I have learned about myself as a single mom…about my strengths, weaknesses, regrets, hopes, dreams, and so much more. I’ve been single before. I’ve been in very low places before. But I never was single as a Mom of twin boys. The last time I was single was in my early 20’s. I feel I was much weaker in some ways and more fearless in others.
This week I took my sons (twin six year old boys) to NYC with me, by myself, for two nights.
I have always been fascinated with the city. I remember riding on the bus on school trips and watching as the green suburbs fell away to apartment buildings, and city blocks, and dirt, and grime, and people with different color skin- other than white. People with accents. I remember feeling like there was this whole world of people who didn’t care about the drama of one little suburban town and that provided me hope that I would be something else. Some one else. Something more.
When I got into NYU I thought my dreams came true. Turns out…I love visiting the city…not living there. There are rats. Big ones. I mean really big. And there is nowhere to escape from the noise, the smells…the rats. Central Park is covered with the grime of the city, and the wind tunnels that nearly knock you down during those cold Winter days…yeah those are no joke.
I don’t regret going there and I don’t regret leaving. And I made peace long ago with the fact that I love the city. In small doses. Not Times Square though. I like the dingiest Chinese restaurant with the menu written onto the walls, that is probably run by the mafia…but they make the best Chinese food. Spoils Chinese food everywhere else. I love that New Yorkers are not nice, but they are kind. They won’t be fake and smile, and they will huff and puff as they help you without you asking. I loved meeting random people who would ask me to do random stuff. I was in the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village with a bunch of drag queens, I drank saki in a basement of a modern day Chinese version of a speakeasy, I turned around at a house party to find myself facing an Emmy “Oh, that’s my Dad’s”, and I was asked to be in a fellow student’s debut movie clip and I dressed up as a bride and we danced around the yard of a beautiful church while people walking by smiled and clapped because they thought it was a real wedding.
I went to theaters that people who do not live in NY do not know exist. I also went to the Met and saw La Boheme. I was there a short time, but I didn’t leave hating the city. I left loving it. In small doses.
I’ve wanted to share that part of the city with my kids. But I had to wait. A long time. Until they were old enough to recognize “walk” signals. Until I was confident as a single mom to do it on my own. I am proud to say we did it. Honestly only because they asked. They wanted to see the Statue of Liberty…not my favorite part of NYC. But I was willing to do it because every kid should go there at least once and like I said. I love NYC.
I decided to drive in because we were staying downtown, closer to the Lady. I reserved a spot for two nights. I reserved a room at a hotel, and I reserved tickets for a walk to the platform. I have walked to the crown back in Middle school. It was long. Kind of horrendous. Very long. Very hot/humid. Stairs are steep. And you can’t really stop at the crown. You have to keep moving. So you can do a short pause, and see a view, and then you walk down. It’s very, very, very high up. I mean high. And I told the boys it’s closed. I think it actually is closed. Maybe.
I made it to the garage, then back to hotel, all with twin boys in tow. We made it to the ferry. There were some tears on the way there (no not by me) because one of them was nervous. But we made it. We walked 195 steps to the pedestal. 195 steps. We posed for some very windy pictures. Then the boys told me they were ready to leave. We waited in a windy line for another ferry. We made it back, Uber’d back to the hotel. Then we walked to Mulberry street and the boys got to see Chinatown and Little Italy. Including the outskirts of Chinatown which included some parks, playgrounds, and live Chinese music.
Their faces…I recognized their faces. Awe, wonder, appreciation. Seeing people and cultures different from our every day suburban and in our case somewhat rural life. They also had complete faith that I knew where we were going and what I was doing. Oddly I feel no fear in Manhattan. At 37 I have far more life experience than I did at 18. I was fearless then. I am not fearless now but confident in my ability to case my area and a general awareness of who I need to worry about.
It was surreal walking those streets with my kids. I never imagined twenty years ago I’d be back with my children. We ate at one of my favorite spots in Little Italy and of course I got my slice of chocolate ganache truffle cake from Ferrara’s, a sketchy Asian woman tried to sell me a supposed real Gucci, and we walked through an open fish market…literally hit all the tourist stuff you need to hit in Chinatown and Little Italy.
What struck me though was again how kind New Yorker’s are. They saw a solo woman with kids and people just emerged to help us. They often were gruff in their approach, as New Yorker’s are, but had good intentions. At the ferry there were two security guards who shoo’d every one back, and let “the bebe’s” go through security, and helped assuage Jackson’s anxiety while he waited for me to come through. There was a woman who yelled after us when Declan dropped his favorite stuffed animal and patted his head when he rushed back to get it. There were all the old Italian men at the restaurant who went out of their way to talk to the boys, take our picture, and then yell down restaurant to restaurant as we walked back down Mulberry Street to watch these boys and their Mama.
I was so nervous to do this by myself, and one thing I’ve learned as a single parent is how to ask for help. Because it’s something I’m still not very good at doing. But I didn’t have to ask. Shockingly, in Manhattan, I’ve never been helped more by strangers.
Our hotel room looked out over the World Trade Center site. It was rather eerie, and sad, and so much more. My sons asked me what the World Trade Center is. I didn’t tell them at first. I needed to think about it. Eventually I told them. It was weird talking to two kids who had no idea what 9/11 was. They didn’t know the security measures at the Statue of Liberty were a direct result of 9/11. It was weird remembering where I was at the time. It was sad remembering the people I’ve met who were impacted by 9/11 and the family members they lost.
We made it back to the car. We made it back to the highway. And tonight we are tucked snugly in our warm, quiet, rural, beds. I’m feeling generally proud. And yet these situations are always bittersweet. Because I think, yes but what if…what if I was still married? Would this have been a better experience for us all? What if I wasn’t single any longer? Would it have been better? There’s always a niggling doubt in single motherhood that what I’m providing is not good enough. I have to remember to bring myself back down from anxiety spirals and ground myself in the experiences that we had. They were crazy, and fun, and loud, and I got to share my beloved Manhattan with my sons; and I’m damn proud that I did it all by myself (with the help of some guardian angel grumpy and gruff New Yorkers).