“Hey Mama, look! That roller coaster is running after us!”
I lift my head off the black leather headrest and open my eyes. He is talking about the Tobin Bridge in the distance. We are in the carpool lane headed to South Station.
“Oh, I see. You’re right; it does look like a roller coaster, but it’s a bridge and it’s not moving with us. Eyes play tricks sometimes."
He laughs. “I thought there was a carnival over there.” My five-year-old son explores the cavernous back seat of the sedan, which he named “the fancy car”.
We are on an improvised adventure to New York City. We have a hotel near Times Square, tickets to Mary Poppins, and no place else to be for two days.
We get on the train, settle in and the conductor makes an announcement: “We are approaching 150 miles per hour. This is what is feels like folks.”
My boy watches the trees change to a green blur.
“Mom, can Lightening McQueen go this fast?”
I smile, “Lightening is a cartoon. He isn’t a real car.”
He lays his head in my lap and breathes. I stroke his hair until he falls asleep.
He is quiet when we arrive and I wonder if he is in groggy from the trip or in awe of the city. We lunch under the golden statue in Rockefeller Center.
He tosses pennies in and makes wishes. We immerse ourselves into FAO Schwartz and ride back to our hotel on a bicycle taxi to take a rest before we go to the theater. We bounce on the bed and sing Chim Chimney.
It is 8PM. The lights dim. We share a rush of anticipation.
The orchestra swells into its first song. He climbs onto my lap to see more.
The hotel is two blocks away so we walk back. Blinking lights surround us and people swirl past. We hold hands and look up through the skyscrapers into the dark sky.
I pushed passed by the gawking tourists with a huff when I lived in New York; they slowed my frantic pace. Now, I held his small hand, watched him mesmerized by the chaos. I felt I saw it for the first time.
“Mom” He says, “We don’t have carnivals like this at home”.
We stood on the corner of 42nd and Broadway and no one could budge us.
Finally, tucked into bed we call Daddy. He is stuck an extra day in Haiti and wishes he were with us. We say good night, turn out the lights and he snuggles under my arm. I remind him that his dad is trying to make the world better.
“Which direction is Daddy in?” he whispers.
I point, “He is that way.”
He kisses his hand and blows. “You think that will reach him?”
“I believe it will.”
“Mom, this is the greatest adventure ever.”
In the morning, we watch the singers do a sound check in Bryant Park, and I recall the day I sang in their Broadway Summer Series. I had just met my husband and invited him to watch. I could not have imagined then, that one-day our son would chase pigeons there.
Now I imagine his kiss travels through walls, across the night sky to another country, and finds his father’s cheek and just as Mary Poppins said "Anything can happen...If you let it."
Back on the train, I stare at his open, beautiful face and picture the man he will grow up to be. I wonder how and where he will uncover this memory-- of the summer he turned five, holding his mom’s hand under the big city light and seeing Mary Poppins fly?
My son sees carnivals everywhere, and believes that roller coasters can run. He points to the houses in the distance. “Hey mom. Look. I see Bert the Chimney Sweep.”
I squeeze his hand. “I see him, too, dancing across the roofs.”