I suppose I must start this story where most stories start: at the beginning.
For those readers who don't know, I have a sister. She is my elder by 7 years. She lives in New York; Brooklyn to be exact. And she is such a private person I hardly knew she existed until I was in high school or maybe it was college; I don't recall. We are very different in just about every way.....while she's trying to figure out how to afford living as close to the big city as possible, I am trying to figure out how to afford getting as far away, a farm perhaps??? (Hint, hint, Kurt, Christmas is coming.....hee hee.) But, I love my sister and the perspective she brings to our relationship. And I am assuming she feels the same, well, at least I think she tolerates me pretty well and can at least laugh at my lack of color-matching/fashion/design skills: the art in which she is so gifted.
On Friday, May 13 of this year (yes, Friday the 13th, wouldn't expect anything else from my sis) my sister got married to a great guy we have considered family for over a decade now. And as I mentioned in one of my B.Y.O.B.'s, I was fortunate enough to be there.
Going to New York was a big trip for me. Not only did I have to prepare for and leave four kids and my hubby behind (think frozen food shopping, appointment canceling and loads and loads of laundry), I also had to remember how to pack and travel with an infant. Not to mention having to fit into something decent enough to wear in a place where shoes and handbags are everything, a far bigger problem for me as it turns out.
The trip started with me trying to figure out what to wear, FOR THE PLANE RIDE. While I thought I had the wedding attire figured out (more on that later) I hadn't thought about travel attire.
"Why are you so worried about this?" Kurt wanted to know as I took off yet another outfit the morning of my departure.
"Because I have nothing to wear, nothing fits me yet (Solomon was still only a few months old) and even if it did fit, nothing is good enough for a place like New York where clothing matters," I said, more or less. Please note, at one point I thought it would be really funny to show up in pig-tails and patched-up overalls and, upon meeting up with my sis, embarrassing the daylights out of her with loud exclamations of "Gee sis, these bildin's are so tall.....they could be like ten stories up or somethin'!" as I snapped pictures left and right. But I digress.
"Karen, even if you could fit into all your nice clothes you wouldn't fit in to New York City and that's not a bad thing," he assured me. I changed back into my jeans (the ones with darned knees) and my favorite Graceful Like a Chicken shirt. It worked for me and so I let the worry pass.
Solly and I arrived on time to the airport. The woman at check-in told me I would be flying into Laguardia. "LAGUARDIA?" I asked shocked. "I am supposed to be going into JFK. Are you sure I am going to Laguardia?" (She was. Duh.) "But the SUV shuttle will be picking us up at JFK." She didn't even glance up. I felt like crying which is TOTALLY not like me, perhaps it was the hormones. My parents and brother were supposed to be meeting me at the airport, our planes arrived 15 minutes apart. But, you can't argue with computer reservations.
I called my mom immediately. "Mom, there's a little hitch in our plans. I am flying into the wrong airport," I said about to jump into a full-fledge panic.
"Where are you flying into?" she asked.
"Laguardia," I said.
"So are we," she said. I noticed the oxygen returning to my lungs and could feel my normal calm washing over me.
"Ok, well then the hitch is that our shuttle is scheduled to pick us up at JFK...but THAT I can fix!" Phew. What a relief. I put all my belongings on a chair and was getting ready to sit down next to them when another passenger headed to New York, dressed to the nines, came walking over and sat right down in. my. seat!
I stared at her blankly. She was oblivious to me and the fact I was holding an unusually fussy child at this point. She didn't even notice as she hit my suitcase with her foot, pushing it away slightly as she got more comfy and continued her texting. Humph, I thought. She must be going HOME to NYC, I judged, for surely she isn't from good ol' MN....I convinced myself I couldn't sit with a crying baby anyway and then prayed that the fancy lady was sitting right next to me on the plane....I was sure I could keep Solomon screaming the entire flight if I had to. Just kidding, of course. Kind of....
Anyway, the flight was quick and easy. Solomon slept the entire way and quickly became my favorite traveling companion. Everyone loved seeing him (with the exception of the Lady in Black) and we got all sorts of smiles and engaged in entertaining conversation. It was delightful. My folks and brother were waiting for us at our gate and off we went to find our shuttle which was right on time. The only problem I encountered was while waiting for the car seat to come out at the baggage claim: I tried pulling my shirt down as it had bunched up under the snuggly I was wearing (which Solomon was sitting in) and I inadvertently stuck my thumb through the fabric, leaving a huge hole in my favorite Graceful Chicken shirt. Thank goodness for my new sewing skills! I was almost excited about the opportunity to sew it back together!
Our driver was from Egypt. We spoke of the recent events over in his home country and he told us, more or less, that people in America take freedom for granted. He came here to make a better life for himself because unlike so many other places, America allows that. Other countries, he told me, stifle individual freedom. It was a good reminder of how fortunate we truly are. He was interesting. And oddly, he picked up on my father's very slight accent right away.
"Your dad ees from Teeennessee, yes?" he said. Wow....he really knows his accents!
On Friday, we put on our best attire and met the rest of the family in front of the courthouse in Brooklyn where my sister would be wed. She and her new husband walked up in their beautiful clothing and gorgeous shoes (that likely cost as much as our monthly mortgage); she held a simple, elegant bouquet of gardenias. The aroma swept over us as she came close, hugging everyone and saying her welcomes. The excitement and tension mixed in the air as we walked to the entrance of the courthouse, half-undressed to get through the security scanners and then made our way up to the chapel. There were several other women in their wedding gowns getting married before my sister. It was a pleasant thought that the day was shared by many a bride and groom, by many a love story. The ceremony, though short, was just right. It was exactly what I would imagine for my sister. They said simple vows and then shared in the reciting of a Chinese proverb, back and forth, tenderly together. There was kissing and cheering and happiness all around.
After that, we made our way to The Flatbush Farm. (Woo hoo! Maybe we're more alike than I think!) The Farm is a neat little restaurant owned and run by a guy from Minnesota whose sister was our waitress (double woo hoo!). All the meals there are seasonal; all the food from organic and sustainably grown farms. And to top it off, it had the best coffee I have ever tasted: Ancora Coffee
, a Wisconsin company. It was fabulous. Score for the Midwest!
Later that day, after my folks and I showed my oldest brother around Manhattan, we called my aunt who was going to meet up with us before dinner. She told us she would be wearing her red coat. Right after my mom hung up the phone, we were surrounded by a crowd of students all WEARING RED! I half expected them to break out in a flash mob dance but then that would have been too obvious I suppose. Fortunately, by the time my aunt appeared, the tour group was gone and her red coat was easily picked out of the crowd.
We met up with the rest of the family, minus my sister, for dinner at another lovely place right down from Times Square. And of course it wouldn't be much of a trip without someone accidentally starting a fire IN THE RESTAURANT! You know, if you are going to have real candles, you might want to make sure the cloth napkins in the bread basket are not dangling over them....I'm just sayin'. Luckily, my father was paying attention and with the help of my uncle, only one napkin was charred.
One close call averted and we were off to see Times Square all lit up. On the way there, I noticed a bouncer talking to a small crowd right outside the Cass Theater. Robin Williams (you know, Mork, Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire....Dead Poets Society, Good Morning, VIETNAM!) was about to come out from his live show. Now, I can count on one hand the number of entertainers I would care to see in person and he tops that list. So, touristy or not, I had to stop. Solomon was strapped in the front carrier and as Robin Williams walked out he turned to us, looked at Solly and said, in a way only he could say it, "Well hellooo tiny person." I was in heaven! He spoke to my baby which is basically like speaking to me since Solly was attached like an appendage. Woo hoo!!!
Even if celebrity spottings are commonplace in NYC, which from the sounds of it they are (as my new brother-in-law casually told me of Robin Williams: "Oh yeah, I run into him all the time."...probably getting me back for asking if his beautiful Japanese suit was from Target) my "New York moment" put a little more bounce in my step.
|Robin Williams, taken with my phone...my dad got it on video on his iPhone but it got erased from my phone a few months ago.... :(|
After that, I noticed how friendly people (tourists anyway) were to us. Everyone smiled at the baby. As a matter of fact, a nice French couple started cooing at him and trying to get him to laugh as we waited for the cross walk signal just moments later. She asked if I spoke French.
"Je m'appelle, Karen," I said and then pointed to the baby, "et he's Solomon....That's all I got."
"Uh, er, good to meeting you," she said back. We both laughed and went our separate ways.
The next morning came quickly and after a lovely breakfast at Juniors (known for their fantastic cheesecake but I also found their red velvet cupcakes to be superb!) we prepared for the reception. Now, the first day (wedding, lunch, dinner, etc.) was just family. The reception however was where we would mingle with the New Yorkers and all of a sudden I was feeling inadequately prepared. I was pretty certain I would be the only one there who could FOLD THEIR ENTIRE OUTFIT
into a suitcase and still not have to iron it (go little knit dress!) And although my sister had told me it was casual, I knew she didn't mean my kind of casual...."good jeans" didn't qualify. She had said "bridal shower casual" and I'm pretty sure she meant Princess Kate's bridal shower, not mine. I had outdated-wedged-sandal-like shoes. And what I didn't know was that shoes are everything in New York. No one bothered to tell me that though. (Not that it would have mattered given my current wardrobe!) Now I've lived in many places, run in many circles and been judged on many things: how far/long/fast I run, the car/truck I drive, the kind of board I ride, the quality of violin I play, what concertos I have mastered, what senate and/or congress person's office I interned in, or didn't, what schools I went to, sports I played, music I listened to, how well my kids behave, how many I have, how I look in a swimsuit, the house we own, the lawn outside, what I do or my husband does, even the clothes or jewelry I wear....but in New York, it's all about your shoes. Although mine are usually hand-me-downs and dated, these were from Target (and dated). Like my dress. My sister had also requested that no one wear black. So none of us out-of-town guests wore black.....Have ya ever stuck out like a neon sign? Thank God for red wine; it was a great party.
The weekend went by fast and I soon found myself at the airport, waiting for my flight home. I was wearing my very casual, brown plaid, cloth Sketchers (my "surf shoes"), which are actually guys shoes but who's counting?! I decided I needed a few more treats to bring the kids so while in line for a coffee I grabbed some cool designer cookies in the shapes of taxis and flowers. Having grabbed too much, everything started dropping from my arms. Another passenger ran over to help. She kindly set me straight and then looking back up said, "I love
"Why, thank you," I said, having now come full circle and knowing she must be headed in my direction to the place I comfortably call home.