It was decided that my first real experience of the city should be a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge—I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the soaring views or the delight of talking ninety-to-nothing with my sister! On the other side, we stood on the pier and gazed across the water at the edifices of Manhattan touched with gleams of light breaking through the clouds. Around the railing ran a poem of Whitman’s:
Flow on, river! Flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! Drench with your splendor me, or the men and
women generations after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Manhattan! Stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
‘Stand up tall…’—the words gave me chills. I thought of all that gleaming city had borne on September 11th, and how the masts must be standing up taller than ever!
On Sunday we went to the Met. I couldn’t wait to see it remembering hints of its humble beginnings and rise to splendor in The Age of Innocence. We marched after Liz, blending as much as we could—I kept admiring how distinguished Philip looked in his long, black cashmere overcoat—but I am quite sure that my gaping astonishment gave me away. Such lovely buildings all crowded together as if they might topple on you at any minute! Such richness in the doorman-guarded lobbies of the apartments we passed!
“Park Avenue,” Liz announced with a subtle jerk of the head. But there was nothing subtle in my response. I stopped right in the median and stared down the row of decorous trees and lavish facades until the view dimmed away into an oblivion of greys and greens and wavering movements of faraway cars.
As we turned onto Fifth Avenue and even greater splendor, all I could think of was Fred Astaire and Judy Garland wending their way among the pageantry of the Easter Parade.
“You’ll be here for Easter,” Liz informed me. “And we’ll go to one of these old dowager churches and we’ll walk in the Easter Parade. So you’d better be trimming your bonnet!”
At the museum we enjoyed an exhibit of Van Gogh drawings, as well as an overwhelming panorama of Rembrandts, European sculptures, American paintings…baffles description. We could have spent days there. Liz and I were reminiscing about From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and the children who hid in the bathroom each night and lived in the Met. “We could do that,” she mused. In the end, she bought a membership. A little more respectable I imagine, but Philip and I were still jealous.
My very favorites were the Sargents. Liz knew right where they were and I could have looked at them for hours. It’s so wonderful to go to a museum with an artist. Her commentary was priceless, pointing out things to me that I never would have had the insight to appreciate. She and Dave are learning a lot about the use of light, its traveling play over the features and garments of a portrait or the objects of a still life. She pointed out the power of the softened edges, the mystery of things receding into shadow, and the drama of well-placed bits of light. I felt quite informed.
We met Dave on the steps, sitting in the sunshine waiting to take us on his guided tour of Central Park. The moment I saw what he had on I turned to Philip with an anxious look. “Oh, dear—do you think there’s a dress code tonight?” For somehow between leaving at 5:30 for work that morning and going back to the apartment to change, Dave had missed the memo that we were going to a really nice place for dinner. I’d done a little research before we went up there, wanting to find a lovely little nook to take them out for their birthdays. Philip is quite aware that atmosphere is above all in my choice of a restaurant. He’d made reservations and Liz and I were dressed up for a day of posh sight-seeing and people watching. Poor Dave didn’t know what was coming! In his blue boggan and raglan tee with a ‘vintage’ ski vest embroidered with the name of a car parts shop, he had every reason to be refused admittance…but Philip reassured me—“If they have a dress code they’ll know what to do about it.” I thought of the rows of bright green jackets I’d seen hanging menacingly in the coat closets of certain upper crust establishments and the tight little smile of certain maitre ds and shuddered for Dave…