Monday night meanderings

September 29, 2008 | family

All is quiet on the home front, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some observations, thoughts, comments. Remember “Stream of Consciousness Tuesday”? Well, this is a little like that, just a few hours earlier.

We were away for the weekend again, this time as a family. We headed down to Manhattanville College for Dennis’ younger sister’s “family day” event. When we pulled into the parking lot, the attendant seemed shocked that Dennis didn’t know which dorm his daughter lived in. Wake up call for Dennis. The same thing happened to his older sister, who’s my age, when she arrived without the dorm info in hand. I guess we’re all getting old — and visibly so. Then again, I was out of college when my mom and dad were my age, so it’s really not surprising that people would suspect that Dennis and I have a college-age child. As the oldest mom at preschool pick-up, I often wonder if people think I’m Chiara’s grandma rather than her mom.

Speaking of age…I’d like to add a birthday postscript. During my recent blog entry on the joys of being 46, I didn’t mention the darker side of 46, something that you may not understand unless you’ve lost a parent too young. For me, 46 is an important year. My mother died at 47, and so the last 20 years have been a race against her body clock. I am continually measuring my life against hers. As in, if I live as long as my mother, I have only XX years left. It’s not a morbid thing, really. I think it’s a natural thing, something I’ve heard other folks talk about when they’ve had a parent die at an unnaturally young age. So, 46 is a biggie. If I get through 46, it means I make it to the age my mother was when she died. The climax of this, of course, is 47 or almost 48, which means I have passed the cut off. Weird way of thinking, but that’s the way it is. On the other, more positive hand, I sometimes look at my almost-96-year-old grandmother and realize that if I’ve inherited her genes, I may have 50 more years, at least. Pretty amazing. That’s longer than I’ve been alive!

Back to this weekend…After family day at college, which made both Noah and Olivia giddy with excitement over the prospect of going to college one day (they still haven’t grasped that they will be going to college up the street at SUNY thanks to insane college costs), we headed to Manhattan to stay with Dennis’ mom and step-dad at their apartment, which is a real treat for all of us but especially the kids. We had dinner and hung out and planned for a Sunday in the city, despite predictions of rain. Noah had grand plans — Museum of Natural History, Planetarium, Empire State Building. We opted for something without an admission charge but a big cost nonetheless — the American Girl Store, the Nintendo World Headquarters and FAO Schwartz, with Mass at Holy Family Church near the United Nations and lunch in midtown.

During all this running around the streets of the city, we passed a couple of homeless people — one, neatly dressed, holding a sign that said he was hungry and broke, the other, very sickly looking, no sign in hand but devastatingly sad. Olivia wanted to know what was wrong with the second person, so we talked about the fact that there are lots of people in the city with no money to afford a place to live or food to eat or doctors to take care of their illnesses, and we talked about how important it is to give to organizations that can help these people. It’s hard for kids to grasp the concept that people could live on a street and no one would come looking for them — no family, no parents, no children. I could see the sadness on Olivia’s face. I could see her mind working as she tried to figure out how this could be. It is hard to fathom, and yet, with the economic situation looming in this country, things are bound to get worse, much worse.

And that’s where Noah’s head is at these days. Today, when I was explaining to Noah that the “bail out” failed in Congress, the kids started talking about whether we would have to take in boarders or begin selling eggs (as if we have chickens). This comes directly from the American Girl movie about Kit, the Depression Era girl. The movie was really good, giving kids and adults alike a basic understanding of what went on during the Depression. In fact, maybe it was too effective. I explained to the kids that, no, we would not be taking in boarders, but that things in this country might get very difficult. Noah worries about stuff like this. I’m sure he went to bed tonight thinking the sky is falling, and maybe it is and I’m just refusing to look up.

Finally, I just have to give a shout out to Holy Family Church on East 47th Street. I worked for Catholic New York, just 8 blocks away, for years — as an intern, a reporter and managing editor — and I never made my way down to this church. We opted for Holy Family this weekend when the kids were up at daybreak making too much noise to stay in a NYC apartment, and I’m so glad we did. I’m not usually a fan of modern churches, but this one does it right. The Stations of the Cross, the tabernacle, the art of the Flight to Egypt and the Angel Gabriel, the baptismal font, all of it was beyond beautiful. I could do without the gigantic Risen Jesus over the altar — I’m partial to a basic Crucifix myself — but I’m even willing to give them that because the rest of the place is so fabulous. If you are near the United Nations, pop in and make a visit. I wish I had thought to take out my camera after Mass, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

OK, it’s late. Chiara has surgery tomorrow morning for a benign cyst in her ear. If you’re reading this before 9 a.m. — or even after — please say a prayer that all goes well. The surgery is “minor,” but anything that involves general anesthesia and my baby is major to me.



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