24 March 2008

The Wonders of NYC

Mommy, the sidewalk is sparklelous!

Pigeons!

Look, skyscrapers!

Mommy, what's that man doing in that box?
One tends to take one's surroundings for granted. When you walk down the same sidewalk every day, you stop noticing the small things, the details that give texture and beauty and whimsy to the world around us.

Coming back from lunch the other day, Miss M. stopped in her tracks, smitten with the sparkling sidewalk ahead of us. Most of the time, concrete is just concrete, drably providing a smooth surface to walk on. Sometimes, though, the particular admixture is full of shiny stuff that picks up the early spring sunshine, and looks for all the world like diamonds twinkling at your feet. The four year old sees the diamonds. And I remembered the snow fall in the town of fools, in Zlateh The Goat. Do you know that book? It's short stories for children by Isaac Bashevis Singer. And every time the sidewalk sparkles, whether with "diamonds" or broken glass or snow fall, I think of that book, which I read as a child.

My office is in a fairly low-rise section of the city - our building is 8 stories, many are only 4 or 5, and the tallest are about 20 stories. But, to a child who lives in a two story house, surrounded by two story houses, who attends daycare in a two story house, anything bigger than that is a skyscraper - including the modest 6 story office building at a corner where we were waiting to cross the street.

And the pigeons. At every pigeon we saw she bellowed "pigeons!", delighted when they flew up and away from her. Most people seem to think pigeons are "dirty, disgusting, filthy, lice-ridden birds" - but not the small child. She's thrilled to see them - they're animals, up close and chaseable.

As we were returning to the subway to return home, she said "Mommy, why is that man in a box?" in a loud voice. I turned with rising mortification, to see a young man sitting up in a not large cardboard box, laughing. Somehow, the direct question, the question one usually scurries past, completely disarmed the man in question and the pedestrians behind us. He grinned at her, and me at him. Was he homeless? Disabled? Strung out? I don't know. I've never seen someone tucked in that spot before, and he had no pan-handling sign. But he had a wonderful spirit in a potentially awkward moment.

I hope that the people near us when she wondered at the sidewalk, gaped at the tall building and shouted at the pigeons were amused, just as I hope the people near to the man in the box noticed him instead of turning a blind eye.

24 comments:

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Beautifully and poignantly written, my friend.

alejna said...

That was really wonderful. Her words and your observations.

Julie Pippert said...

I do know that book.

And I do know the amazing effect of children's observations, which you caught so wonderfully here.

thrice said...

Yes, and the pigeons are also very scare-able.

I have a confession. I still like the sparkly concrete too!

flutter said...

I love sparkleous sidewalks...and this post

Becky said...

That's so what I love about kids. They find wonder in the absolute mundane and often remind you not only to stop and smell the flowers, but to taste them as well.

susiej said...

I'm getting this book -- I had never heard of this one. I love this post.

furiousBall said...

sparklelous is the greatest word ever

susan said...

What a girl you have, what a way to see the world (and write about it, too).

Mrs. G. said...

What does the world have against pigeons? Thank goodness your girl sees their beauty.

PunditMom said...

The sidewalks are sparkleous, aren't they?

slouching mom said...

oh do i love sparklelous!

ben and jack react the same way to the city. cracks me up every single time.

Ozma said...

I need to start saying "I don't know." I think I need her to know that some things are inexplicable. I'm always giving her pat answers. Maybe it's better if she knows the truth now, that there are all kinds of things there are not good reasons for.

toddlerplanet said...

Awesome story. I love that he smiled, and you smiled, and caught his eye.

Nicely done!

Aliki2006 said...

This was great, on so many levels. I always wonder at us grownups hushing kids who sometimes point out the most important of things...

Queen Goob said...

And what a wonderful moment for the young man in the box. Maybe he was in the box just for Miss M. and maybe Miss M noticed him just to put a smile on his face.

There really is nothing quite like the joy a child brings.

p.s. we don't have pigeons

Mayberry said...

Wow -- clearly one of those "so this is why we have kids" moments!

Mama Zen said...

What a beautiful story! I'll try to be a little more aware of all things sparkelous!

Candy said...

We could all benefit by seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Thanks for the reminder.

Danielle said...

Ohhh...I get it Miss M. I felt the same way when I moved to NYC at 25 years old and saw it all for the first time. The wonder of it all, the man in the box, the tall buildings and the pigeons. I was personally rivoted by the rats in the subway. And I LOVED it all! Miss M....she's a New Yorker in the making and a girl after my own heart.

Janet said...

I love taking toddler walks with E. It's just as you describe here, so very well.

Minnesota Matron said...

Hey, I am headed to this great city with my 11 year old, tomorrow. Should be interesting to see what an urban kid from a big-small town (St. Paul/Minneapolis) will think of what he encounters.

Victoria said...

I love this post, Magpie! I'm so looking forward to taking my boy to your city (soon - our trip has been delayed. waa!)

Julia said...

Last year in the Old City, Monkey chased pigeons every single time she saw them. JD thought that was the surest sign she was not local. :)

Beautiful story. It's so cool that you still think of that book. And I hope she keeps noticing these things for a long long time.