What is life?
I suppose it’s a series of events, memories, shared experiences, solitary moments. A conglomerate, really. Some etched in our minds for all eternity. Some fleeting, which we live, and ultimately forget, lost to the recesses of a deep space within.
Way past her bed time at 9 PM, I found myself walking Harper home in a carrier, holding her tiny little hand, singing “Sweet Baby James.” Hyperaware of everything in that moment, I was reflecting on the day, and my present place in life, all at the same time.
I had snuck her out of school earlier than usual because I had broken my promise that on Mother’s Day we would “get our nails done.” She wanted yellow nails, and what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t deliver on this two-year-old’s dream?
So we walked to a nail salon. She picked yellow. And then this little one got her first manicure. While the manicurist was gentle with her delicate, teeny fingers, she kept peering back at me. Her wide, kind eyes gave me hints of insight into her beautiful mind. She was quiet and polite. And I prayed this would be one of those moments that would stay with me forever.
Next on the Mommy-Harper adventure, we were “meeting Mommy’s friends.” (Though a little while later, I realized she thought we were “eating Mommy’s friends.” I promptly corrected her.)
So I carefully strapped her into the carrier, and shared with her the universal “I just had a manicure” sign. We then headed west and walked to Chelsea Market to “eat Mommy’s friends.” We talked. We laughed. I found her ticklish spot. It was so special. I would catch her looking into my eyes. If only I could ask her what she was thinking.
We met up with friends who have been in my life for 20-plus years. These days, as life dictates, we don’t talk or see each other as often as we did in our younger days of NYC life. But we caught up. We talked moving, and babies, and gossip, and memories. Harper told them I broke her out of school. They bought her ice cream, donuts and lollipops. We said we’d do it again soon. But we all know what that means. Harper and I loved every moment (besides the twelve trips to the potty) but especially the ice cream. She didn’t want to go. I didn’t either, but everything must come to an end.
It was late and Harper needed to get to sleep. I should have jumped in a cab, but the night was so perfect. The energy buzzing around was palpable. So I strapped her on me again and I just started walking. We passed a couple of guys with pizza and beer; A young couple holding hands walking towards the unknown; A young woman on her phone recounting her previous evening’s date; Construction workers ending their day, hard hats tilted ever so slightly; An older couple meandering aimlessly; Two big, big guys walking a teeny, tiny chihuahua. Harper was starting to drift so I began to sing to her. And then I felt her little body vibrating on mine. She was singing the harmony of “Sweet Baby James” right along with me. She asked me if I wanted to hold her hand. Of course I did. We laid our hands on my chest. She kept stealing glimpses of her nails. I just kept walking. Though the day was long and she was heavy, I wasn’t ready for this moment to never happen again. I asked her what I did to get so lucky to be her mom. Her response? “I love you, Mommy.” We kept walking. I kept singing. We passed a woman waiting for Thai food take-out. Across from her was a cab driver preparing for the night shift with his bodega-brown-paper-bagged-egg-sandwich and blue, to-go-cup of coffee. The scents wafting around were so decidedly New York City. As I crossed First Avenue, ready to head into Peter Cooper Village, her body got a little heavier. She had succumbed to the night. In that second, I realized how truly, truly lucky I am. All the worries about having no salary (or insurance), and all the questions (How will we make it all work? Who has three kids in the city? Why are we still in the city?) They all left my mind in that moment. Everything is right. It’s as perfect as possible. This is precisely where we need to be right now. This family is being raised in the best city in the world. And even with all the uncertainty, all the questions, all the unknowns, I know this to be true:
There is nothing else in the world like a New York moment.