Yesterday Em asked to go to Victoria Gardens, the amusement park, that each summer transforms the ice skating rink in Central Park into a kid’s idea of heaven. “Sure, that’s a good idea,” I told her.
“Take the F train,” Emma announced and began to walk purposefully toward Sixth Avenue. “But the F doesn’t take us to Columbus Circle. Why don’t we take the 1?” “Take the F train,” Emma said matter-of-factly and continued walking toward Sixth. Once on the train Emma found a single vacant seat in the crowded car and said, “Oh no! There’s no seat for Mommy! Mommy has to stand.” The man sitting next to her immediately got up with a guilty expression and offered me his seat. “Oh no, that’s alright. It’s no problem,” I tried to assure him. But he refused to sit back down, further humiliated, no doubt, by Emma’s interjection of “Oh Mommy cannot sit down next to Emma!” (Clever girl, I thought to myself, and I’ll admit, with a tiny bit of pride.) Even though that poor man who gave up his seat had no way of knowing that Emma actually prefers I stand and not sit next to her. It’s become something of a game, with Em saying in a pretend sad voice, “Oh no!” but then when I sit next to her she pushes me or tries to get me to sit across from her. (Making me all the more determined to get Emma some theatre training.)
When the train pulled up to Rockefeller Center Emma stood up and said, “Have to take the D train.” I know enough not to argue with Emma because there are a number of things Emma knows better than anyone and one of them is how to navigate the labyrinthine maze that is the New York City subway system. Except that when we arrived at Columbus Circle Emma stayed put. “Hey don’t you want to go to Victoria Gardens?” I asked. Emma grinned at me and said, “Go fast!” Then she shook her head and said, “Train goes fast, fast, fast?”
“You want to stay on the train?”
“Yes!” Emma said. So we did. As we sped past each stop Emma shouted out, like the seasoned guide that she is, a specific playground or significant landmark. “Oh, there’s the American Museum of Natural History! Oh there’s the tar playground! Oh there’s the …” We raced along until 125th Street where Emma then led me off the train and walked over to the tracks heading back downtown. “Where to now Em?” I asked, having decided after we left the house that Em was going to direct the day, I was very much the passenger along for the ride. And what a ride it turned out to be.
We eventually made it to Victoria Gardens, but not before we stopped at another large playground and ran through various sprinklers, went through a tunnel, listened to a musician playing his Saxophone, past the artist who’d set up shop face painting small children to look like fairies, goblins and ghouls.
After several hours at Victoria Gardens we took more trains downtown, transferring so many times I can no longer keep our route in my head, but ending at Seal Park where I ran into one of my close girlfriends and her son. Another hour and then Em said, “Now go to Chelsea Market!” Off we went, with Emma lacing her arm through mine and occasionally she’d press her soft cheek against my upper arm. Emma talked about the new school she will be attending in the fall, she listed all her friends, teachers and therapists, “Justus is gone, Sol is gone, Charlie is gone, Lauren is gone, Miriam is gone. Emma goes to new school!” (I’ll write a separate post about that another day.)
Upon our arrival to Chelsea Market Emma raced to the water feature and began to point at various things that she wanted to know the name of. We discussed how there were wooden planks on the floor and what was under those planks – maybe a hole, darkness, who knows? She tested the plank by sliding her foot through the guard railing and pressing down on it. She pointed to the water gushing from a large pipe overhead. We discussed where the water might come from, “Ocean” was Emma’s guess, and it did have a briny smell, either that or the Lobster Place and Seafood Market just opposite was giving off the distinct scent of salt water and fish. Emma pointed to the large pipe and we walked around to the other side, following the pipe. A huge wheel hung from the pipe and Emma said, “I can’t reach! Have to get a ladder to turn the water off.”
This conversation with Emma was revelatory for many reasons, but most importantly it was the first time I have had such a lengthy conversation with her about something that did not have to do with a want, desire or need. She was curious and though she spoke cryptically throughout our conversation leaving me confused as to what she was saying or asking, it was fantastic. “Plank fall in,” she said at one point pointing to the water.” And then again pointing up at the pipe, which I didn’t understand, making me wish I could put the pieces together. I have been unable to find out any more about the water feature at Chelsea Market, having spent some time on google when we returned home. I tried to find out the source of the water, does it ever get turned off, is it recycled, etc. so that I could tell Em more about it. She was curious, engaged even mesmerized.
Eventually we headed back home, but not before we stopped at one last playground to run through the sprinklers!
When we arrived home, Em said, “We have to call Daddy!” It was just one more first in a whole day filled with them!