Tag Archives: subway

Sunday in Williamsburg with Emma

After Nic and Emma had their gymnastics lesson Sunday, we dropped Nic off in Williamsburg, taking the “blue A train with yellow and orange seats” much to Emma’s delight, (while disproving my theory that she prefers taking trains with corresponding seat colors) so he could spend the afternoon with a friend of his who lives there.  Richard, Emma and I originally had planned to go to the Metropolitan Museum, followed by a stroll through Central Park before ending up at the zoo, as per Emma’s request.  However it was suggested we walk to the East river and visit the thriving Williamsburg flea market before heading back into the city.

The day was lovely and as I’d never spent any time in Williamsburg I loved this idea and suggested we walk around and explore.  Richard was game and Emma, who really only cared about going to the zoo, was content to go along with this new set of plans as long as we found her some Nestle’s chocolate milk before we began our walk.  It was so warm that all of us shed our jackets within the first few minutes of walking.  Emma had a black fleece, which I helped tie around her waist.  She then shoved the unopened bottle of chocolate milk into the “waist” her fleece created, as though it were a gun being thrust into a holster.  Every now and again she would grab the sleeves of the fleece and tighten it around her belly, ensuring that the chocolate milk remain in position.  I wish I had a photograph, I can’t think now why I didn’t take one, it was such a powerful look and one she was able to carry off effortlessly.

For those unfamiliar with New York City and it’s nearby environs, Williamsburg, once occupied by large industrial companies such as, Pfizer, Domino Sugar and Standard Oil, was also a coveted resort for many of New York’s wealthy elite in the 1800’s.  In the early 1900’s it became home to Hasidic Jews escaping Nazi, Germany and much later to Puerto Ricans lured there by the abundance of factory jobs.  Williamsburg is now going through a gentrification, with hipsters and artists populating the unoccupied enormous factory buildings and loft spaces.  Though many artists have already begun moving east, unable to afford the rising rents in Williamsburg, it still retains a certain “hip” allure with almost everyone under the age of 50 showing off elaborate tattoos and unconventional hairstyles.

By the time Emma, Richard and I reached the East River, Emma enthralled with the notion we would take a water taxi back into Manhattan never once mentioned the zoo.  When I explained to her that we would only have time to wander along the piers before the water taxi arrived and would then have to head home she nodded her head and said, “Go on water taxi, then take number 1 train home!”

“Yes, except we can’t take the number 1 train, we’ll have to take the number 2 train.”

“Take the number 2 train,” Emma confirmed.

Emma was ecstatic when we boarded the water taxi and sat on a seat closest to the window.  “Mommy sit here,” she said, patting the seat directly in front of her.

“No, Em.  I’m going to sit next to you here.”

“Mommy sit here?”  Emma said looking slightly distressed.

I knew she wanted me to sit in front of her because she wanted to suck her thumb without any comment from me.  “It’s okay Em,” I said, before sitting down.

Another family sat directly in front of us, with two small children no older than three.  One of the little girls turned around in her seat to stare at Emma and then mimicked her by jamming her thumb into her mouth, just as Emma was.

When we arrived at South Seaport Emma said, “Go get Nicky.”

“No Em.  Nicky’s friends are going to drive him back into the city later. But we could walk a little bit and take the number 1 train.”

“NO!” Emma cried.  “Take the number 2 train.”

Which is exactly what we did.

“Hey Em.  This was such a great day.  Did you have fun?” I asked as we shot uptown on the number 2 train.

“Yes!  I had so much fun with just Mommy and Daddy!”

For my latest piece in the Huffington Post, click ‘here‘.

New York City Subways and Musings on Autism

Yesterday afternoon I received the following text from Emma’s therapist Joe – “Heading your way.  Em had a rough day after museum trip.  Wants to see you.”

First of all, I’d like to point out that the fact that Emma was able to communicate to Joe that she’d had a rough day is a massive leap forward.  Secondly that she was able to then make it known that what she now wanted to do was see me was nothing short of amazing.  It required her to identify her feelings.  It required her to map out what might make her feel better.  It required her to verbally put together the words in such a way that they would be understood.  It required her to then make her request.

Yesterday morning on the subway headed to my studio I was reading the memoir by the autist, Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, Blazing My Trail on my ipad.  It’s a wonderful book, for those who don’t know of it, and had fully captured my attention when I felt a light tap on my arm.  I looked to my left and there sat a woman, about my age or maybe a bit younger dressed in a suit, clasping a briefcase.  “Excuse me,” she said.  “I get claustrophobic in subways, especially when they stop and it helps if I have someone to talk to.  Do you mind?”

“Oh,” I said, surprised by her directness, but also relieved that she seemed genuine (this is New York City after all) and was clearly frightened that our train had come to a halt in the middle of the tracks, something I hadn’t even noticed until she tapped my arm.  I closed my ipad and turned toward her.  “Sure,” I said. Not at all sure what to say next, but because I had just been reading Blazing My Trail in which Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg talks about wishing people would just ask how they might help, I asked, “What can I do?”

“Just talk,” she said, then to help me along she motioned to my ipad, “What were you reading?”

So I told her about the book I was reading and how wonderful it was.  We then talked briefly about autism, something she knew almost nothing about. I asked her where she was headed.  She told me about a business meeting she was on her way to at Rockefeller Center and how she was nervous about it.  And then the train began to move again.  She took a deep inward breath and exhaled, shutting her eyes momentarily before opening them again and smiling at me.  “Thank you for being so kind and talking to me.  You have no idea how much it helped.”  At the next stop she got up.  I wished her luck and she disappeared.  As I sat watching her leave I thought about how great it was that she had figured out what she needed to do to help herself through what was clearly a stressful situation.  And then I thought about Emma.  I thought about how I hoped Emma would one day be able to express herself in a similar way.  I thought about Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg’s memoir and how she has learned through a great deal of trial and error to get her needs met and I thought about how hard it is for so many of us to know what we want let alone muster up the courage to ask for help.

Not eight hours later I received Joe’s text – “Em had a rough day after museum trip.  Wants to see you.”


For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   Emma’s Hope Book