So on the first day of December, I boarded the local bus with my sister and eleven-year-old niece Cora for the young one’s first, but surely not last, trip to New York City. We had planned a day full of memory-making fun, for isn’t that what this last month of the year really all about. Do we not put all this effort into creating lasting impressions for children and to transport ourselves to a special memory we have of our own, like taking a bite out of a Grandma-baked snickerdoodle or placing our favorite ornaments on the tree.
Our first stop was breakfast, and Cora chose seats for us by the front window of Pret a Manger, so that she could take in the Fifth Avenue foot traffic and people watch. Her eyes were wide and dancing as she followed the purposeful trajectories of a city out to walk dogs, buy Sunday newspapers, and pick up bagels from the corner deli.
We then snaked through red-roped mazes to the elevator bank where we got our eventual ride to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. The observation desk was crowded with people from Amsterdam, Rome, St. Petersburg, and Munich — Cora commented that she thought she was in New York, not Europe. I gently explained that this city, although American, was an international one, full of people from all over the world, just like London, Paris, and Madrid. She understood. And as she looked out over the bright reflection of the seemingly miniaturized world below, she said, “I’m apartment hunting because I want to move here.”
The day was packed with more good fun — the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, eating cupcakes in Rockefeller Plaza, and watching the ice skaters in Bryant Park. But the memory that I shall carry with me through this season and forever will be of the eleven-year-old girl giving me a quick hug as we waited to cross 33rd Street and saying, “Thank you so much Aunt Rachel for bringing me here.” For a woman who has been unable to have children, that unprompted spontaneous gesture of love and appreciation from my favorite girl filled me up like a Christmas stocking stuffed to overflowing. I hugged her back, kissed her brown-blond hair, and said, “Oh, you’re so welcome. You’re so, so welcome.”