NYC: The Playground Tour

londonlookingoutPART ONE:

Before the trip I studied. I researched. Planned. I ordered a baby bed that weighs 11 pounds and has a backpack carrying case. I downsized our stroller and car seats. I packed everything for a family of four for a week into one suitcase. I calculated how many pairs of jeans a 5-year-old would require, planned 4, brought 2. We could do laundry there.

The flight was booked, the hotel booked, the days spent with family and transportation to and from the airport arranged. I was ready. Everything was planned, everything but the itinerary. Because with two children, five and one, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. How would they handle this longer flight? Would they sleep at night?—him yes, her not a wink. Would they be happy? Would they require traditional rock-me-to-sleep naps? Would the city noise keep them up? Would they be afraid?

The trip started rocky. Kile was sick, his head swimming and chest filled with congestion. We both had strange bouts of vertigo. Nevertheless, we forged on. We woke early, made our way to the airport, checked our bags and readied to board.

Delayed. We’d miss our connection. I had to say out loud several times, “well this is traveling” more as a reminder to myself than anything else.

Rerouted: Our new connection was in Dallas, and we’d have time to kill. Hours. We aimlessly walked through the airport filled with some of the fanciest bedazzled ladies I’d ever seen when there it was, like an omen of things to come, carved out of what looked like a former retail space: A playground. Little Man bolted; it was as if we had flown all this way just for him to jump around with other little weary travelers. They played, jumped, screamed. They were a herd of crazy boys with boy energy leaping from toy to toy. Baby girl giggled with joy around them.

Here’s a great big Thank You to whoever in their infinite wisdom added a playground to the airport. Seriously, bless you kind soul.

The time passed. We practically had to rip Little Man away from his new best friends to make our flight.

On to La Guardia: It was late. We made our way to baggage claim, the baby strapped to my chest, Little Man curled up in the stroller. Then again he bolts. I turn around to see a giant Crocodile making its way to us. Little Man screams with delight seeing his uncle dressed up in his Halloween costume. The other passengers laugh and smile. What a welcome! We wait for our bags only to discover that all of our car seats are lost in transit. We use loaners, thank you Southwest for saving our butts.

Day One Thursday: I woke up rested (this would be the only day this would happen, as the rest of the trip the baby opted to only sleep in my arms) and decided to start our trip in my brothers’ neck of the woods, Brooklyn. I hadn’t visited Brooklyn before and pretty much thought of it as the place that Spot Conlon from “Newsies” lived. “I say, what you say, is what I say…” or something like that.

We started in Brooklyn Bridge Park. From the end of Pier 5 we looked out across the water, there she was, the lady that had inspired the trip. We could just see her hand stretched up toward the sky. Lady Liberty, as Little Man calls her. He’s been asking to see her for over two years now. We played from pier to pier, running across astroturf and swinging as high as we could on the swings, all with an incredible view of Manhattan behind us. We walked up to DUMBO, ate ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory, and rode the ponies at Jane’s carousel. In search of a restroom we kept walking, making our way up to the Brooklyn Bridge playground—which looks like a massive sunken ship. Little Man played and played until he could play no more, he curled into the stroller, the baby again in her ergo, we walked the very crowded Brooklyn bridge across the East River into Manhattan. The kids were exhausted when we took the  packed subway home that evening. We squeezed in like sardines.

Day Two Friday: It was the big day. The day Little Man had been waiting for. We geared up and headed into the city by subway. While doing research I read just how un-family friendly the city’s public transport would be. I was mentally prepared, but delightfully surprised to experience the opposite. Many of our subway stops didn’t have elevators, so it’s helpful to use a lightweight stroller if “strolling”. Plan on “team lifting” it up and down the stairs in the kiddo is passed out in it. The baby stayed in the stroller until Little Man was tired and then we’d switch her to the ergo. Both were pretty happy with the arrangement. Once on the subway people were incredibly kind and polite. They offered up seats and smiled at the baby, making us feel strangely welcome in their city. We walked through Battery Park headed toward the Ellis Island Ferry, we ate pretzels bigger than our faces from street carts and got on the boat. We took the ferry to Lady Liberty and as we approached her I couldn’t help but tear up thinking of all the people that had seen her as they approached the United States for the first time. Little Man loved running around Liberty Island. After he was exhausted we took the ferry to Ellis Island and walked the grounds. The history is amazing, although it was fairly warm inside the museum, even for a spring day, I can’t imagine it in the summer.

Back on solid ground we played in Battery Park, ate street food, and rode the ridiculously fun Seaglass Carousel. From there we walked up to the 9/11 Memorial and stood in silence for a while. Again, I was moved to tears. I remember the day vividly; I remember watching the TV in Mrs. Rowe’s Yearbook class in disbelief as the twin towers smoked. I will never forget…

Check Back Next Week for the Rest of the Story. 

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