanted to see how high the building was and what it felt like to be on top. I doubt he much cared about its history or that its architectural style is Art Deco, though perhaps someday he will. No, he just wanted to ride those elevators to the tippy top, and to feel the (absolutely freezing cold) wind on his face as he looked out over the city of New York.
The gray had lifted, the cold remained, but it was the perfect way to end our weekend. Sunshine filled the corners of the city and of our hearts as well, giving us both the strength and courage to head home and face what was coming our way shortly afterwards.
But all in all, it was a delightfully perfect weekend. Even with the wind chill factor.