It shouldn't take cancer to help make dreams come true, but hey - what a fun way to make lemonade out of the lemons in our lives!
We completed another leg of my "farewell tour" with an amazing family reunion in Manhattan. My three brothers and I (with our families) and my mom celebrated Thanksgiving week together in the Big Apple. It was something my brother Jim and I talked about doing ever since he moved to New York to do his fellowship and residency, and thanks to my mom, Aunt Kay, and Uncle Andrew, the dream finally materialized in a super-fun way.
We all converged on Tuesday at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Times Square, where the twelve of us (four kids and eight adults) split three suites. It's a beautiful hotel, and I remember staying there in 1994 for a business trip, when we saw Big Bird in the lobby, because they were having the Daytime Emmy Awards there.
Everyone arrived safely, and then after hitting Sbarro's for lunch (which was funny - one of my brothers commented that we came all the way to New York City and ate "mall food"), we set out to tour 5th Avenue, with its many wonderful shops (including Tiffany's, where I - happily - did not have a seizure amidst the brilliant display of diamonds) and beautiful landmarks like St. Patrick's Cathedral. On the way back we passed by St. Thomas Church just as an evensong was beginning. Having sung with Evening Song, a choir whose name was inspired by the beautiful "evensongs" our director heard during his travels to Cambridge, I always longed to hear a real evensong myself. We stepped in and heard the choir, comprised of fifteen men and twenty-four boys. It was an unexpected delight to hear such beautiful music, and I was grateful for the ability to appreciate it.
We also hit the new Toys R Us store, which is a fantasy land that includes a ferris wheel ride. I took my son and niece and nephew on it, and it was a blast. Afterward, some of us had dinner at Sardi's that night, which was a favorite spot from a prior trip.
On Wednesday we went to Rockefeller Center, including Top of the Rock (where thankfully we did not get blown off the roof despite the wind), and then we had matinee tickets (second row, center) to see Beauty and the Beast. It was, of course, very well done, and we really enjoyed the character of Gaston, brilliantly played by Donny Osmond. He was my first crush, before Shaun Cassidy took over when I was ten years old (and before Jared took over for good when I was fifteen). I met Mr. Cassidy during a trip to NYC in 1995, and so this time we rushed to the stage exit to catch the big D-O. It cost us a hard-earned chance to see the David Letterman show, but it really paid off. I got Donny's autograph and a picture, and so that was another unexpected delight. We also had a couple of fun Seinfeld-inspired dining experiences, including the black-and-white cookie and soup from SoupMan (the place that launched the "Soup Nazi" episode). They actually have fabulous service, going out of their way to be "more soup, less Nazi", and the lobster bisque really is incredible.
On Wednesday night they inflate the balloons for the Macy's parade, so we headed up near Central Park to watch that happen. My son and I had fun taking turns with the camera, getting close-up pictures and guessing what each balloon was. It was kind of like seeing the parade up front and in reverse, and without the marching bands and Broadway dancers.
When the parade started Thursday morning, it was cold and rainy. But we stayed warm and dry, watching the parade all together from the window of one of our hotel rooms. We put the television on, and so we would see something pass by and later hear the commentary about it on TV. It was nice to have such a great view without having to sit out all night in the rainy cold. One of many things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. We later feasted on turkey and trimmings at The View, the revolving rooftop restaurant at the top of our hotel. The abundance of good food and family was symbolic of the innumerable blessings that we have received, especially (but not exclusively) during the past year.
On Friday we ignored the traditional Black Friday shopping madness and ferried to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I brought a list of our immigrant ancestors who came from Greece, Denmark, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Portugal, and I couldn't help but think what it must have been like for them to pass Lady Liberty and step onto Ellis Island. We also went to the World Trade Center site (Ground Zero), which is a sobering place. It was hard to explain the significance of it to the kids.
Friday was the 24th anniversary of the first date I went on with Jared. Friday was also my mom's birthday, so we wound our way back to Junior's (near our hotel) for a party with some good diner food and the best cheesecake we'd ever eaten. Then some of us went to the Manhattan temple (across from Lincoln Center). It was a really awesome day.
Saturday morning gave us just enough time for breakfast together at the hotel restaurant before we each left for home. We discussed where we might go next. (I'll have to consult my "hair list".) It would be nice to be like Cher (or McDonald's McRib sandwich) and keep having "farewell tours" over the years. This trip might not have happened this year, had my tumor been benign. There are many experiences that would have been missed, because sometimes it's too easy to forget how precious each opportunity can be, until mortality raises its ugly head. So even though it came with cancer attached, I'm glad I was able to take Manhattan.
(Come back for pictures!!)