We just got back from a weekend trip to New York City, the cruxt of which was to visit the big Toy's R Us store in Times Square.
You may wonder why on Earth two reasonably intellengent people -- parents of Ittybit and Champ to be more precise -- would travel two hours on a train and then schlep the kids, two backpacks, a stroller and a camera to visit a toy store that arguable has less going for it than any of the the locally owned toy boxes in our own neighborhood?
The occasion was a "potty party" in honor of our dear friend CC, who was celebrating a dry summer by taking a few spins on the gigantic indoor farris wheel the toy behemoth has jammed inside its multi-storied establishment.
We thought we'd try and take it easy on ourselves and take a bite out of the Big Apple a day early, stay at a Greenwich Village hotel and see the Richard Serra show at MoMA.
I can honestly say we had a wonderful time, even though we expected to be shooting ourselves in the face bringing a nap-striking three-year-old through the bowels of Manhattan's mass transit system in a souped-up umbrella stroller and then making her stay in the contraption through five floors of modern art, when all she really wanted to do was see her friends and ride the ride.
I must also point out that waiting to cry and throw an all-out tantrum three hours into the museum experience should be put down on her application for sainthood. I, myself, lobbied for an hour at the museum and an hour at the Central Park Zoo. (I was overruled).
But I'm not bitter or anything.
Perhaps the most interesting part about the whole experience was just witnessing the city for the first time at the vantage of parenthood. New York, a place that ordinarily seems cold and austere despite its opulance, where people race from place to place and barely make eye-contact, melts when tiny tots are in the picture. Having children really is the great equalizer. Everyone stops to talk to the kids, to ask about the sling that kept Silas comfee and quiet the whole trip. It was exactly like being in a small town.
From the moment we stepped off 34th Street on our way to West 4th and back to Penn Station, we were engaged by people who wanted to know how old the baby was, how old Annabel was; they worried about his safety in the sling and wondered where I got it. They told me about deals they saw on such things in SoHo.
When Silas cried, grocery clerks clucked in empathy, coffeeshop baristas told us about their teenagers at home. ... how they'd go back to the baby days in an instant if they would just stay babies ... and hostesses at restaurants offered to walk him around so I could eat.
Everyone smiled and said 'Have a Nice Day.'
And they meant it.
Even in the toy store we had to admit the kid of ours who walks and talks was walking the line, and on her best behavior. The only thing I regret, out of the whole experience was not photographing the tower of boxes containing dolls fashioned from the musical "Hairspray" that Toys R' Us was hawking.
As teeny-bopper types were shrieking with glee at the chance to have their very own Amber Von Tussle doll, I found myself handling an Edna Turnblad, turning the box over and over in my hand and feeling sad. I wondered momentarily if John Waters is turning over in his grave ... then I realized the poor man's not even dead. Hell must have frozen over for sure.