April 08, 2015

The City

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, a young Jewish woman, wrote this poem that is carved into the book the Statue of Liberty is holding.  It brings tears to my eyes.  I love what America stands for...  "For the people, by the people, of the people."  Mother of Exiles-- the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Wow.  What a calling we have.

The audio tour for Ellis Island explained the grandeur of the building.  How immigrants were coming from lands where beautiful architecture was perhaps reserved for the royal or wealthy.  Here was their first view of America where a building like this was for the people.
Our family spent the day in New York City.  
Oh, my soul.

From Ellis Island to the 9-11 Memorial Fountain our history is such a juxtaposition of good and evil, success and failure, family and stranger.  If you look for love and goodness, you feel it.

It seemed ambitious for my sister in law and me to bring our 12 kids to the city without our husbands.
We planned to drive in and then walk around, taking the metro if the kids were melting.
The forecast was rain.
I bought tickets for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry tour from a complete scam online statueoflibertytickets.com which charged me $7 extra per ticket.  Argh!!  America!

You can imagine the chaos of the day, road construction, a parking garage that was full, kids who wander or pout, long lines, lots of walking, lots of counting children and "Where's your partner" reminders.

I have 4 older children who are as skilled as any hired nanny would be.  These days I marvel at their ability to calm and cajole and grab the stroller as we go up the stairs.  My kids are really helpful and I felt such gratitude for them as we navigated the Big Apple.  (Why do we call NY the big apple?)

My kids LOVED the audio tours of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
They learned SO much and were very interested.

I think the vulnerability I felt as an awkward tourist with young children just added to my emotional connection to this place.

We were shuffled in long lines, through security, amidst many different people, cultures, and languages.  We really tasted the Ellis Island experience.

I wish I would have taken a picture of Eve hugging tightly to the leg of the most adorable Norweigen man as we rode on the ferry.  
(You can only see his black arm in this picture.)

He was whispering to his mother and girlfriend telling them to look as Eve hugged his leg until she realized he wasn't who she thought he was.

These connecting smiles, halting English interactions, and moments of poignant humanity just touch my soul.  In that moment, as my baby hugged his leg, we smiled and we were not Americans and Norweigens.  He was my younger brother and Eve's smiling uncle.  

We walked past one group of tough looking teens.  I smiled.  One boy smiled back, his eyes and his soul were shining.  I wanted to squeeze his hand and tell him that I could SEE his goodness.  But, I walked on keeping his smile and our moment with me.

There was the sweetest Orthodox Jewish  family we toured with.  I can't remember seeing a Hasidec Jewish family before.  The father wore a satin black overcoat with white socks pulled up to his knees.  (Was he wearing a skirt under that jacket?)  The wife wore the most classy little black hat and the little girls wore the cutest ever, colored leather, Mary Jane shoes.  In contrast to my constant herding and directing, that family stood silently together moving forward calmly.  
(This was not the family, but it is a similar family.)

Again, the few minutes that I was able to talk to this sisterly mother of eight, from Long Island, were among my favorite of the day.  I felt our sameness more than our difference.

This was my Ellis Island moment-- I felt that anticipation, hope, fear, ending and beginning of a long journey.  Ellis Island is a holy place.
These kids...
A perfect ending to our day was standing at the 9-11 Memorial and watching my little ones reading name after name after name.
Big cities and oceans make me feel small and loved all in the same cleansing breath.

I can't explain why my quick trip to the city has left me with a great love for humanity collectively and my family individually.

We are loved.
People are good.
Most of the time I'm proud to be an American, a woman, a human being.
Life is good.
I love New York!

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