Mostly, Rachel wanted Noel and me to be up and doing. We had become far too sedentary. “What’s the plan?” she would want to know within minutes of stepping through the front door. Sometimes we had a plan, but more often we were less ambitious. “Is there a movie that you’d like to see?” we might respond. Or: “How about going to 16 Handles for a frozen yogurt after dinner?” We were open to suggestions.
“I read about a great music group called Banda Magda performing in the Summergarden at MOMA later today,” she announced one Thursday afternoon. “The museum is open until 9 tonight. It’s okay if we don’t arrive there until 6.” Now that was a plan. We got to the museum with enough time to tour the Rauschenberg exhibit, then inch our way into the crowd at the concert. The music was stirring, the weather perfect, and the setting magical, an oasis within this busiest of cities.
New York has always been my kind of town. It’s where I was born and raised, went to school, met and married my husband, where we brought up our three boys. (The oldest is Rachel’s father.) When others were heading for the suburbs, we headed for Central Park. “How can you raise a child in the city?” our suburban and out-of-town friends frequently challenged my husband and me. I was tempted to reply, “How can you raise children anywhere else?” To underscore my point, I wrote a guidebook called A Great City for Kids. What I learned from Rachel’s visit is that it’s A Great City for Grandkids as well, especially when they’re old enough to do some exploring on their own.
“All you need is a MetroCard and a good pair of walking shoes,” she said. Rachel liked New York’s diversity the most. “You never feel like an alien because you’re surrounded by people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. You’re seeing different neighborhoods and you connect with certain places, discovering things about yourself and other people,” she told me. “I never get bored with it.”
Listening to her, I remembered having felt the same about wanting to take in all of the city. What I’d do was take the M5 bus, which then ran the length of the West Side from the Cloisters to South Ferry, exit at any stop according to whim, and then walk up and down the streets, trying to find each neighborhood’s special rhythm. What kind of people live here? Where do they work? Where do they shop and play? With Rachel, I began falling in love with New York all over again.
Her assessment of what made the visit such a success? “All three of us were open to change on our part and willing to accept change from others,” she says. “It’s harder for a parent and child to have that dynamic. It’s something that a grandparent can do.”
Rachel hopes to be back next summer. We’ll leave the light on.
A previous version of this article appeared on NYCityWoman.