When your children grow up and have their own families, there are precious few occasions that you get to spend extended periods of time together. Life is busier for grandkids than it ever was for me. Just scheduling a time for our kids and grandkids to get together is a challenge.
This past Friday, Mary Lou and I arrived back home after almost three weeks with our extended family of ten. We all spent time together at Compass Lake for the 4th of July holiday before heading to Boston after one day of rest in Auburn. After an incredible time in Beantown, we split up. Catherine and Daaron headed back to Bainbridge, Elizabeth and Grant’s family headed to Maine, and Mary Lou and I headed to New York City with our grandson, Henry.
We enjoyed the train ride down to New York and arrived right on time at Grand Central Station. We were just a few blocks from our hotel, so the three of us rolled our suitcases on the sidewalk which is common in any really big city.
After checking in, Henry, Mary Lou and I walked a few more blocks to Times Square. It was a bit overwhelming for Henry, initially. There were hoards of people of every age and description crowding the streets. We clearly were not in Boston any longer as the Big Apple quickly proved it is unlike any other city in the world.
We ate at the Broadway Diner, not ranked by Michelin as one of the elite restaurants of the world, but a perfect place to take a 14 year old boy with an insatiable appetite. I always get the same thing, Chicken Pot Pie, which comes in a pastry the size of a regular sized frying pan. It never disappoints.
With the evening still young, we walked to Central Park and took a carriage ride. It was a beautiful Monday evening and thousands of people were enjoying the many things this beautiful park has to offer. It is hard to describe how large the park is, but the fact that it is located right in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities makes it even more amazing.
We walked through Rockefeller Center on the way back to the hotel, stopping for the obligatory photo in front of the set of the Today Show.
We hit the ground running the next day, visiting the USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum. The USS Intrepid is a retired aircraft carrier with a distinguished record of service in World War II and Vietnam. It was later involved in the recovery of the Mercury and Apollo space capsules at sea. One of the original space shuttles is located on the deck. Three hours passed in no time as we explored the enormous ship and its many exhibits.
The afternoon led us to the Brooklyn Bridge where we walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again. It was an unexpected highlight of our trip. The bridge dates back almost 150 years. It is a feat of engineering that still plays an important role in the transportation needs of the city.
The next morning, we were up early for a trip to Liberty Island, the home of the Statue of Liberty. I have been a half dozen times and it always stirs my heart seeing the beautiful Lady Liberty welcoming all who enter the New York Harbor.
That afternoon was spent in the air conditioned comfort of the American Museum of Natural History. This massive museum could be visited for multiple days and you would still only scratch the surface of its collection.
We made our first visit to Broadway that evening while attending “Beetlejuice”. It was a fun show and a good ending to a long day.
Our final day in New York took us to Ground Zero and the 9/11 Museum. Mary Lou and I have visited this site while the rubble was still being removed after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers. We have been back to witness each significant milestone made in the site’s recovery. It is truly an amazing museum, memorial and destination point for any visitor to New York.
I was telling Henry of exactly where I was where I heard of the first plane hitting the North Tower. I was taken aback when he asked if there were other events in my life that I still remember exactly what I was doing when something happened. Actually, there are several. President Kennedy’s assassination. Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. The explosion of the Columbia space shuttle.
My grandson said he was not sure there had been such an event during his 14 years. After some thought, I agreed with him. He has lived through some monumental experiences such as the pandemic, but maybe not that single instantaneous occurrence that is frozen in the memory of everyone, young and old alike.
The afternoon found us at the top of the Empire State Building, still the most famous building in the world. It is mind-boggling and offers views from such an altitude that it does not trigger my fear of heights.
The last night was spent at “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. It is an epic play and worth a visit even if you are not a Harry Potter fan. The special effects are breathtaking.
We flew back on Friday morning, with Mary Lou and I departing in Atlanta and Henry flying on alone to Tallahassee. Any kid that can get his bearings in New York City after one day can certainly navigate their way home by themselves on a flight.
There you have it. Three weeks with our kids and grandkids. We were back in Auburn and recuperating on our front porch Saturday when we received a call from Grant and Elizabeth telling us that they were still in Atlanta and their flight to Dothan had been cancelled. They were giving us notice they were taking an Uber to Auburn to stay with us and would arrived around midnight.
I drove them to Dothan the next day, thankful for another day with family, but still worn out. Driving them home on Sunday morning, the irony was not lost on me as I reflected on one of my favorite sayings. “It is not over until it’s over”. Apparently, that applies to family vacations as well.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org