Tuesday night after Taro got off work we got our first car as a family -- a minivan, to be exact. When we arrived home with our new wheels it was approaching 11 pm, an hour and a half later than we had originally promised the babysitter we would be getting back. In hopes of making it up to her a little bit, we decided to drive her to her apartment in Queens. In a celebratory mood, I told my drowsy, pajama-clad kiddos to put on their shoes and get ready to take their inaugural ride in the new vehicle.
We piled in, to oohs and ahhs, and set off for Long Island City. Within a few blocks the boys were asleep in their car seats, as the rest of us figured out how to navigate onto and off of the Queensborough Bridge. We dropped the sitter off at her place, noted that it was midnight, and suddenly realized how completely famished we were.
We were staring across the dashboard and over the East River at the glittering Manhattan skyline when it was decided: we needed a falafel from Mamouns and a slice from Joe's.
And so began our impromptu, epic-feeling, wee-hours tour of our beloved city, back across the bridge, into the Upper East Side, down through midtown and the East Village, then through Greenwich Village before heading North again and ending up in our 'hood, the Upper West Side.
I started getting choked up when we passed all the sparkly stores on 5th avenue. I could remember so vividly the snowy January night in 2004 when Taro and I went to look at my sculpture, which had just been displayed in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, alongside a ethereal Carolina Herrera gown. Could that really have only been seven years ago? It felt about a million lifetimes away.
It was kind of thrilling and surreal to whizz downtown in our own ride at such an ungodly hour. Memories were flooding back with each block. Flashes of favorite meals at old standby restaurants, recollections of achingly hard days/months when it seemed like the relentlessness of The City was just too much, thoughts of little milestones and big ones too...
My first walk, alone in Manhattan, from Astor Place to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and back again (I was freaked out about getting on the subway/bus alone, and I didn't know how to hail a cab. Plus walking was so exciting!)
Waiting outside Saint Vincent's Hospital on 9/11, feeling scared and helpless and numb.
The time Taro picked me up from my little sublet studio apartment in the wholesale district and took me to the Metropolitan Opera for my birthday.
Working at Screaming Mimis and subsisting on pomme frites and coffee for the better part of two years.
That day at work that I had a conversation with Yoko Ono, and she told me about losing the love of her life.
Getting dolled up and going swing dancing on W. 46th Street.
Volunteering for Our Time in its first seasons.
Having to take the stairs during the Blackout of 2003 (we lived on the 23rd floor).
Serendipitously meeting my late grandmother's old dear friend from her Mississippi childhood, who happened to live two floors below me. Befriending her and hanging out at her apartment drinking red wine and mint juleps (not at the same time) and hearing amazing stories of making it big in New York in the 60's and 70's.
Missing her so much when she passed away a couple of years later.
Quitting my job in retail and renting my first studio space to make sculpture full time.
Getting invited to Fashion Week for the first time and obsessing over what to wear.
Getting verbally harassed by some creep on the R train.
Watching friends get arrested while peacefully protesting the Iraq War during the Republican convention.
Suffering through a really really severe case of chicken pox at the age of 26.
Finding out I was pregnant for the first time, and then only wanting to eat here for months.
Moving to the UWS and feeling like we had moved to a different planet.
Having a baby, and then another.
Feeling like we owned Central Park...
Soon we were driving past our old apartment, on 8th Street, then gazing up at the arch in Washington Square Park. We pulled up to Mamouns and I got out and ordered one of their transcendent falafel sandwiches, which I did not wait to eat (mama's got to get those calories!) Then Taro stopped by Joe's, ran in an brought back two slices. We ate those in the car (calories, I said!), parked at Father Demo Square, marveling at the hoards of people and cars and bikes and mopeds out at 1 in the morning. We decided we had stumbled upon a great new kind of date, one that consists of chauffeuring sleeping children around the city while we have great conversations and eat amazing food in the front seat of the car in the middle of the night.
We got back to our neighborhood and miraculously found parking on the street a few blocks from home. It was starting to rain a little as we carried the still-soundly-sleeping (and heavy! How did they get so heavy?!) boys into our building and put them back to bed.
It was 2 am when we snuggled down beside them a few minutes later, exhausted and emotional and happy.
Feeling grateful for such a wonderful life.
And looking forward to the next adventure.