Today is one of those days that I can't imagine living anywhere other than New York City. The sun is out and the city is warm, but not humid (a rare combination). A light breeze blows in Bean's face now and then, causing a cascade of giggles. We walk briskly to Central Park because it doesn't matter how hard I try to get to exercise class on time, we are always, without fail, late. And so, Bean and I run/walk to the Great Lawn where my friend and instructor makes me do sit-ups, push-ups and all other kind of ups with Bean in tow. After class, we lounge on the grass talking babies with the other moms. Bean happily eats her lunch, crawling amongst the other moms, but never straying very far from me. I watch a t-ball game in the distance and marvel at the kids' enthusiasm for hitting a ball and running around after the ball. Bean seems endlessly entertained by the grass and the various sticks, and really who wouldn't be? The smell of lilacs softly perfumes the air, and I'm in awe of nature's beauty in this concrete city.
Eventually the other moms depart, and it's just Bean and me. When she was very tiny, she used to make this little bird face where she would pucker her little mouth like a tiny bird's beak searching for food. Bird face has returned recently, only now she flaps her arms like a baby bird and accompanies this gesture with a resounding "Ooooo" sound from her little puckered mouth. She does this when she is excited and of course, Bean is excited by a rattle that she dug out of the diaper bag. She spends the next twenty minutes taking everything out of the diaper bag and then putting everything back, stopping only momentarily to practice standing and to flap her arms.
The day is so beautiful, and as much as I want to stay, the t-ball game has gotten way too loud and has drawn a large crowd (t-ball championship?) and I decide to explore the park. I feel like our time in NYC is drawing to a close. I find myself more and more looking in the real estate section outside of the city. The space, the closets, the washers and dryers, and the ease of nursery school admission in the suburbs call to me. I never thought this would happen. But Bean happened and more and more, I visualize Bean growing up somewhere with a backyard. When days like today present themselves, I want to savor them and so I do.
We walk south along the Great Lawn, past the turtle pond, along the road to a playground with sprinklers and the requisite baby swing. I take Bean out the stroller, thinking that she will love the sprinklers, but the wait for the sprinklers to spray is too much to bear for her. And besides, puddle jumping when you can't really walk isn't as much fun as it looks. So we go to the swings and Bean tosses her hat repeatedly on the ground and like most days, I give up. Bean has won the hat game more times than I care to count. We are surrounded by kids of different ethnicity and languages and I'm reminded about one of may favorite things about the city; diversity. But if I'm to be perfectly honest, how diverse will Bean's universe be if she attends school on Upper East Side? Her schoolmates might be different colors, but they will all come from the same privileged background, attended to by nannies and summering in the Hamptons or the Shore. My friend went to a 3-year old's birthday party where the child received a gift from Bergdorf Goodman. Apparently, it is completely appropriate to give a three year old something from Bergdorf's, a store that I've never even visited! I'm sure kids are similarly spoiled in the suburbs, but in NYC, it seems much more pervasive and ostentacious.
Having finally run out of songs to sing to Bean on the swing, I take her out. Sleep, like a veil is slowly coming over her face. She lays back in her stroller, sucks on her pacifier, holds her bear close to her face and within two minutes, she's asleep. We continue our walk. I find myself by the Boathouse, carefully dodging the traffic of rent-a-bikes and pedicabs (how I HATE pedicabs)! I walk along the lake and gaze at the reveling row boaters The lake is such a brilliant shade of green that I wonder if it's a naturally occurring algae or some secret green additive that the parks department uses to the color the lake from sludge to picturesque. I cut through the crowds gazing at the Bethesda Fountain and follow the path that curves around the lake. The San Remo apartment building comes into view, looming large over the park. Enormous trees frame the San Remo in such a way that begs locals and tourist alike to stop and take notice. I think momentarily how grateful I am to live here and see this splendor everyday.
I continue my journey south and west. I haven't been to this part of the park in months. Or when I am here, I'm usually running through it. I decide to visit the food trucks stationed at Tavern on Green. I'm happy to see a crowd in front of the food trucks and after perusing the various menus, I settle on Pera's turkish tacos. I order the smoked lamb taco and a lemonade. The lamb meat is tender and juicy, sauced with a piquant onion marmalade. Delicious. I quickly devour it and continue my walk south along Sheep Meadow, a landsacpe dotted by sunbathers in varying degrees of undress.
I find myself in my favorite part of the park: Literary Walk. The statues of literary figures don't interest me as much as the giant elm trees. They stand tall on either side of the path, creating a canopy of green overhead in summer. In the fall, the trees signal the approach of cold weather dropping their leaves in a kaleidoscope of colors. And in the winter, their branches are bare and black, silhouetting themselves against a canvas of blank white sky. Today, the trees offer shade, respite and music; bookended on one end by a small jazz band and a lone saxophone player at the other end.
I sit on a bench and people watch. I want to savor these moments, these days in my favorite city. I can't imagine living somewhere else, but looking at Bean's sleeping face, I see that NYC will be her city no matter where she lives. New York is the city where I fell in love; first with my husband and then with Bean. I don't know where I'll end up, but I know New York City will always have a piece of my heart.
Walking home, I trip over a dead mouse. Ahh, New York! I still love ya!