It was a beautiful morning in New York City. I left my hotel at Park and 33rd to look for a good bagel before I headed to the airport. The storms yesterday made the breeze fresh but not cold, and the sun peeking out from the clouds made for glorious walking weather. Horns bleated, buses rumbled. The streets were buzzing with people hustling down the sidewalk, or darting into small shops – about half of them either talking or texting as they moved. This started out as just a trip around the block for me, something to clear my head after an extremely long work day. I didn’t know it would turn out to be a trip down memory lane, too.
I’m trying to be more mindful about my life lately. The daily struggles with work, health issues and financial changes have let the stress seep back in and it has been harder to find joyful moments. So each day, I try to take a few “snapshots” in my mind of the little things I’m thankful for.
Today’s list was pretty easy. After all, I was walking in NYC, getting to experience a perfect fall morning. The city didn’t disappoint me. Some midtown streets are just the epitome of the scenes we see in movies – brownstones with brass-railed stoops and tiny shops with little neon signs. So “Sex In the City”! In fact, I paid homage to Carrie and the girls as I passed New York Public library and Papaya Dog.
I dodged the tourists lined up to board the double decker bus on Madison, then blended in with them as we all jockeyed to get the best shot from the bottom of the Empire State Building. While waiting for the streetlight at 6th, watching people snap pics of the huge Macy’s sign, a memory whispered “you’ve been here before” from the back of my mind. Oh, I’ve been to New York many times. I don’t even know the exact number – over a dozen, I think. But this particular street corner took me all the way back to my first trip, and a hot NYC summer day, snapping a photo of that Macy’s sign with my cheapo Instamatic camera.
I still have the photographs. 36 of them, mostly blurry, pasted in a faded and peeling scrapbook saved from my teenage years. The Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the Twin Towers, the PanAm building, and a hansom cab ride through Central Park. I took most of them, but you can see me in a few – a young girl unsuccessfully trying to look all grown up in dresses and heels.
The reflection staring back at me from the window of the Duane Reade showed a woman now trying to look a bit younger than her years in jeans and boots. As I ambled towards Broadway, I made a mental note to drag out those photos when I got home. Then I wondered if that girl from 1977 would be pleased on how her life turned out. That was so long ago that I’m no longer sure what my expectations were back then. I’m sure I thought I would be successful, rich and famous one day (didn’t we all?) but it is harder to remember how I defined those things back then. I have a feeling that 15 year old might be a tad bit disappointed in our smallish house, but she might be excited that we’ve been on TV many times, even if it didn’t lead to fame and fortune.
On my flight home, my window seat gave me the most spectacular view of Manhattan I’ve ever seen – I could see the entire island, the rivers, the bridges, the ocean, even the tiny dot of Lady Liberty. I was so enthralled with the view, I didn’t risk even a second of it to reach for my phone to snap a photo.
This evening at home, I did indeed go drag out that scrapbook from my first trip to New York. The blurry photos are still there, including the one of Macy’s. But I discovered that the photo I tried to recreate of the MetLife Building wasn’t really what I remembered it to be. The view in the snapshot is from the corner of Park and 54th – the other side of the building, about a half mile away.
And that makes it perfect. I’ve learned much since that first trip to New York. I’ve experienced new cities and revisited old favorites. So it makes perfect sense that this trip felt both familiar and fresh at the same time. I may have seen the same old sights, but a different vantage point gave me a whole new perspective. The girl from 1977 may have been excited to snap a photo of the view as she started down the street, but the woman in 2017 see things a bit more clearly from the other side now. And she is truly thankful for her journey.