I wake up in a strange bed, too much light in the room. I hear a recognizable but unfamiliar sound. The 7 train and I remember I am at a friend’s apartment. Beside me on the bed the blankets are thrown back. My daughters are sleeping in the other rooms, dreaming of their first day in the city. And the headlines, boldface, wait. A catchpenny list: extremist, epidemic, terrorist, threat, militant, virus, radical, massacre. And on my daughter’s birthday the mayor and the governor edit the front page. There was a press conference on the train about the
imminent non-credible threat to the New York City subway system. Still, there will be a heavy police presence throughout the city and we are advised to report anything suspicious. Be on the lookout, as always. For what?
I’m not good with profiling and I have a low threshold for clickbait so I skip the “news” and respond to a text from a friend.
- The one weekend I’m dragging my children through tourist traps!
- Second thoughts about walking the Brooklyn Bridge?! haha
My husband, on his way to a day of freelance work at Lincoln Center, sends me a picture of Sunnyside. Looking very sunny.
– Kids have been asking to ride the subway forever. Ugh.
- You and I were in Rwanda this time last year, don’t forget. Be the brave mommy.
I wasn’t brave in Rwanda because I wasn’t afraid. And I’m not afraid now. I’m sad. Sad that there really are people out there who want to blow up Americans and anyone else. Today or some other day. Sad that there are Americans who want to bomb, fight hate with hate. Sad that we’re losing our minds over Ebola but had very little concern over it for the last 40 years when it was contained to central Africa. Sad that this is the world my children have inherited. Thoughts like these hit me like a flood of postpartum hormones; wanting my children to be hidden safe, embryonic.
I let more light in through the windows and I dress in the room that is not mine. I find my daughter reading on the couch and we whisper for a few minutes. I get in the guest bed with the younger two who are still sleeping peacefully. And the first words out of my littlest girl’s mouth are Mama, are we going to ride the train today? And I casually tell her yeah, of course. And I pull them out of bed and pull clean outfits over their heads and pull the birthday girl away from her book. There is nothing I want to do more than navigate the city with these little girls, ages 5, 7 and 9, their faces bright with equal parts eagerness and focus.
Crosswalks and breakfast as we’re walking and I point out the Empire State Building from Queens Boulevard. The girls saw it glowing yesterday when we drove into the city after dark, everything lit up like perpetual Christmas. The girls argued over who got to drag the suitcases a block from the car to my friend’s apartment building. And to them every sight and scent and sound was something to behold. This morning they suppress smiles, standing, crowded on the train. I tell them to hold on. And it is one thing to tell myself sensible things but it is another to load my children into a train and into another train and another. And to wait for the train to stop and the doors to open except the train has slowed to a crawl through the last dark length of tunnel.
I close my eyes and think well, what if? I think of my daughters, happy and optimistic, and I think of the train full of strangers who all have places to be. Words come to me.
God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
All I feel in that moment is love; sincere, full. For my children and for these strangers. For life and all the people who populate it. For everyone whose everyday is a threat. It is impossible to feel this serene sense of love and simultaneously feel fear. And I love my daughters too much to allow fear to rule my thoughts and actions.
There is the day waiting for us. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The rush of Times Square because they have to see it after seeing the pictures. Roasted peanuts and pizza slices. The girls making plans to move to the city when they grow up and me telling them about the colleges I visited once upon a time. Passionfruit and orange-chocolate gelato. Indian summer in Central Park. Museum tours. Leisurely late afternoon refreshment at the café. Miles of walking and laughing at how my 5 year old somehow seems to be in her element. After dark, the day will turn from hot to warm, lush; the girls will press their foreheads against the window to take in every last light of the city speeding by on the train ride back.