It occurred to me recently that I’ve never been truly successful in the “helping others” and “charity” departments- some of you may recall my failed attempt at throwing a holiday charity gala last season. I’ve been waiting anxiously for months for the right charitable act to present itself, but it seems as if people cease to require help during the warmer months. How very serendipitous when my Aunt Marigold asked me if I’d mind helping her by looking after my 8-year-old cousin, Daisy. Finally! A chance to redeem myself as a good samaritan, and edify an impressionable young mind!
However, a Saturday with little Daisy would not be without challenge. New York children are a rare breed, and Daisy is no exception. Do normal children sleep through ambulance sirens or in rumbling, crowded subway cars? With so many things available at their every whim, these little Manhattanites have an attention span about as long as a mouse’s eyebrow.
So I tailored a day of culture, packed with the most enticing array of activities that would be both fun an educational. Today’s itinerary: a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an evening at the ballet!
Upon arriving, we passed a delicious-smelling cart offering ice cream, hot dogs and soft pretzels for sale. Daisy tugged at my hoof, loudly exclaiming that she would like a snow cone and a pretzel. I informed her we’d purchase one on our way out. She pouted and made a noise.
We spent a little while inside the Sackler Wing, which houses the Temple of Dendur, but had to make a speedy exit once Daisy drew some unwanted attention from other patrons after wading (nearly up to her waist) into the reflecting pool, thinking it was for public use.
We narrowly evaded the guard, and upon drying her with my emergency Hermes scarf, she once again inquired about the aforementioned snow cone and pretzel. I told her we had to see some art first.
We proceeded upstairs and I tried to keep up as she bounded through the galleries yelling, “GROSS! THAT MAN IS NAKED!” and “WHAT IS WITH DUTCH PEOPLE AND DOGS?”.
I never realized how difficult it is to supervise an eight-year-old when she isn’t in front of a television. But, upon eyeing a young woman copying a painting with some oil crayons across the hall, I had a flash of brilliance: “Daisy”, I said, “Why don’t you go ask the nice woman if you can borrow a sheet of paper and draw something you’d like to hang up in here?”.
She did. Her masterpiece:
An insult to injury, she asked if I might pen the brand name of the ice cream we saw on the cart outside, as she couldn’t remember it. ‘Good Humor’. How ironic. I must say I caved to her desires at this point, thinking the pretzel-and-snow-cone route would be much easier on my cardiovascular system than the informative tour of the Arms and Armor exhibit I had planned for us. Maybe when she’s a bit older. After all, it wasn’t until I was at least 12 that I really dedicated myself to the study of Medieval hoplology.
You should have seen the queue at the food cart! About a 126 people from parts Midwestern who also, apparently, wanted a snow cone and a pretzel. Daisy practiced some tap moves and danced a circle around me as we waited. She kept bumping into the man in front of us, who eventually bent down and offered her a dollar, which she took, and impulsively ran off to “sit” by the fountain. I couldn’t stop her, as I was next in line.
I ordered the coveted comestibles, which totaled $7.00, and pulled the smallest bill I had from my clutch to pay. The cart women were not amused. I couldn’t believe it- any respectable establishment in the 70′s shouldn’t have a problem breaking a hundred dollar bill. As an alternative, I offered my card. They still were not amused, but allowed me to use my card provided that an additional $13 was charged to meet the $20 card minimum.
Awful. Awful, and embarrassing. People were staring and snickering and photographing me! And I thought Visa was everywhere you want to be!? Everywhere, it seems, besides a major tourist attraction in the middle of your hometown.
I hurried off to get Daisy at the fountain (she was wading again), and told her that this had better be the best soft pretzel/snow cone combo she’d ever wished for in her life, because getting them meant that cousin Petunia is now just a freak in some Missourian’s vacation photos.
She took two bites. TWO. And then said:
“Is there gluten in this, Petunia? Mommy says I have a hard time with gluten”.
Upon my confirmation (the street pretzel being the most starchy carbohydrate ever engineered by man), she slumped and said:
“I have a tummy ache”.
I suggested that perhaps the pigeons would enjoy the rest of her pretzel, but cautioned that we should not make eye contact with them and, as always, keep a close watch on our valuables when they approach.
I looked at my watch. Almost 4 o’ clock! Time to get Daisy over to children’s Gamelan practice. *Sigh* There’s never a lack of weird activities parents schedule for their kids to make them more well-rounded. On the walk over, Daisy mentioned that she was very excited to see the ballet afterward, since she preferred ballet class to Gamelan practice any day.
Thank goodness! Something she wants to do. I’m glad I picked one thing right. An hour later, we started out for Lincoln Center. She said something about how her “MetroCard” or whatever wouldn’t work without Mommy there, but why fret about that when you have a private car service on speed dial?
Daisy could hardly contain her excitement. Dancing is her life: tap, jazz, modern, flamenco, and ballet class 6 days a week. She said she is starting to train for pointe, but is unsure if she has the mental discipline for such rigorous training. I have all the appreciation for the form, but I’d much prefer a day at the spa. Regrettably, I asked for a demonstration of her technique and she proceeded to reenact every pose I’ve ever seen in an Alvin Ailey Dance Company poster.
Ahh, Lincoln Center. Offering riveting performances and juicy patron gossip for the last 52 years and long considered home to the holy trinity of Performance-based Art: The New York City Ballet, The Met and The Lincoln Center Theatre. We casually bypassed the long lines winding from the box office. Getting tickets to a one-week engagement of Swan Lake these days is impossible thanks to the popularity of that Black Swan abomination. Thank goodness for Mother’s season box seats!
As we took our seats, I reflected upon the day’s events. Daisy’s eyes shown brightly in the dim house lighting. Today’s lessons were simple: Being charitable simply means being willing to give of yourself even when you aren’t going to get credit for it. Love well, love often, and always make sure to carry small change.