when i left the office yesterday i found myself walking up Madison behind a mom and two grade-school-age kids—hers, presumably. it was still (still) raining and she was gracefully juggling an umbrella, a couple shopping bags and her two charges. a few thoughts went through my head:
1. how is she not having a nervous breakdown right now?
2. i hope i'm as collected when i have my kids in the city
3. my poor mother
when i was young—and my obsession with New York was at its highest pitch (and lowest point)—my parents brought me to see a Broadway show once or twice a year. those days were easily the best of whatever year it happened to be. i anticipated them with enthusiasm and impatience bordering on obnoxious and from the minute we made it through the tunnel i dreaded the time we'd have to head back to Pennsylvania.
there was one particular trip, i must have been twelve or thirteen and i was both especially aggravating to and aggravated by my parents. it was the summer and i forget what show we were going to see, but we'd arrived early enough to have lunch and wander around Times Square (funny how that prospect makes me shudder now—i avoid that area like the plague). at one point, we were walking down Broadway and my parents referred to a map they had of the Theatre District. as soon as that map came out, i wanted to get as far away from them as humanly possible.
you see, in my addled adolescent mind i thought i could seem like a real New Yorker if i ditched my map-weilding parents. they were the only things blowing my cover... not my braces, bad perm and worse wardrobe. (this was decades before Ugly Betty made such a look even remotely cool.)
on a busy midtown sidewalk in the middle of summer, i sped-walked my way two blocks ahead of my parents. this, understandably, gave them a heart-attack. they were yelling after me—which, obviously, made me seem like even less of the chic city girl i wanted to be than walking next to my parents while they read a map. (and what was the big deal with the map anyway? it's not like they had fanny packs at their waists and Polaroid cameras around their necks and Statue of Liberty crowns made of foam on their heads. they just wanted to know where our theater was.)
i forget how it all shook out. i did not get kidnapped or wander down the wrong alley or find myself face-to-face with a flasher on 42nd Street. my parents probably caught up with me at the next Do Not Walk sign and gave me a swift reality check. and i'm pretty sure i never pulled a stunt like that again on any subsequent trip to the city.
but they tell that story fairly often—how i ran away from them on a busy street—so i know the scars have not completely healed.
watching that mom and her kids yesterday i realized how easily one of those tykes could run ahead the same way, leaving her standing helpless with an umbrella and FAO bag. i knew that if it were me, my heart would leap into my throat and i'd start screaming like a banshee right there on the sidewalk.
i pray that my future-kids have more sense and self-possession than i did at twelve or thirteen. but just to be sure, i'll probably do any necessary map-consulting before we leave the house.