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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

A Perfect Shade of Gray

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on December 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm

As a native New Yorker, I have certain expectations when it comes to the weather around the holidays.  Needless to say, 84-degrees in Texas on the first day of winter fell far short of my expectations.  It felt wrong to be breaking a sweat while walking around wearing a short-sleeved shirt.  Turning on the air conditioner to cool the house was actually a bit depressing.  It’s hard enough getting into the holiday spirit being so far away from all of the traditions that that we were used to in New York; the balmy weather just made it that much more difficult.

While driving today, I noticed how perfectly gray the skies were.  Not a single beam of sunlight broke through the heavy cloud cover.  And though the temperature was still in the low 50’s, the gray skies and wind made it feel more like winter.  It’s still a far cry from the white Christmas that we had last year, but the hint of winter reminded me of home just the same.

It’s funny how much we take things for granted and then long for them when they are beyond our reach.

Living in New York, I always found snow to be a nuisance.  I dreaded shoveling and dealing with the bad road conditions.  My kids, on the other hand, reveled in every flake that fell from the sky.  And why not?  To them, snow meant sleigh riding, building a snowman, making snow angels, having snow ball fights, drinking hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows and missing school.

While my wife and I found yesterday’s summer-like weather to be depressing, it didn’t faze the kids at all.  The prospect of Santa Claus and presents keeps them fully immersed in the spirit of the holidays… regardless of the weather.  They gleefully count down the days until Christmas.  Each piece of chocolate from their advent calendars brings them one step closer to the moment that they have been anxiously awaiting.

The magic in the air around Christmas is something that I look forward to each year.  And though it hasn’t felt the same this year, I know that the joy on the kids’ faces on Christmas morning will make the magic happen…no matter what the weather is like outside.  In the end…that is all that really matters.

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For the First Time Ever…I Am Ready!

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on August 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

The temperature in Texas is still hovering above the 100-degree mark, but as of tomorrow, summer vacation officially ends.  Ever since my son started going to school, I have always found the start of the school year to be a bit depressing because I enjoy having him home.  And while I still love having him around all of the time, for the first time ever, I am ready for the school year to begin.

This has been a summer unlike any other that I have ever experienced.  The highlight of the summer was (by a large margin) our visit to New York.  Although we have now lived in Texas for over a year, we all still refer to New York as “home.” The three-week visit to New York was incredible, and yet, it was still a bit disappointing.  The one thing that our visit brought to light is the fact that, despite our best efforts to do so, squeezing a year’s worth of living into a whirlwind three-week “vacation” is virtually impossible.

Lost in the midst of constant car travel (1999 miles to be exact), sleeping on pull-out couches and air mattresses, and visiting with family, is the fact that my wife and I spent nearly every waking moment of the trip with our kids.  On the few occasions that we took advantage of the built-in babysitters to get out of the house, the kids never left each other’s side.

By the time that we got back to Texas, it was obvious that the kids had spent too much time together.  The constant bickering that has taken place since our return is very uncharacteristic of their normal relationship…proof positive that you really can have “too much of a good thing.” Oppressive heat and close quarters have only served to exacerbate the situation, as too much time has been spent inside these four walls in recent weeks.

The selfish part of me would like the summer vacation to continue, but I realize that it is not what is best for my kids.  They need more time apart, and the best way for that to happen is for school to begin.

Like many kids, my son is not looking forward to starting school again.  We did our best to help him keep his mind off of the fact that school is starting tomorrow by taking him out to his favorite place to eat, followed by an afternoon spent at the bookstore (one of his favorite places to go).  At times, he got lost in the moment and just enjoyed himself, but several times in the bookstore, I caught him staring off into space with a forlorn look in his eyes.

As a parent, I never want to see my kids in any kind of pain.  Even though I know full well that he will most likely come home happy from school tomorrow once he realizes that he was fretting over nothing, I still wanted to do anything possible to make him smile.  No amount of rationalizing was going to work, so I decided to take a different approach.

It is said that “laughter is the best medicine, ” so I decided that making my son laugh was a much better plan than trying to get him to come to the realization that going back to school will actually be good for him.  I walked him over to the “Humor” section of the bookstore and found a book filled with short snippets of real-life incidents that had him laughing out loud as he read them.  By the time that we left the bookstore, he was in good spirits.  But it didn’t last.

After being home for a while, his mind once again started to race as he pondered what the first day of school is going to be like.  Seeing that my son was upset, my little one pulled a trick from his playbook that he uses to cheer her up when she is sad or hurt.  She went into my son’s drawer, got out a pair of underwear, put them on her head, and started doing a silly dance around the living room.  I guess she figured that it always works on her, so she might as well return the favor.  It took some time, but finally, we were all laughing and imitating her dance.

The fact that my little one wanted to cheer her brother up is commendable.  The fact that she had the wherewithal to use his trick shows me just how fast she is growing up.  Perhaps her recent bout with tantrums is more about frustration over a perceived lack of independence, and less about just sheer bratty behavior.  Regardless of the reason, I still think that it is good that she is about to start pre-school in another week.  Of course, there is always a chance that the selfish part of me will not be so happy on her first day of school since the bickering will likely subside with my son starting school.  After all…“absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

For years, I have heard parents say that they cannot wait for the school year to begin, and it always struck me as odd.  And yet, this year, I find myself feeling the same way.  As much as I have grown weary of the petty arguments, I truly feel this way because I think that the separation will do them both a world of good.  Hopefully, the time apart will allow them to once again appreciate each other the way that they did when the summer began.

Will I miss having my kids around every day?  Absolutely!  Am I looking forward to being woken up by the alarm clock and the ensuring mad scramble to get them ready and out the door on time?  Absolutely not!  But I truly believe that the beginning of the school year will restore the equilibrium that existed in our home a few short months ago.

Even though I am ready for school to begin, I have a sneaking feeling that the impact of dropping my little girl off for the first time will inspire a post that contradicts this one (at least to some degree).  I guess it is all part of being a parent.

Homecoming

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on July 14, 2010 at 10:58 am

The alarm went off at around 3:00am yesterday morning.  It was essentially the middle of the night, but it didn’t bother me at all.  Quite the opposite actually.  Although I was awake before the birds, it meant that I was one step closer to our long-awaited visit to New York.  My wife and I got ready, and then woke the kids up just after 4:00am to get ready.  Even in their sleepy haze, they were excited that the day had finally arrived (my son in particular).

At 4:20am, the phone rang.  It was our car service arriving 10 minutes early.  We scrambled to finish getting ready.  I took my little one’s hand and told her that it was time to leave.  Outside, we saw nothing but headlights from the car shining through the pitch black sky.  Still kind of sleepy, my little one looked around and then looked up at me and said…“Daddy, the plane isn’t here yet.” I guess at her age, the disconnect between living in an apartment complex and taking a private jet doesn’t exist.

We got into the Lincoln Navigator driven by the owner of the company…a Nigerian man named Peter.  He and I had spoken on the phone a handful of times.  It came as no surprise to me that he was so friendly and polite when we met him because he was exactly the same way on the phone whenever we spoke.

Fearing the possibility of running late and missing our flight, we decided to err on the side of caution and arrive at the airport two hours early.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best decision.  Trying to kill time at an airport early in the morning, with kids, is no easy feat.  Most of the stores aren’t open, so there is nothing to do but wait around.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy to see that our flight was one of two that was delayed.  An extra hour and twenty minutes to entertain restless and anxious children.

After a long wait, we finally got on our flight.  It was the first time that my daughter had flown on a plane.  I buckled her seatbelt, she looked out the window and said the magical words that every parent longs to hear…“Daddy, are we there yet?” She had her moments of fun on the plane, mixed in with moments of crankiness.  Overall, about what I expected from her.

When we landed in Milwaukee for our layover, we decided to stay on the plane since it was scheduled to depart for New York 40 minutes later.  Before long, we were being told that we had to exit the plane because there was something called a “ground stop” issued at LaGuardia Airport.  We were looking at another hour at best.   It was frustrating, but it is a part of air travel that everyone has to deal with.

We kept checking the departure board.  No changes for a while…and then it happened.  Next to our flight number, in all capital letters, appeared the word “CANCELLED.”  This had never happened to me in all of my years of business travel, and now it was happening for the first time with my wife and two kids on the most important trip since our honeymoon.  Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.

I immediately returned to the ticket counter, and was told to take any carry-on items off of the plane.  When I asked what we were supposed to do, I was met with looks of sheer confusion by the Air Tran workers.  They told us all that our checked luggage could be retrieved at baggage claim, but also that it could be left there as it was being watched.   Somehow I doubt that it was actually being watched, but that never factored into my decision to leave it there, especially since it would likely have created more problems as we only possessed boarding passes for a flight that no longer existed.  Lost luggage was a risk that I was willing to take if it meant that I’d be able to get onto another flight to New York later in the day.

Waiting on line is something that no one ever wants to do.  I am certainly no exception.  But I was determined to do whatever I could to get my family to New York.  Being stranded in Milwaukee was not an option that I was willing to accept.  So I waited….and I waited…..and waited some more.  It took all of the restraint that I had to avoid having a confrontation with a foreigner who spoke no English, and thought nothing of cutting the line.

As I waited on line, I overheard the results that others were getting….“tomorrow is the best I can do”“it may be as late as two days from now”“if you fly through Atlanta to Philadelphia, you will arrive at around 1:00am.” Quite frankly, all of the options short of getting onto the next flight were terrible.

I called the airlines, and was assured that I would be on the next flight, but I still had no confirmation from the ticket counter in the form of boarding passes.  So I waited….and waited…and waited some more on the line.  At one point, they decided to move the line to another counter, and told us all to keep our place in line.  What a joke!  People took their chance to move ahead, but I stood my ground and made sure that I wasn’t pushed any further back.  I may be living in Texas now, but I am still a New Yorker willing to thrown down some New York attitude when the situation calls for it.

With only one person in front of me, the frazzled supervisor got on the loud speaker and announced two names that had boarding passes for the next flight.  Thankfully, mine was one of them.  However, when I raised my hand, he handed them to me without checking my ID to see who I was.  He did the same with the other woman.  A bit ridiculous when you consider that, in today’s times, my 3-year old had to have her Dora the Explorer sneakers scanned for shoe bombs.  Interesting how security measures take a back seat to chaos.

When I got the boarding passes, I returned to my family and proclaimed loudly and proudly (in my best New York accent)“I feel like I won the friggin’ lottery!” Amazing how perspective can change so quickly.  If someone would have told me before my trip started that I’d arrive in New York 4.5 hours late and be happy about it, I would have had them immediately committed.   Seeing the haphazard manner in which the suddenly flightless passengers were handled, I didn’t see any possible way that our checked luggage would have gotten onto the flight with us.  Unfortunately, my prediction came true.  As I am writing this, it is getting close to noon, and we’re still waiting for our luggage to be delivered.  But it doesn’t matter.

As tired and frustrated as I was with how the day began, I was thrilled with how the day ended.  We were home at last!  Our niece and her boyfriend picked us up at the airport.  What a sight for sore eyes.  We hit traffic on the way home, but it didn’t matter.  I knew the roads.  I knew that the traffic would be heavier near the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and then it would let up a bit.  The same holds true for the Douglaston Parkway area.  None of it mattered.  With each passing exit on the Northern State Parkway, it felt more and more like home.

Nearly a year had passed since we packed up the van and headed southwest.  Our kids have grown before our eyes, but their growth was very noticeable to their aunt and cousins.  Seeing my kids hugging everyone made me happy and a little sad at the same time, still dealing with my feelings of guilt for moving away.

It had been a long, stressful day, and none of us had eaten anything of substance.  Our planned pizza lunch had now turned into a late pizza dinner.  I couldn’t even wait for the pre-ordered pies to come out.  I had to get a slice that I ate at almost room temperature.  As the old saying goes…“you don’t know what you’ve got, ‘till it’s gone.” Like all displaced, native New Yorkers, we’ve missed New York pizza terribly.  The room temperature New York pizza that I had was far superior to any pizza that I’ve had since moving. So, despite having an annoying, frustrating day yesterday, it ended on a high note.

“Home” means different things to different people.  Sitting down with family and eating New York pizza on Long Island is “home” to me.  Same goes for the bagel breakfast this morning.  And though I can’t speak for my wife and kids, I believe that they feel the same way.

I guess, to an outsider, it may seem that my homecoming is about “carbo-loading” with family.  But it is much more than that.  I didn’t know it until I gained the perspective of being outside of New York, but pizza and bagels represent more than just food.  They represent the New York culture, where many unrealized moments are shared, and very often, taken for granted.

Despite the difficult journey getting here, and the aftermath of missing luggage, all in all, I am very happy to be home!

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