Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY
Last week, my 3 kids, son-in-law, and I were in NYC for the beautiful and fun wedding of a special couple. Friends (former neighbors) we have known for over 20 years. What a blast we had! Four of us took the train, and my son flew. We decided to make a special family vacation out of this opportunity.
Before the trip we were worried about Old Irma spoiling our time in NYC. And worried that she might do harm to our special home in Surfside Beach. We were spared. We had perfect weather the whole time. Thankfully.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.”
Have you taken a train lately? NO? Oh my…well it is different from what you might expect. You don’t go through any TSA or metal detectors. And you don’t have to get to the train station an hour and a half early – just 5 minutes! Hop on the train, find a big comfy seat, plug in your laptop if you have it and log in using their wireless. Take snacks – it’s a long trip to NYC – 6 hours. But it beats driving! We arrived Wednesday midday at Penn Station, found our way out (no small feat) and took a taxi to our hotel. Met my son, started out exploring the city and found a great place for lunch.
We all had things we wanted to do on this trip from a Soul Cycle class to The American Girl Store to The Today Show to Ground Zero. First up we had to see a Broadway show. I let the kids pick – Lion King! They all loved the movie as kids and the Broadway Show did not disappoint. It was awesome! Made me cry at the end (imagine that!). As much as the kids loved the movie, they loved the Broadway Show more. The costumes were amazing. My favorite? The giraffes. I cannot begin to describe how great the giraffes were. And the Elephant. And the birds. And the hyenas. Get the picture?
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Thursday started off with an appearance on the TODAY SHOW – look out Matt and Savannah! Or maybe look over your shoulder as my son-in-law figured out the perfect spot right behind the anchors. He was on camera more than they were. What fun we had with our “appearances” as we received texts from friends asking if we were in NYC and at the Today Show. It helped that my son-in-law had on his CAROLINA blue shirt. Not only did he stand out, he made friends with the security guards. Then a trip to the NY Library (you know I love libraries), the huge NIKE store, Lululemon (largest in the country), the LEGO Store, and the American Girl Store where my oldest daughter found her doll, Samantha, still in action, but sadly, Molly, the precious doll of my younger daughter, has been archived. (Sidebar: My oldest daughter’s Samantha doll could pass for brand new with every accessory, piece of clothing, etc. packed away for “future use”, while my younger daughter’s Molly doll could use a visit to the American Girl Doll hospital to fix her hair! Different kids, same mother.)
The NY Historical Society currently has a wonderful JFK and Jackie exhibit which we visited. My younger daughter is enamoured with JFK and Jackie. She and I saw the movie “Jackie”, and to see all the pictures in this exhibit was wonderful. We walked all over NYC and spent a lot of time in Central Park, even had lunch there at the Boat House. Okay, seriously, how do people live in NYC? How do they afford it? Where do the kids play soccer or football? Where are the schools? Where do they catch the bus? Where is Harris Teeter or Kroger? Or any big grocery store? And if you go to the grocery store, how do you get your groceries home? Inquiring minds want to know. Every second a car horn is blowing. Traffic is horrendous. There are so many people everywhere! Tough for a claustrophobic 5’2” gal. But we did meet a lot of nice New Yorkers. They guessed that we were not from NY!
We had planned to go to the Yankees – Orioles game, but after walking all day (25,000+ steps), we decided instead to have drinks and dinner at a fun restaurant, The Smith. The food was excellent as was my Moscow Mule (my new favorite drink!). My younger 2 kids met up with friends for “late night fun” in NYC and my oldest and her husband and I walked uptown to a rooftop bar. Beautiful weather and fun times!
Friday morning came early as my daughters and I walked several blocks to Soul Cycle. What is Soul Cycle? It is a total body cycle class where you work hard not only spinning, but using weights, doing push ups, dips, everything while on the bike. But it is also an inspirational experience (the “soul” part) that stays with you long after you leave class. We got our sweat on and loved this boutique class experience.
“Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly.”
Met the “men” back at the hotel and left for Ground Zero where we spent several hours. An experience not to be missed. Especially last week – the 16th anniversary. I cannot tell you how affected we all were by this exhibit. My daughter and her husband had been through it last March, but wanted to see it again. That is how powerful it is. None of us left there dry-eyed. It was so emotional looking at the pictures of each person who lost their life that day. Then to listen to the voice mails saved from those on the planes and in the Towers telling their families how much they loved them, knowing they were not going to survive, touched me like nothing else. “Honey, pick up the phone…there’s a problem on our plane… I just want to tell you I love you...” Thank heavens there were Kleenexes all around. It is still hard to believe this happened. I remember that day well…I was working at acac and we all gathered in our café to watch the horror on the TV. It was my dear friend’s birthday and we were to go out to lunch to celebrate. Plans cancelled. I bet you remember where you were that day too. New York is truly a strong city and how it has rebounded and rebuilt is an amazing testament to the character of the city.
“On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.” Governor George Pataki
I thought we had walked a lot the day before, but we racked up the steps again even though we did take an Uber to Ground Zero. We walked to Soho for lunch at a place where they brew their beer on site and have 21 different gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Guess what we had? The best grilled cheese sandwiches! Mine even had apple slices in it. Also saw the Statue of Liberty. That evening we had drinks and dinner at another wonderful restaurant with a rooftop bar – the Refinery Hotel. Yes, we ate well and drank a lot. How did we find all these great places? Again, kids’ friends – one sent her “Guide to NYC Awesomeness” listing everything to do in each part of NYC!
Our last morning in the city was spent walking around (gotta get those steps in) and ending up at a great sports bar where we had lunch and watched the UVA game before heading to NJ for the wedding. (UVA crushed it for all you Wahoos – many who were with us at the wedding!) But the problem was the Carolina game… my son-in-law was concerned about missing that game. Not to worry, he found an app to watch it from the shuttle to the wedding, and kept us apprised of the score during the afternoon. HEELS won!
The WEDDING… Y’all, there is nothing like a New Jersey wedding… NOTHING! I need to back up – there is nothing like a New Jersey RECEPTION! OMG nothing was spared – not one thing. After the beautiful wedding, we arrived at the cocktail party on the rooftop terrace of Biagio’s. It was perfect. The food was unbelievable! We thought this was dinner but it was NOT! There were 8+ food stations from shrimp/oysters/crab (beyond amazing) to pasta to sausages/soft pretzels (heavenly) to beef to veggies to cheeses to so much more plus servers constantly at your side offering more appetizers that were to die for! And of course, there was an open bar. Once we realized this was not dinner, we had to stop eating. Good thing because dinner was amazing. But there is more! There was a dessert room. No, not a dessert bar, it was a dessert ROOM! Filled with the best desserts ever – cakes, ice cream, waffles, funnel cakes, cotton candy, cheese cakes, a chocolate fountain, petit fours – made Chandlers in Charlottesville look like a mini-mart! And this was separate from the wedding cake.
So enough about the food… what was next? After the special Father/Bride and Mother/Groom dances, the DJ had a special dance for all the couples. I was at a great table with all of my friends (couples), but for this SOLO gal, this dance was a bit painful. I looked up as the couples headed to the dance floor and I saw my wonderful, handsome son sprinting over to me saying, “Come on Momma, let’s dance.” Y’all, I adore my son but never loved him more than at that moment. How sweet of him to realize how I must be feeling. My kids are so special! We all danced together (my kids and me) the rest of the night. Never sat down until we got on the shuttle to the hotel. My “dawgs” were barking after dancing in heels all night, but it was worth it. Such a fun reception. I knew it would be. These dear special friends (neighbors we lived next door to for 17+ years before they moved to KY, with kids the same ages as mine, and sons both “Michaels”) cannot be topped in wedding fun. And it was more special having all my kids there to share this with them, their childhood friends.
“I may not be perfect, but when I look at my children I know I got something in my life perfectly right.”
This special wedding couple is blessed. Their Armenian ceremony included the rite of crowning, symbolizing they are King and Queen of their own little kingdom, their home. We witnessed not only their pledge to love and honor one another, but their total devotion to each other. (One funny story here… I was telling a friend about the crowning ritual and she kept saying “They put a crayon on their heads? What color Crayon?” “No, it was a CROWN.” “Why did they put a crayon on?” After being around so many Northerners, I am not sure why my Southern accent was so rampant that she thought I was saying “crayon” instead of crown. Even though they do sound alike!)
I am thankful my kids and I could share this special day with this couple and their families and friends. It was a reunion of sorts, and you know how I love reunions! I am also thrilled that I had this time with my kids and that they made this vacation possible. Make the effort to spend time with those you love and cherish, because as we all know, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
See you next week when we talk FOOTBALL and TAILGATING!
(note: special thanks and credit to the Degnan’s for the reception pictures!)