New York city is often on my mind as a destination to take in some culture. We were there in May, sans kiddo, to celebrate my husband’s birthday, but as is usually the case when we leave our son overnight, the trip was a hasty get in, get out endeavor. When Liam found out we were going there without him, we had a very sad kid on our hands. I had taken him to the city last fall and he loved it and has been asking to go back ever since so I promised him next time.
This year turned out to be perfect timing for adding a summer in the city to our family agenda. Liam, who is heading into fifth grade, was assigned to read and write about the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwwiler by E.L. Konigsburg. The book was first published in 1968 and follows the travails of Claudia and Jamie Kincaid who decide to run away from home and inhabit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week.
After reading the book with him and the accompanying worksheet from his English teacher, I saw the suggestion to either complete the work by visiting the museum’s website or to visit in person. I haven’t been to the Met in years so I thought a field trip was in order. Last Saturday morning we left early and caught a train into the city with a few ideas of things to do on our two-day sojourn.
It was about lunchtime when we arrived and we were quite hungry so after checking into our hotel, we headed to Le Parker Meridien which is home to a tucked away burger restaurant aptly named The Burger Joint. We discovered this great little treasure a few years ago and like to hit it up when we’re in the mood for a burger in the city. If you go, have a snack beforehand, because you’ll likely find a line snaking down the curtained hallway next to the hotel’s reception desk that leads into the small restaurant that will guarantee you about an hour wait. It’s worth it.
From there we decided to try our luck at the half price theater ticket window and stood in line until they opened at 3:00 making conversation with a family visiting from Massachusetts. We acquired some very good seats to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the evening and then hopped in a cab to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. This is the first time I’ve been to a memorial of this magnitude for an event that occurred in my lifetime. It’s hard to believe nearly sixteen years have passed since the deadly attacks.
I had visited the memorial pools outside the museum for the first time this past December when I was in the city with my co-workers, but to see it on a glorious summer day with my family and thousands of visitors from the US and around the world was a moving and emotional experience. The museum had exhibits and films that were a testament to the sadness of the events we groped with as a nation that week. I couldn’t help but be transported back to those days surrounding September 11, 2001, and how we sat glued to our television, numbly captivated by the coverage, helpless about what to do.
We wandered back uptown after our visit to the museum, full of emotion for the vast number of people affected by the terrorist attacks. The long chain of friends, family, and colleagues who lost someone important in such a senseless and unpredictable way and who would be forever changed.
There wasn’t much time to squeeze in dinner before the show so we meandered into Whole Foods in Time Square and were delighted to find an array of options to get a quick meal. After dinner, as we were hurried to the show I noticed Liam wasn’t next to me and when I turned I saw he had been approached by Mario (of Super Mario Bros. fame) and they were holding hands. I wasn’t planning to take a photo but they looked so sweet. As I pulled my camera out, several other characters swarmed in and I was caught in a dilemma about whether to take the picture because it felt almost like being extorted! I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, though, so with gratitude I handed each of the characters a couple of ones for their time.
On to the play, which was fantastic. It was Liam’s first Broadway show and he loved it. Every so often I would look over and catch his rapt gaze as he sat forward in his seat. It was definitely worth standing in line to see that look on his face.
On Sunday, we slept in a bit and then headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for mass, with Cardinal Dolan presiding. He is a wonderful and plain spoken homilist, relating the day’s readings to our current day seamlessly. It was also nice to see the beauty of the cathedral without all the scaffolding as had been there on our last several visits.
From there we hit up Joe’s Shanghai midtown location for brunch where we indulged in several orders of the soup dumplings they are famous for. I wanted to get to Chinatown for a real dim sum experience for Liam but this was a great alternative given we still had to get to the Metropolitan Museum. Something to keep for a future visit.
We decided to Uber it to the museum after lunch and arrived in no time. Just looking at the Met from the street made my heart sing. I had to remember the reason for our visit was Liam’s class project and that I probably wouldn’t get to see many of the paintings I love so much. I barely got a glimpse though as most of the visit was limited to the first floor where the Kincaid kids from the book spent most of their time. The Egyptian Wing, The American Wing, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and the Greek Arts were the sections he needed to find various objects from the book. It felt like we raced through the exhibits but we spent three hours looking through the bottom floor. At 4:00, exhausted from the weekend, we decided to call it a day. As we left, I looked up the great staircase and silently made a promise to myself to return on my own next time!
The weekend went much better than anticipated. I wasn’t sure what we’d be doing other than a visit to the Met and I was a little nervous there’d be a meltdown or at least arguments along the way. My fears were completely unfounded and we had a great weekend making new family memories.