Day 3, if you are counting Monday evening.
We are in a diner on E. Houston. Julia eating eggs and sausage and I with a bowl of oatmeal. Why is oatmeal always, at least in my experience, better than it is at home. When I visited Chicago often, I had a favorite breakfast spot, a chain, that had the best oatmeal. What I am having this morning is pretty close. I have opined in the past that it is because they make a very large batch in an old thin metal pot. Commercially oatmeal is made with water and they skimp some on the oats. Or not. It is delicious.
As we eat, a young couple come in with a little girl, I’d say about 18 months old. They are all taller and better looking than we were, except for the little girl, and it is the woman not the man who wears glasses. They remind me of David and Cheshire and I when she was about that young. The little girl walks around as they wait for their breakfast. Dad follows her. The wait staff greet the Dad and girl. We are close to our old neighborhood. We too had a breakfast spot that we frequented—Kiev, which closed a long time ago—and the wait staff—mostly middle aged Ukrainian ladies—entertained Cheshire.
This is a journey of remembering. Not surprising—I have not stayed in Manhattan often since we left when Cheshire was 3.5, and Julia and I have not been to NYC since we moved. This kind of memory walk was a challenge to me years ago—our travels in Italy when there seemed to be a memory and a pain around every corner. Now, there are just memories, and taking back the city a street and restaurant at a time will smooth the wrinkles of that very old life.
Yesterday, we had breakfast at Katz Deli and did not eat any of the food Katz is famous for. Just could not indulge in meat for breakfast. And if there was a Jewish person behind the counter, I completely missed them. We were helped by a charming young man who coaxed me through my ignorance on how to order, pay, where to find cutlery and when to pick up food. How cliched is it to boast of the friendliness of New Yorkers.
We walked the day—lower east side, east village and the eastern part of the west village. It was a shopping day that I had promised Julia. She has been begging to go to clothing stores featuring goth/Japanese/anime styles. There are few to none in and around Boston but there are some in NYC. We went into Gothic Renaissance in the East Village and I thought Julia would love it. Instead, she was completely overwhelmed, walked around dazed for a long time, didn’t try on a thing and finally agreed to leave. Surprising and not surprising, but I don’t remember her being so gobsmacked by things she has been staring at on her iPhone for months.
We did find a skate board shop with anime shirts. With the vibe somewhat less intense than Gothic Renaissance, she happily shopped, tried on and found a shirt.
At the Guggenheim. Can I grouse just a little bit and say that this is not the museum I wanted to go to today. I had my heart set on the Met which is closed on Wednesdays or the Frick, also closed. But we have not been to the Guggenheim and once here, I am quite happy. The Kandinsky show is wonderful. I’ve never seen so much of his work in one place and it was a great place to see so many paintings!
The streets of the upper east side are not crowded but the museum is. Not so much that it is impossible to find a seat where there are seats or to get close to some piece of art, but busy with the humm of crowds chatting in their masks. Tourists for the most part, and we can be at home with them.
We have had a few interesting weeks after Julia’s second SGB shot and I thought I would write about the after effects before this. Unfortunately, I was sick with flu two weekends ago and last weekend was a mix of Passover-Easter-Cheshire’s birthday and I did not find time to sit and tap.
So, the Friday before all that, Julia had that second Stella Ganglion shot. The next day, she started asking about China. General questions and some based on the family pictures she had always seen. She wanted to know about the Forbidden City and who lived there, about who ruled China now. I answered what I could, we watched a few youtube videos and we talked some more. I lit upon the idea of watch The Last Emperor, the 1987 Bertolucci film that I had not seen since it came out but that I remember as beautiful and evocative. It was an excellent choice, showing both the opulent life in the Forbidden City of the last dynasty and then moving to the revolution, Mao, and that gray life of the new China. Somehow, it was a perfect history lesson for Sunday . . .
when Julia wanted to know about her adoption and the adoptions of her China sisters, the group of families we went to China with. Again we talked, about the one child policy, Chinese orphans and orphanages, adoptions and becoming Chinese-American. I remembered another movie—Julia is a visual thinker and movies work for her a lot better than books—One Child Nation which we watched together. She had a lot of questions and we paused often to talk. She asked about finding her birth parents but in the end concluded that she would not want to get in touch with them. I didn’t have to tell her that the task would be almost impossible. The movie, a documentary, tells the story well, bare bones at times sparing no truths. There are small stories of heart-broken parents and abortion performing doctors, culminating in a story of a Chinese family who had twins, one of whom was taken from them. To me this was the saddest story—parents who raised one of two, knowing/hoping the taken one was alive somewhere. As the story unfolded, this family found their second child, alive and well and in the USA, but the child, a 15 year old at the time, had no interest in being in touch with them. The cruelty of the policy and of adoption played out to one conclusion—everyone was alive and well, both families cared for the children, but . . . Julia commented, agreeing with the child who did not want to be in touch with her birth parents. It was a decision, an opinion, not good or bad, but at least for that family, there was still so much pain.
The purpose of the SGB shot is to reduce trauma, reset the fight-flight response, reduce anxiety. I would say it had not really done that. I notice Julia is less jumpy, less reactive, but she still take a lot of anxiety to school with her and she had two tough mornings the last week of school before break. Art exploration continues to go well, the China weekend was interesting and she is jubilant seeing one of her favorite people in NYC.
We find this place to sit in the Guggenheim and listen to a sound installation. I tap on keys, Julia draws. Reminds me of Italy and all the old museums and church where we did the same thing. Except we are all wearing masks.
And oh, the Kandinskys!