So, after three years of lacking the bravery to travel on a cross-country trip with the kid(s) to the east coast, Cherise and I finally stepped up and took the plunge. Actually, we had planned to go on two previous occasions, but were pre-empted each time. First, it was the new job last September. Then, it was my surgery in May. Well, this time, there was no stopping us. We even had Cherise’s mom join us so that we still had more adults than kids. Needless to say, that made a huge difference. Yes, it was time to introduce Iris and Robyn to New Jersey.
Of course, our main purpose was to visit family and that worked out perfectly. After all, we saw practically everyone from my family that I could’ve possibly hoped would show up. It was very special to have that many people that I care for under one roof. Plus, the food the wonderful and the mood festive. Iris was understandably overwhelmed early on, but she came around with everyone. After the second night at my uncle and aunt’s house, as we’re driving home, she asked "so, can we go back there tomorrow?"
But the real adventure was our trek to New York City. There’s something about the city that I absolutely love. I’ve told Cherise on several occasions that part of my ambitious nature was driven by growing up so close to New York. It’s a city where the possibilities are endless. It really feels like the capital of the world. There’s an electricity in the air, especially this time of year. I always think of the Sinatra line, "If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere". But the night before our visit, we were having some concerns about the logistics and I was ready to say "ahh, we’ll go some other time". I figured we could just do some Christmas shopping in New Jersey and take it easy. Then I thought about my own childhood. I must’ve taken 500 trips to the local mall and I can barely remember any of them. Meanwhile, I went into New York with my dad three times and I remember every trip like it was yesterday. I remember the bus rides into the city. I remember the subway to Brooklyn. I remember the tall buildings (which seemed even taller back then), the smells (some good, some bad), the cast of characters on the street, and the American concept of a "melting pot" come to life. I remember the museums, the shops, and the bagels (how I miss NY bagels!). The night before our trek, as I slept, I was thinking "how can I deny Iris the chance to see something that had such a profound impact on me?" While 90% of parenting is predicating on minimizing risk, sometimes you have to take a chance. When we woke the next morning and the sun was shining, there was no stopping us. Big Apple, here we come.
We took the train from Princeton to Penn Station. As we emerged from the train station, we immediately saw the Empire State Building. The same Empire State Building that is in one of Iris’ puzzles which has a cartoon depiction of a cat driving a dog through New York City. Now she was seeing the real thing (though her first question was "is that another Space Needle?") The rest of the day was filled with a shared awe. From Rockefeller Center to Central Park to Times Sqaure, all the icons of New York were within view. You can see Iris paying close attention to everything she was seeing. He head was constantly arched skyward to look at the skyscrapers. She loved the ice skating at Rockefeller Center ("when I get big enough, can I skate with them?"). The whole day was filled with things she had never seen before, as if we were visiting another planet. She left knowing that New York is a unique place and I left knowing I’d shared something very special with my daughter. Given Iris is three and I remember so little from when I was three, I don’t know how much she’ll retain. But I am positive that I won’t forget one thing about that afternoon. Once again, it takes New York to remind me that the possibilities are endless. Only this time, it’s the possibilities of parenting. I can’t wait to take her again when she’s older…
To close our our trip, our original plan was to take our time the next day and head to a hotel near the airport in Philadelphia that night to prepare for our flight early the next morning. Given the wonderful time we had in New York, we decided to go a little extra early to take advantage of another city and sneak in a trip to the Franklin Institute. I was worried that Iris might be too young to enjoy it, but I was definitely wrong. She loved it, especially the exhibit about the human heart. Her favorite part of the exhibit was going through 30-foot replica of the human heart where you can literally walk the path of blood through the heart. Iris and I even have a picture at the mitral valve (the area of my surgery). That picture was Iris’ first time though the heart–I think in the end, she went through four times (like I said, she loved it). What an amazing cap to a great trip. We’ll definitely be back and we can’t wait.