Yesterday, we had one of those glorious days in the City that made me wish I had millions and millions of dollars and could live in a light-filled servant-filled penthouse on Central Park West with a view of the roller skaters, the joggers, the rowboaters, the Bethesda Fountain, and that grand sweep of life that populates the greatest park on earth. The kids would go to Ramaz or Dalton or Trinity or Heschel and after-school activities would include hiking in The Ramble, skating at Wollman Rink, watching world-renowned actors play out the Bard’s works in the open air, taking a ride on the carousel, swimming in Lasker pool, or listening to stories as they perch on Hans Christian Andersen’s brassy foot.
That is not to be. But we can certainly have days in which we imagine that’s our life. Off to the City we traipsed yesterday, for a tram ride to Roosevelt Island followed by an afternoon of free play in Olmstead and Vaux’s masterpiece. The kids ran and rolled around on the grass, turned their Starbucks straws into wands to cast spells on each other, hit each other with big sticks (that part was bad), pretended they were dead for a while (that part was not as bad as you might think), and, when they were tired, they plopped down on their butts and rested their heads, one by one, on their dad, who was only too happy to take the opportunity to lean and loaf at his ease observing a spear of summer grass–or just nap.
The sun shone. The sky was the cerulean blue of dreams. It was 78 and breezy. We got a picnic from Zabars and nibbled on pickled garlic cloves, Greek salad, fresh French baguette, and, for the men, pastrami on rye. We were with our visitors–Mrs. 1950s and her husband the Steel Baron were visiting from Western Canada where it is still snowing (yes, in June) with their 2 kiddies, Gingy and Red.
(Gingy and LL have a history–
although I confess since moving to the US, LL has not been perfectly faithful to his preschool sweetheart–
–but more on the romantic escapades of 5 year olds, the kisses blown, the conversations Skyped–later)
We were also joined by Mrs. 1950s sister-of-another-mother, Dr. Aunty. We chatted, we lazed, we went to check out the turtles that raised their heads up to soak in the sun–
and we listened to the Guitar Guy.
The Guitar Guy was good. He smiled and he laughed, and we smiled and we laughed. His mood was infectious. He invited people to skip. He pointed out the movers–those who got up and danced up front, those who danced in their places on the lawn, those who sat on their butts but jiggled or swayed there. We all wanted to be part of it.
Including, of course, the kids. With permission from their parents, our kids, shyly at first, and then more boldly, headed to the dirt-paved “stage” to strut their stuff.
To see them was to love them. They were thrilled, nervously dancing toward and away from the Guitar Guy, the man who made the park come to life, and making up crazy actions that they imagined went along with the music.
And then the music stopped.
The Guitar Guy gestured at the children. “Time for Baby’s first ‘no’?” he asked angrily into his microphone.
We were confused–initially. Baby? What baby? No to what? Surely not to dancing?
“Do these kids have any PARENTS?” he demanded.
And then we got it. It was our kids he was talking about. He didn’t want the children near him. He didn’t want the children dancing. He didn’t want us standing idly by as they did. The “no” was for us to utter to our “babies.” He wanted us to take the children away. IMMEDIATELY.
Or, in other words, at least as I understand it, the Guitar Guy hates kids. And maybe, consequently, parents, too.
There are stories I could tell you about how I’ve reacted in the past to having my children reprimanded by strangers, having been reprimanded by strangers for reprimanding my children, and having been reprimanded by strangers for not reprimanding my children, but if I do, you might think that I am an insanely ferocious Mama Bear. I’ll just give you a taste: I have been known to chase a stranger down the street because she yelled at me for yelling at my kids for running into the middle of the street. I have been known to yell at a stranger for telling me I’m mean because we were standing in line at the McDonald’s at the mall and my kids decided they wanted not only chocolate milk (which I had agreed to), but also ice cream, fries, and cookies, and I said no (for the record, after my diatribe, I was applauded by the entire staff of the McDonald’s who thought the woman should have minded her own business). I have been known to physically handle a woman who dared to physically handle my child when he wasn’t fast enough going up the escalator (I also reamed her out). I have even been known to “hide” Amnesty, a Facebook friend, for about 2 years because he complained that children–not mine–were noisy on a flight (I believe he said something to the effect of banning children from long-distance flights . . .).
There is little more beautiful, in my humble opinion, then children reveling in a perfect day with sunshine and music, through the sweet rhythmic and ridiculous movements of their little bodies. Maybe there is even something beautiful about the boisterousness of kids on airplanes, kids about to embark on the trips of their lives–to hear foreign languages, learn about different customs, experience new art–though if you see me on a plane with LL running ahead of me, screaming out the numbers of the seats; Cool J whining that he’s THIRSTY and wants a drink NOW; and Baby MoFo, on my hip, crying his little eyes out–I’ll understand (kind of) why you’ll want to sit as far away from me as you possibly can for the duration of the flight.
I hope that one day the Guitar Guy has children (as Amnesty has) and realizes there *might* be times when it is appropriate to speak your mind when you see a parent or child doing something you’re not crazy about (I’m skeptical), but there is also much to appreciate in children who are being just that–children. The laughing, the dancing, the delighting in life.
If I had any inkling that children might be in the Guitar Guy’s future, I would take on the Buddha-like wisdom of my brother-in-law, The Dentist, still (and always to be) one kid and many kid-years ahead of me, and say, as he always says:
“JUST. YOU. WAIT.”