My wife and daughter are in New York City today.  In fact, this is their third day.  Elysa will turn seven this week, and as part of her birthday, Jan wanted to take her to New York.  It’s a kind of ‘right of passage’ for our children.  Although we live in rural South Carolina, across the road from a state forest, each of my children seems drawn to New York.  Each of our three boys has been there, at least once if not two or three times.  So now, our little girl has crossed over as well.

This evening, Jan called from atop the Empire State Building.  (Which one of my boys used to refer to as the ‘entire state building’.)  They had been to see Mary Poppins on Broadway.  And to cap the evening off, they looked across the city from that great landmark, that romantic, elegant, rising bit of steel and concrete that seems to have a life of its own, and seems to draw travelers to its peak.

Elysa, breathless as an excited six-year-old can be, explained that they were on top of the building, it was cold and windy, and she could see ice-skaters below.  There was some magic there.  It ran straight from her heart, through the phone, and into mine.  I remember New York at night.  What with the cold wind across your face,  the warm hotel room a few blocks away, with the lights like living cells blinking, the roads lit like veins and arteries, the sounds the very heartbeat of a being all its own, well a little girl could become overwhelmed with wonder.  I certainly hope she is!

Jan has insisted that the children see New York.  That they linger in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art while she discusses light and structure, portraits and landscapes with each of them.  She has taken them all of them to the Museum of Natural History, to Rockefeller Center, to assorted restaurants and on breathless taxi rides.  She wants them to know what it means to love a city; and what a city to love!  My children have absorbed New York the way city children become shaped and molded by summers at the lake.

We live in rural South Carolina.  Today, while hiking on our property, my boys leaned against a hollow tree, and out flew a hawk, nesting there.  We found empty creek beds, untouched thickets of mountain laurel.  We searched the ground for arrow-heads, and watched our dogs bounce and fly through brambles after rabbits.  The weather was cool but nice, in the fifties.  Too cold for rattlesnakes and hornets, too warm to need coats.  They are all infused with the south, with the woods and creeks, the stripped bark where deer have eaten, the tiny prints of raccoons in drying mud.  Even Elysa, in pink boots, sits still on the log by me, watching for squirrels when we hunt.

But there are other places of wonder, and other wildernesses to explore.  And a city like New York is worthy of a piece of their hearts as surely as the woods and gulleys we explore here, far from anything a New Yorker would call proper civilization.

So, I hope and pray that my wife and my daughter enjoy their trip.  I look forward to their hasty return.  I miss them, but I don’t begrudge them.

At some point, she had to be claimed by New York. So look out New York!  Someday, that little girl of mine, with the southern accent and stalking skills, will be a force of nature herself.   Just like the love of my life, her mama.


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