I let the boys play hooky from school on a recent Friday so we could meet up with friends who were in town for the weekend. I don’t typically condone such truancy, but I thought it would be a good idea to reconnect with old friends.
It totally was.
We took an early train into the city and then a cab downtown to the Freedom Tower where we all met up. We spent the morning exploring the One World Observatory, which was stunning. After that, we walked over to the 9/11 Memorial reflecting pools. It was the first time I saw them in person, and it was as emotional as I imagined. Thankfully, my boys asked plenty of awkward questions which kept me from completely losing it. Next, we had lunch and cupcakes at Hudson Eats followed by ice skating at The Rink at Brookfield Place. After that, the kids ate more cupcakes. (They were that good.). When we finally said our goodbyes, or our “see you soons” as I prefer to call them, I hailed a cab and we headed back uptown.
We had an amazing day, but once we settled inside the taxi, exhaustion set in. The sun was beginning to set, we had a long trek home (taxi then train then car), and we’d been on the go since breakfast. Dylan stared outside the window on the driver’s side of the cab with a glazed look in his eyes. Riley, in the middle, dozed off as soon as he buckled his seatbelt. I poked his right side with my elbow a few times because I knew waking him up to slog through Penn Station to make our train would be a disaster, but eventually I gave up and let him drift to sleep.
As our cab zig-zagged up Sixth Avenue, I contemplated the day. On the 100th floor of the Freedom Tower, I thought of when every inch of New York City was my backyard. At the reflecting pools, I remembered the horrors of that gruesome day, but I also thought of how proud I was to be a New Yorker and to experience the heart, grit, and resilience of the city. At lunch, the legions of chic and professionally dressed millenials eating sushi rolls and artisanal grilled cheeses made me wistful for the years I spent climbing the ladder in public relations. While I caught up with my friends and watched the boys and their friends talk, play, and skate together like no time had passed, I longed for the ease and familiarity of our life in Florida.
A mix of nostalgia and regret washed over me as the past two decades swirled around my head. I missed the bustle of the city, the promise of my career, the freedom of my pre-kid life, the comfort of Florida, and our close-knit community of friends. Nothing was the same, and I wanted it all back, but I also felt a fierce jolt of gratitude that I ever had any of it in the first place. Outside the taxi, the energy of the city beckoned, but inside the car, the rhythm of my boys’ breath as they slept after a long and happy day with friends jerked me back to the here and now. Someday, I realized, I would miss this, too.
My boys weren’t the only ones who played hooky that day, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.