A Different World

Sunday we took all three kids into the city to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live. We of course got on the road late and got tangled in a snare of traffic on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Jamie circled around the Beacon Theater a few times searching for parking before deciding to drop me off with Teddy and Jo Jo so I could pick up the tickets. As soon as he stopped to let us out, we were met with a blare of honking.

“Give me a break,” Jamie growled as he unloaded the diaper bag and double stroller. “What are these people in such a hurry for?”

I knew what he meant. It seemed so surreal to me that five years ago, we would have been those people, those type A, narcissistic New Yorkers who couldn’t handle sitting in traffic an extra five minutes. We would have been in a cab, cursing the dumb suburban schlubs in their scuffed minivan as we texted frantically on our Blackberries to let friends know we were running late for brunch.

Jamie finally deposited us all safely on the curb, and he finally found parking, and we finally checked the stroller, and we finally made our way up to our nosebleed seats in the theater where we sat and watched Teddy and Jo Jo dance as Geoffrey squealed with laughter.

After the show, we headed off to brunch with friends, and as we walked down the cobblestones of 75th street I thought wistfully of how much I missed living in the city.

That feeling was short lived. After schlepping everyone ten blocks to Patsy’s pizzeria (only the best pizza in the city) we were told it would be a 45 minute wait. We were told the same thing at the next restaurant. And the restaurant after that.

“I hate this city,” Jamie growled again as we in desperation walked into a cafe that I was pretty sure had absolutely nothing on the menu my kids would ever dream of eating. The café was packed. We spotted one table and raced to claim it. Two middle aged women were sitting next to us, at a table for four.

“Could we borrow one of your tables?” I asked, gesturing to all the kids.

The women eyed me warily over their Diet Cokes. “No,” one finally said. “We’re expecting another friend.”

“We have four adults and four small children and it’s just so crowded in her,” I said as sweetly as I could. “Do you think maybe the three of you could fit at one table?” It’s the sort of thing I ask routinely and people always say yes and then spend about ten minutes gushing over my kids.

The women stared at me as if I’d asked them to take part in a wet T-shirt contest. “No,” one said, lips curled up in disgust. “We couldn’t.”

“Thanks for being so helpful to my wife,” Jamie said sarcastically as he stomped off to order us a round of bagels.

The woman closest to me rolled her eyes and then muttered, “maybe she should get her tubes tied.”

Fortunately a few minutes later Teddy vomited all over himself, causing the two lunching ladies to flee in horror and leaving us with all the space in the world.

An hour later, when we returned to the parking garage to pick up our car, we were informed it would be a half hour wait. Jamie took Jo Jo to Starbucks to pick us up some coffee. A few minutes later, our minivan pulled up, while I was in the middle of nursing Geoffrey. I was making my way over to the car pushing a screaming Geoffrey in his stroller and dragging an overtired, wailing Teddy when I heard a series of loud, blaring honks. Behind me, there was a line of furious cars.

“I’m sorry,” I started yelling as I loaded both boys in. “I have an infant and a toddler.”

The horns blared even louder. What did they want me to do?

“I’m moving as fast as I can,” I shouted as I frantically tried to unscrew the bike rack so I could open the trunk and dump the stroller. I was just about to slam the trunk shut when I heard “move your ass, lady,” and I spun around to see a cab driver waving his fist at me through his open window.

Thankfully, at that moment Jamie showed up. “Sorry it took so long,” Jamie said as he loaded Jo Jo into the car.

It turns out the lines were insane, as they were in every other coffee shop on the Upper West Side. While Jamie stood in line, Jo Jo went whirling around the store, prancing around while singing “I like to dance” from Yo Gabba Gabba. Jamie noticed the man behind him was staring at her intently. Finally, he smiled and looked at Jamie. “How old is your daughter?” the stranger asked and when my husband told him he nodded and said, “it’s a different world, isn’t it?”

“What do you think he meant by that?” Jamie asked me as we got onto the Henry Hudson Parkway. “Do you think he was talking about the Down Syndrome, or having young kids in general?”

“Probably the Down Syndrome,” I said. “But does it really matter?”

“I guess not,” he said.

Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it as we drove up the West Side, past the 79th street boat basin with its flurry of sail boats and past the joggers and bikers that lined the pathway along the Hudson River. We are in such a different world, in a place where two neurotic, hard wired, materialistic Manhattanites never thought they’d be.

If we had known five years ago, before we got married, that we’d end up in this strange new world, where two out of our three children have special needs, where family vacations mean trips to Sesame Place rather than African safaris, and where jumping up and down in a bounce castle—instead of airplanes—counts as an adrenaline pumping activity, we’d probably have both run screaming from the altar.

Yet it’s so comfortable, this world, that I wonder how we could have lived anywhere else.