Our daughter, Anne, became engaged in February 2005, and hours later one of her friends called to chat about it, saying: “And they’re getting married in May and moving to New York.”
Although our son-in-law, Chris, had politely asked Tommy for her hand this was all news to us. How were we going to get it all done and why were they going to New York?
Anne’s a planner and created a low-key, out-of-town event close to Knoxville where most of our family lives, and the wedding was a happy celebration for all.
Anne’s husband, Chris, went to New York for Lehman Brothers (the company that started the financial crisis in 2008), and with help of a broker, they found an apartment on Park Avenue at 34th Street in New York.
It had a living room with windows on both sides, a kitchen the size of a broom closet but a roof deck with stunning views of the Empire State building and most of Manhattan.
We visited them frequently and learned to love their Murray Hill neighborhood: The Guy and Gallard delis, El Parador (a haute Mexican restaurant), and (the Turkish) Ali Baba down the block where we could eat in or order take-out at whim.
If we were cooking I would walk to the vibrant market at Grand Central Station to buy fresh fish from Pescatore or comfort foods from Zabars. It was a fun place to be.
Then baby Jeanne arrived, and while I joked that she would sleep in a drawer, they made room for a tiny crib in the entrance hall until they located another apartment on the Upper West Side.
The Upper West side was becoming more gentrified, and and within five blocks of their pre-war apartment (wedged between Riverside Park and Central Park West), was a new Whole Foods, a Michael’s (craft store) and numerous bodegas and restaurants.
Anne and Chris had two big bedrooms and a big kitchen there, and Tommy and I would go and/or babysit and learned the neighborhood very well.
Baby Mary Malcolm came along and she and Jeanne shared a bedroom. Central Park was literally their playground.
When Jeanne was old enough to walk by my side she’d say hi to doormen in other buildings (“That’s Frankie”) and show me where she got gelato or bagels and beg me to take her into Duane Reade so she could visit the toys. Because they had no car they walked everywhere they went and I would got to know neighbors and store clerks I met along the way.
This weekend we were in Knoxville, and because we do not get a newspaper there, Tommy surfs the internet for news when he wakes up.
On Saturday he said: “Oh, no....two different people were killed in two separate accidents in Anne’s neighborhood last night.”
One of the victims was an 8-year-old boy who had just walked out of his apartment on Riverside Drive with his father. They were both was hit by a taxi and with the father suffering only minor injuries.
The other was an 80-year-old man who was swept under a tour bus on 94th Street. The bus driver didn’t even know he had hit him.
I read the accounts of those accidents with such desolation. Those were the very streets Anne took every day, going to the grocer, walking to the subway or taking Jeanne to school 10 blocks up and back.
The elderly gentlemen died in front of the The New York Plant Garden where I frequently bought flowers. The considerate clerks would smile at Jeanne fondly while she played with packets of seeds neatly in their rows as they were wrapping flowers for me.
I could possibly have passed that 8-year-old on the way to Riverside Park (where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan met in “You’ve Got Mail”), and even I knew you had to take a running leap when crossing busy 94th street with a toddler in one hand and a stroller laden down with milk and water bottles and a one year old.
In a way, this was MY hood and these were MY peeps, too. And it made me think -- yet again -- that no matter where you are, life can turn on a time, and while we are here on “God’s Green Earth” (as my mother used to say), we need to enjoy every beautiful minute.
’Til next week.