There was one big box, wrapped in polka dots and housing her 12th birthday present. I told her as she surveyed the seemingly sparse landscape: it’s a big one, I promise, so this is it. She opened it gingerly and took a suitcase out of the delicately unfurled paper. “Oh my gosh, I love this suitcase!” And she ran towards me, across the kitchen, to give me a hug.
I stopped her and said, “Wait! You need to open the suitcase!” She did, and suddenly, an explosion of NYC ephemera– a tee, a mug, itineraries, tickets, plans. It took her a few open-mouthed seconds to get it, but before long she was screaming, and faster than that, we were on our way, nonstop to JFK. And hurry! We had a schedule to follow after all.
Normally, I don’t schedule anything for vacation; I find myself beholden to the clock in normal life only because I have four kids—slow is my very nature. Slow as molasses is me on vacay. But this was New York! The city that never sleeps! We had only 80 hours and I intended to make the most of it, with even sentiment and memories penned in the margins between minutes: temple baptisms in Manhattan (awwww), following her red-jacketed form around the Met (lump in my throat), tickets for the new Cinderella (once in a lifetime).
Can you plan a moment, though? Like one of those “I’m-never-going-to-forget-this-moment-for-the-rest-of-my-life” type moments? Walking off pizza, trying to make room for Milk & Cookies, we wandered to Washington Square Park. The arch is worth the extra blocks in the wrong direction alone and I wanted my daughter to see it. It was freezing, there was a man playing a grand piano in the middle of the park– Bach, I knew it– the pigeons fluttered, the sky was blindingly blue. No big. Until, we turned back to go towards the bakery, and suddenly the high, simple strains of Clair de Lune started, piercing and lovely through the frozen air, I stopped. So did my husband. So did my daughter, confused. The rolling of the music started to open itself up to the day, welcoming and bold, and it was something magic. “This is it,” I said to my husband, “This is your song.” And he turned, his eyes squinting in the bright sun, the bitter cold, “Yes.”
My husband. He is good at many a thing, but one of my favorite things is his knack for making little movies. We love our family movies. Sometimes we spend Family Home Evening just watching dozens of them and we (the parents) laugh that we are turning all our kids’ memories into something perfect. With a soundtrack.
Anyway, he was capturing ten-second clips on his phone the whole time, but that frozen moment in the park, when Debussy started, was like one of his movies come alive, and the cold and the sound, and the blue, and the pigeons, and the red jacket, and him, and her, and everything was something I almost can’t describe…
(lump in my throat)
(once in a lifetime)
All put together.
And totally unplanned, right? But caught.