My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Trip To New York, Volume 1

I wanted to blog about our trip to New York while it was still fresh in my mind because I'm finding these days that things don't stay "fresh" in my mind for as long as they used to... short shelf life for me as far as memory goes, I'm afraid.

Just a little background information - my brother Bryan is #4 out of the five of us kids and was born when I was ten years old. He was an adorable little redhead with an active imagination. He went through this cat stage where he constantly wore a cat costume, spoke in meows and wanted to take his meals on the floor, like a cat. He's also the brother who famously protested my sunbathing in the area where he wanted to play when I was 17. (That's him in the blue shirt in the background. He's holding a protest sign he made.) He was seven when I got married the first time and holds the distinction of being the only person on Earth (besides me) to have attended all (both) of my weddings.

Bryan went to college in South Carolina and then to law school in Chicago. Since getting his law degree in ... 2004? I think?... he has worked for a pretty big international law firm in New York City handling anti-trust cases (I think that's what it's called) and recently was made a junior partner. He dated a girl for about ten years who just really didn't gel with our family culture. We all did our best to connect with her and for awhile she and I were in frequent contact but over the past few years she pretty much had us all on *ignore*. And that's fine. I have an amazing sister-in-law who is like a sister to me and I have two others. Long, not really my story to tell story short, their relationship ended and Bryan met Helen. At the Metropolitan Museum. They met at the Met. Get it? Bryan brought Helen to meet the family last Christmas. We had a great time and were all completely smitten with her, Bryan proposed, they're getting married in June.

A little while back Helen asked me, mom and my sister-in-law Angie (the amazing one, in case you were wondering) if she could fly us to New York to attend one of her bridal showers. The time frame was a little tight because it was three days after Cosette's due date and we didn't know for sure she would be here before then and because Angie wanted to make sure she was home for Mother's Day. And now you know the "why" of our trip to New York.

I have not traveled much in my life and not at all since my back problems started. I was a little bit anxious about pain management with all the walking that is required in airports and sleeping in a bed as opposed to my recliner. Yet I felt like this was a good test run for the week we're in New York/Connecticut for the wedding and I so very much wanted to have the opportunity to connect with Helen's family and close friends before the big event. In short, the benefits far outweighed the potential pain.

We live about an hour and a half from the Atlanta airport and our flight was to leave at 9:45 on Friday so we left our house around 5:45 and drove to Angie and Jim's house. Jim was in New Orleans so Pop was going to stay with the girls before school and take them to school and Angie drove us to the airport. She travels a lot and traveled a lot growing up as her dad worked for Delta so we really turned over the reigns to her. I knew that the best way to conserve energy would be to have assistance in the airport but I was so embarrassed about riding in a wheelchair. That was not on my list of life goals. When I checked in at the Delta kiosk in the airport I requested "special services" but didn't know how to arrange for a wheelchair to the gate. Fortunately our flight departed from the "T" concourse which is very close to where you enter so ... not much walking. When we got off the plane at LaGuardia there were two Delta representatives waiting with wheelchairs for me and mom, holding signs with our names on them. That was incredibly helpful because there was a good bit of walking, some of it uphill to get from our gate to where we met Helen.

This is out of order but I wanted to describe our "special services" on the flight back. We told the guy at the curb check in for Delta that we required wheelchair assistance. I don't think he checked my boarding pass the way I checked it in Atlanta because although he arranged for us to be taken to the departure gate in LaGuardia, we didn't have wheelchairs waiting when we got back to Atlanta. What was worse, and truly what caused me the most pain, was that they left us at the gate at LaGuardia but then changed the gate at the last minute. The new gate was a pretty far walk and there were no seats there. We stood for quite a long time waiting to board the plane and although they allowed us to board early, as I said, there was no one waiting at the gate for us in Atlanta. Fortunately there was a guy there just in case someone needed assistance but only the one guy so I rode and mama walked. He was a super nice guy and offered to carry mom's purse and got her to hold on to one of the handles of the wheelchair so she had something to lean on. He took me all the way through the airport to the Park and Ride bus. Overall I give Delta a 50% score for servicing customers who are less abled. The flight attendant leaving Atlanta was great about helping me get seated comfortably and putting our carry on bags in the overhead compartment. On the way home I asked the flight attendant who greeted us when we boarded if I could get some assistance with the carry-on and she said, "ok, I'll take care of that" and then didn't. My mom tried to put it up and I flagged down another flight attendant and said, "we asked for help but it didn't pan out". And so... yeah. About half the time they were great and half the time they were indifferent.

Upper West Side
Helen picked us up at the airport and took us to her parents house in Pelham, New York. Pelham is a nice little suburb that reminded me somewhat of Druid Hills in Atlanta - nice older homes, neatly manicured, landscaped yards. Her parents served lunch out by the pool and it was exactly what we would have served at home in such a situation - lunch meat, pasta salads, chips. Helen had to head back into Manhattan for an appointment with the hairdresser for the wedding to work out the placement of her veil. We stayed out by the pool with her parents for quite a while having a very enjoyable conversation. Her grandmother arrived by train from Philadelphia and joined in the conversation. The weather was perfect and we felt very much welcome and even at home with them.

We all decided we needed a little freshening up before the party so Helen's mom, Sarah, took us up to our rooms. We each had our own bedroom and we shared a bath. Bryan and Helen were also staying over night and there was plenty of room for all of us. I wish SO MUCH that I had taken a picture of the bed in my room. It was so high up that the top of the mattress was chest high on me! Sarah brought up a step ladder for me to climb into the bed! It wasn't too hard, actually. It was kind of like getting on a horse - I put one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and swung the other leg up onto the bed.

I climbed into bed and rested my eyes for a few minutes and mom poked her head in to check out my accommodations. I told her the bed was AWESOME and I was able to lay on my back with two or three pillows behind my head and another pillow or two under my knees. Both beds I have here at home would feel like a knife in my spine in that position but this bed was so very perfect for me! Mom had to try it out so she climbed the ladder and laid with me with the breeze blowing across... it felt like the scene at Twelve Oaks where all the girls have to nap before the party.

We got dressed into our party clothes and I touched up my makeup. Helen's parents were making shuttle runs between the train station and the house where the shower was being held. Helen drove me and mom to the party. Angie came later in another group, I think. I can't remember now. I'm not as good in new situations as I used to be. I get tongue tied a lot now and if I'm in pain I get shaky and feel very self-conscious about not drawing attention to myself. That's hard because I like people. I'm not quite the extrovert any more but I do like connecting with people. The people at this party were friends of Helen and her parents, people she went to boarding school and college with, people who you would easily assume had a very different life from what I've had. They were wonderful to us! I don't think there was a single person at the shower that didn't introduce themselves, make conversation and completely make us feel welcome.

Mom and I slipped out to the backyard where it was a bit cooler and quieter. Sweet Helen brought me some lemonade and we met a few more people. The party hostess came out and gave us a tour of her garden - she has a bumper crop of basil that I am totally coveting - and then we settled at another grouping of outdoor furniture. Several women joined us - an oncologist, a lady who owns a publishing company, a former Ford model - many diverse people from different backgrounds but the conversation flowed easily. We were having such a great time that some of the younger girls joined our group. Appetizers were passed... I didn't eat much because I did feel shaky and felt like it could easily take a turn toward nausea. I also didn't take photos because I just wasn't sure if that would be intrusive, not knowing these folks and all. Also, I find that if I'm behind the lens it serves as sort of a barrier and I miss out on things.

 Then they called us in for dinner. There was a lovely buffet of "Cheap Chic" food such as little lobster rolls, crab cakes, oysters, mac and cheese, salad... a lot of stuff. Too much to remember! The food was delicious but I really mostly nibbled because I was afraid to start feeling poorly. Mom was also feeling a bit nauseous and the hostess very sweetly brought her out chamomile tea.  I was in pain to the extent that I was uncomfortable but not miserable. The house was pretty warm and it got pretty loud in there at times but I'm so glad we were able to be there and I'm so much more excited about the wedding since we've met some of the people who will be there. Helen got some nice gifts but ours... ooops... had been left at her parents' house.

Helen's dad, Mark, sweetly asked if the girls from Georgia were in need of rest and truly, by that point we really were. We went back to the house, changed out of our party clothes and turned our coach back into a pumpkin. I settled into that fabulous bed and was still a little bit awake when I heard Bryan and Helen come up the stairs. I called them into the room and told them about the forgotten presents and raved on the very zen position I was able to achieve with the bed. Bryan said we'll find out what kind it is and buy one. Or maybe Helen said that first. It was late and I was medicated by that point. We also chatted about babies because we know Helen wants babies and, well, babies are sort of on my mind at this point. I was trying to pin them down (as big sisters are known to do. a big sister can be worse than a Jewish mother at times) on whether there would be a honeymoon baby and how many babies and I think they don't really know yet. They bought the apartment next to Bryan's so they could expand to have room for kids so there will be a place for them, for sure! At any rate they were giddy from the excitement of the evening and I was fading into sleep and so we all settled in for the night.

My Christmas gift to Bryan - he added the frame
I slept about five or six hours straight that night - without waking up - in a bed in a strange house without a tv on. That's on par with loaves and fishes miracles, y'all!

We all pulled ourselves together and loaded up in order to leave a little after 9am. Bryan and Helen took us to breakfast at The Smith Restaurant . I had corned beef hash and it was SOOOOO good! I could only finish about half of it though, it was huge. Then we went back to Bryan's apartment and spent a little time chatting and looking out off of his patio over to Central Park. The only pictures I really took were during that time. About 1:30 we loaded into the car and made the drive back to the airport.

Ugly swollen foot
The flight home started badly (see previous paragraph about changing the departure gate, etc.) and the past 36 hours started catching up with me in an ugly way. We had a lot of "rough air" and it was a bumpy flight. I have a huge problem with swelling in my legs if they're not elevated and there was no way to elevate them on the plane. I get swollen, my joints get hot - they feel like they're on fire on the inside and they're hot to the touch on the outside. Even with the kind wheelchair driver who pushed me all the way to the bus... and the kind bus driver who dropped us off right beside our car.... by the time we made the hour and a half drive home I was really miserable and hating life/loving life all at the same time. It was an unforgettable weekend and I'm so grateful to Helen for arranging for us to be there and to her friends and family for making us feel so welcome and to Bryan for picking the RIGHT GIRL FINALLY!

In 23 days we'll be leaving on a jet plane again and I can't tell you how excited I am to see new things, reconnect with family and friends on both sides of the family and just to celebrate how happy my brother is and how blessed we are as a family to have another amazing woman join our clan. I promise to take lots of pictures that week!

Hope your weekend was fabulous! Love and hugs, y'all!


monique said...

What a nice weekend. I would love to go to NY, NY. You were lucky to not have to worry about where to stay etc. And the fact that you had a fantastic bed to rest your head and tired body on, is the icing on the cake.
I hope you can recoup for your next trip, the wedding. That sounds like a dream.
Take care,