New York City was such a nice break for us, and gave us a time to be alone as family–yes, in a city bustling with people–which felt familiar and good. It was so great that the boys had hours of fun playing with other friends, but I’ve gotten so used to having them close all the time and had been missing them. Our day here also seemed the most like a vacation with no agenda and goals, but a laid back, exploring kind of day.
Steve and I both love NYC, and the two times we’ve visited have been so rich and made us wish for more time there. Originally our trip route took us directly from Boston to our friends’ home in rural Pennsylvania. Once we saw that we’d be traveling right past New York City, we knew we had to spend at least a day in the city.
We settled into a hotel that Steve had found in Queens and headed out for the evening. Friends of our future church planting teammates had generously invited us to spend an evening with them. On the way to their house we made a stop in Chinatown.
The Nisly family welcomed us warmly. We shared stories and our dreams for life over salads, summer vegetables, and grilled chicken. In less than a few hours felt not at all like strangers and more like friends.
The children finished dinner first and left the table to play games–running until they were panting and sweat trickled down their temples. We smiled at shouts and laughter that drifted our way.
When Dwight talked about about his students, inner city kids with really rough lives, he spoke with so much passion and care that tears filled his eyes. To see so much love for his work and people when he has been engaged for close to twenty years inspired both Steve and I a lot.
Both Dwight and Marlene have a gift of drawing out our own stories and, best of all, the parts where we have seen God in our story. They were so supportive, offered a few words of wisdom, and prayed with our family. We left feeling so encouraged by who they were and by the words they had spoken to us. Even though this stop hadn’t been in our original plans, it turned out to be a highlight of our trip.
We got back to our hotel close to midnight and Steve had a mission-related meeting at 7:00 the next morning with an hour commute. Meanwhile the boys and I caught up on some sleep and enjoyed a nice breakfast and a little reading.
Steve got back a little before noon and we headed out to tour the city! Steve and I wanted to go e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e, but tried to keep the day simple and enjoyable for the children. We had decided to take them to the FAO Schwartz toy store on 5th. For them it was like a museum filled with toys. :)
The boys had hot dogs high on their must-do list for NYC. :) That’s a classic, right? We took our food to Central Park–our next destination. We had just finished eating and were ready to enjoy the park when…it started raining. That changed our plans really fast.
We dashed out of the park toward the train station, but within minutes were soaked. There was no sign of a break, so we huddled in a store entrance and people-watched. It might have been fun, really, if the three year old wouldn’t have been crying.
Finally the rain slowed and we walked our crew as quickly as we could. From a photographer’s point of view, the city was just beautiful. The colors were super saturated and light sparkled off of nearly every surface. It was really hard to keep moving instead of stopping to photograph it all.
We were close to our station when we passed the public library. I had heard it was quite amazing and we wandered inside just for a quick look–or so we thought.
From the ornate carvings on the door, I knew we were in for a treat, but then we walked into the entrance…I mean are you even kidding me? It was so, so gorgeous.
This^ is the lobby. The lobby!
I “breezed through” (to me) an art exhibit.
We decided to check out the children’s section and conveniently waited out another downpour.
Steve found a map of the library and discovered that there was a Gutenberg Bible on display on the third story which we obviously wanted to see.
This room. I was speechless and stood at entrance with my hand on my chest drinking in the grandeur and the beauty. In the center of the room the Guttenberg Bible, one of 42 remaining copies, was on display.
As we shared our excitement with the boys and explained the history depicted in the paintings on the wall, an older lady, an interpreter for tourists, told us in broken English, “They are so lucky to have you as parents.” I’m not sure what she saw, but I do so love when others can see how much we love each other.
I really love our city, but after getting a good look at three other great cities I was beginning to have a little city envy. :) Then this–comparing this place to our central library which is huge but housed in a boring cement box I lamented dramatically, “We have nothing. Nothing!” =)
Our next stop–a ferry ride past the Statue of Liberty took us through Grand Central Station. This is on the list of places I want to come back to when there’s time to really absorb the details. (Who is up for a photowalk weekend through NYC?)
After a few encounters on the ferry with people who made rude remarks about the children or I (not a big deal, really. Just not the right time at the end of a day of touring and to a tired mom) I recanted my earlier statements. Maybe we don’t have all the amazing places, but at least the people in Atlanta are really, really nice. :)
We hadn’t eaten anything since an 11:00 hot dog and snacks, and were all really hungry. We were hoping to find something authentic–a little hole in the wall kind of place. We didn’t pass the right place and I was resigning myself to stopping at a fast food chain outside of the city. I told Steve that I had never been to Little Italy, and he said we were about to go right past. He said we could drive through so I could at least get a look.
Oh, was it ever dreamy. Dusk was beginning to settle and the lights strung over the streets added even more charm to the streets lined with cafes and happy people. I asked Steve if we could maybe eat here for my birthday gift.
He agreed and it was one of the sweetest ways we could have possibly ended our day. Five years of leaner times have taught me to be satisfied with little; they have also made my heart absolutely burst with gratitude when it receives much.
This was a much moment. A time when I realized how good my life really is–the ability to travel, the rich input we’d received from other people, the day full of exploring and drinking in beauty. But best of all this family sitting around a table smiling and enjoying the atmosphere and street music as much as I–these gifts from heaven, each of them, stretching my heart wider than I could have dreamed and filling my whole life with so much love and teaching me to forgive and extend grace. There couldn’t possibly have been a better present.
I took a little video clip that for me, captured a little of all of that. I’m still learning how to shoot video with manual focus, so the fact that I managed to get each person in focus was a victory, too.
Aaaaahhh. All the happy sighs.
Our next destination was rural Pennsylvania to spend a couple days with friends.