There is nothing like a picnic in Riverside Park. The green on an early July evening. Central Park is for tourists, but Riverside is for New Yorkers.
For 20 years, my backyard has been the grassy slope in Riverside Park. We used to spend endless hours in the Elephant Playground. Then, the path between 79th and 96th, riding our bikes around that loop and taking in the garden near the Hippo Playground.
Although our recreation spots have changed, our picnicking spot has not. This field.
The girls are at camp. I miss them, but I console myself with friends and family. And picnics in the park.
Hold Your Breath
When I used to take pictures with a real camera – not my camera phone – I would hold my breath for one moment to be sure that the image was not shaky. Or if the light was low, I’d hold for a little longer. I still try to stop time when I snap a pic.
Hang on to the Moment
My children think I take too many pictures. I can’t help it – I don’t want to forget the moment. But my son tells me that because I take a picture, I no longer remember the event. I, in effect, outsource my memory to my camera. I can’t help it; I want to hang on to the moment of transition, like my son’s high school graduation or college drop off. Life is so fleeting.
Hold the People Close
Sometimes I take a picture because I know I am not going to see the person for a while. And I want to hold them close to me by holding on to their image. Like the way people used to have portraits painted or wore lockets around their necks.
Yesterday my cousin Abby Nierman, who just started college in NYC, came over for Sunday dinner. She snapped a few pictures of me and Charlotte. (Chris was grocery shopping and Cate was in the throes of homework.) It took all of 20 minutes. She did such an awesome job. We felt relaxed and close. We love the pictures she took. We never had to hold our breath. We hung on to the moment and each other.
Visit Abby’s Facebook page. She’s majoring in entrepreneurship and is starting a small biz in portrait photography.
Sit for a minute on life’s journey to assess where you are and how far you’ve come.
Maybe like me, your June is a shifting kaleidoscope.
My son graduated from high school, got a job, wants to buy a car — all in less than a week.
My mother came and went, visiting from Chicago. We walked and talked. She offered unasked-for advice. She also offered unasked-for love. We picnicked in Riverside Park, walked the High Line, wandered in Central Park, took in a Broadway Show (“An Act of God with Jim Parsons).
One of my 15-year old daughters set off for 12 days of kayaking in Alaska last night.
The other daughter came home at 1 am last night, causing me to worry with a heart attack. (She was repentant. Blamed the West Side Highway traffic!)
Chris gathered some of his friends from First Grade for a reunion dinner party at our house last night. It was lovely. When I first met Chris, I was deeply attracted to his friends and the way he loved them. Funny, isn’t it? This is such a lovable quality — having nice friends. But Chris is slowing down a lot. Because of his Parkinson’s, he seems older or frailer than his friends.
When? Why? How did we all grow older? Why did my kids grow up? I told them not to! I said Stay Little! They were the cutest little darlings. Does all this mean I am ageing too?
The life coaching call reminds me to embrace the memories; celebrate the moment; choose joy; stay true; stay present. We make mistakes; we make amends. We hang in there. We have a family motto, “Jones Kids never give up.”
In the midst of my busy family life, the life coaching call is a breath — a slowing down — to take it in. Celebrate this moment. We have so much. Gratitude wins. Love wins.
I jot down my thoughts and dreams and hopes for my family. I send them like messages in a bottle. Hope they reach the shore. Hope my daughters and son (husband, mother, extended family, friends) know I love them. Believe that love is enough.
I remember the first time my little darling took this hill. My heart was in my throat. I could barely look. Would he make it? Would he wipe out, yelling for me, all bloody?
Now every time I approach this hill at 79th and Riverside, I smile to myself. It’s really not so steep. What was I afraid of? Sure, there’s an ever-so-slight feeling that you are out of control as you descend, but just barely.
Why did I worry?
My little darling is 18 now. In the fall he will head off to college. I am feeling that same insecurity. Should I let him go? What if he falls? I have to let him go. I can’t look.
I want to yell. Be careful! You are going too fast! Hang on!
He has to take the hill. He has the need for speed. He has to feel the pull of gravity.
Incidentally, this little guy in the picture did fall after I took this pic. His father sauntered over slowly, got him back upright. He shrugged at me as if to say, Look, no bruises, no blood. As if to say, No biggie. “Do it again!”
My girls are growing up too. I could not believe how adult they looked on camera.
The amazing teacher Ellen Park gave them a coaching session for on-camera work. She told them to show their thinking in their monologues. She did not judge. She talked about finding the luminosity of You-ness. To find their own voice. Their own way. Not her way or my way. But their own way.
Find your own voice. Find your own hill. Let gravity pull you down. Enjoy the ride.
This is a lesson for me. I want to seize the wheel. I want to drive my kids’ course. I want to be sure that they don’t fall. I want to wrap them in bubble wrap and send them out into the world.
But I’m not going to hover over my little darlings.
They are going to fall. And when they do, it’s really no biggie. They’ll get up. And take the hill again. Or find another hill. Maybe even a steeper one. Oh God, NO! This is so hard for me.
I have blogged nearly every day of October and I’ll be glad to NOT blog every. single. freakin’. day.
I learned that I have something to say. That surprised me. I thought I’d run out of ideas, but no.
I wanted to repost some old stories, but I didn’t. The one story I did repost — about an educator whom I love, Geoffrey Canada, received very low traffic. The story with the highest traffic this month (470 readers!) was about Bridget and Amanda’s wedding. Everyone loves a love story.
I thought I might just post pics on Wordless Wednesdays, but I didn’t.
I wrote a couple of posts on my phone.
I thought I’d write about writing. You know, I was hoping to get all professional and writerly with you. I wanted to share tips and tricks and be seen as an expert. But no, I didn’t. I wrote mostly about family matters.
It wasn’t the writing that was hard. I’m a fast writer. It was finding the time to write. I have a crazy busy life — Coco’s ruptured cyst, jury duty, wonderful freelancing, substitute teaching, afterschool artist, doctor’s visits, housecleaning.
Yes, housecleaning! That always gets in the way of my blogging. Must stop cleaning.
Tomorrow, I’m back on jury duty. I hope there’s nothing from the criminal courts to blog about.
I will leave you with today’s pic from my beautiful Riverside Park.
The experience with Coco at the hospital was pretty intense. And I feel a bit knocked off my life’s tightrope — balancing my paid work, my creative work and my (unpaid) family duties.
One such responsibility is supporting H. as he applies this week for early decision to a college. He needs a reminder to focus. He’s been coping with the added stress by napping when he gets home from school.
On Saturday afternoon, when I got home from the hospital, I realized I had to still feed and care for the kids. So I hopped on my bike to purchase rice and beans for Coco at La Caridad (the best Cuban Chinese food on the Upper West Side!)
There were a dozen limos on West End Ave. I wondered what was up. And then when I turned at 77th at the Collegiate Church, there were dozens of people pouring out of the church. It was a wedding.
And the sky was blue and the air was fresh, full of autumn but summer lingering. And I felt so full of life and beauty and gratitude. My kid was fine! We were going to be fine!
And people from the wedded were dressed up so fancily — men in tuxes and ladies in silk. I was elated.
At Caridad, I told the guy at the counter, “My daughter’s just out of the hospital.”
And he, this lovely tattoo’ed dude, said, “That’s great. You have two girls, right? And a son?”
Indeed, I do. I’m so lucky. My brother says, “Don’t say you’re lucky. Say you’re blessed.” Ya, that too.
The rice and beans were delicious. And I took a long nap.
the day darkens. i get too tired. i find the housework oppressive.
i ask for help, then don’t want it. like in the decluttering. i don’t know why it bothered me. what to do with the tapes from my old show? leave me alone.
the snow — more of the same color of the same grey sky.
i like when the sky is a crisp blue, like today. then i can forgive the weather gods. i can go on. but when dark and grey, i want to stay in bed. i have only a few weeks left of winter. i would like them to be azure blue.
i would like blue sky days. but after all the grey — why is grey so like death?
i go to Florida — old people, malls, alligators.
for a few days, i sleep in a twin bed, and laugh with Nicole and my brother, (and dad and Marty). we talk about creativity.
that is the start of my spring. and that is followed by the buds on the trees in Riverside Park.
my kids get older, get away from me, find fault in me, our apartment, why don’t we have nicer floors?
the sun does not ask for thanks. so i try to just give light too. just do my job — mother, wife. but the endless giving becomes a chore.
sure, the sun must want a thank you. the grey day gets no thanks. for it takes my energy. it does not give. it is the negative ion. i need the positive.
the wind whips and the shadows blend into dark night. i know spring comes after winter, always taking me by surprise. then the summer. lighter, longer days of laughter, hugs.
I seriously was about to cry when I read The New York Times Sunday travel section today. The cover article, “Give Us a Break,” by Jennifer Conklin talked about three levels of spring break travel: budget, moderate, and in your dreams.
The budget travel option for a week-long vacay in Orlando (without airfare) for a family of four? $4,115. This is referred to as “thrifty.”
Really? Really? Is that thrifty? I consider it thrifty to spend less $400. For our spring break, I am hoping to spend less than $1,000. Maybe I’m jealous. Maybe I’m out of touch with the cost of vacations.
I still think vacations cost about what they did when I was in college. My bible was the paperback “Let’s Go Guide to Europe.” I think my budget was $20 a day.
Are we not, as a country, still clawing our way out of a recession? Are we not all looking for simple joys and saving any extra thousands of dollars for our kids’ college? Who reads The New York Times that $4,000 is considered thrifty?
I don’t care. I will rise above.
I do want to go somewhere grand for spring break and I will. I am psyched that we have spring break plans to visit cousins in Boston or Nantucket and perhaps some old friends. Vacationing with family and friends is way better and more luxurious than some stupid generic vacation a travel agent could arrange.
Maybe the Times did not publish this article to infuriate me about the cost of spring break travel and my inability to travel first class. But did they really have to rub my face in that $1.06 million Caribbean private yacht cruise as an example of the in your dream options?
So to calm my anger, I will write a few “thrifty” spring break fun ideas (and all for about $2.50 a day)
sit on a bench in Central Park with a friend (free)
visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History (donation is a suggestion)
ride on the M5 bus to SoHo ($2.50) or Chelsea and gallery hop (free wine!)
walk the High Line (free)
have coffee at a cafe and write in your journal ($2.50)
bike ride in Riverside Park (free)
Saturday morning at Wave Hill (free for the fam)
read The New York Times, get mad, blog about it ($2.50)
help friends with a creative project, working on a movie, like I did today (free)
Living on the Upper West Side, we avoided the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, but we had to suffer the downtown refugees. Of the influx of hipsters on the Upper East Side, my teacher Charles S., said, “They’re taking our groceries, our seats in restaurants, our women!”
“How do you know they’re from downtown?” I asked.
“Oh, you know!” he said.
When Chris came home with groceries from Fairway, he said the guy behind him in the check-out line was mumbling, “I can’t wait to get back to SoHo.”
Our sidewalks on Broadway are full, not just of hipsters, but runners as Riverside and Central Parks were closed and the marathon, cancelled.
But we uptown people can take all comers. The Upper East and West Sides are big tents: bigger than this year’s political parties in that we can seat all migrants at our tables in our kitchens or in our restaurants.
I coped with the influx of downtowners the way I coped with my helplessness after 9/11. I went downtown to see a show.
Yesterday Chris and I traveled via subway to Tribeca to see Heresy by A.R. Guerney at the Flea Theatre. So good.
This political play takes place in a military office stocked with a bar and characters who believe various degrees of American exceptionalism.
An offstage character, Chris (as in Christ), delivers a manifesto, extolling the:
the evils of consumerism
the lie of the American Dream
the reality that frustration with #1 and 2 leads to violence.
Karen Ziemba was hilarious and Annette O’Toole was heartbreaking.
It was great theater and a needed escape from the crowded streets of the Upper West Side.