The first time I visited New York City, my mom got us tickets to see Cats for my 11th birthday. Everything about the trip and the city appeared glamorous to me – the show’s costumes and makeup, the skyscrapers and people, the miles and miles of fancy stores with huge windows that displayed sophistication and wealth.
We returned to the city several times during the next two decades or so, usually to see a Broadway show, sometimes during the Christmas season. Every time, I felt a sense of wonder and awe and for a few years of my life I fantasized about what it would be like if I lived in the New York.
My husband, who was born and raised in the Nashville, visited New York City for the first time in October 2016. As a photographer, he found tons of inspiration in the people and architecture, and he’s been wanting to return ever since. So when an opportunity presented itself for us to housesit in an apartment in the financial district of NYC this last week, we said YES!
Nearly everyone we spoke to were so excited for us to spend Christmas in New York. We received many recommendations and we made our to-do lists. We both wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the ice skating rink, so that’s where we headed on Christmas Day.
I felt almost giddy with nostalgia of the times my family and I had walked down 5th Avenue. Then we actually got to 5th Avenue and, Dear God, what had I been thinking?
Once when I lived in the Chicago area, I headed downtown on Christmas Eve to spend the evening with a friend and her mother. The city felt peaceful and quiet, with a cold solitude enveloping the night. Hardly anyone else was out and about and I delighted in how easy it was for me to find my way around and secure a parking space without parallel parking.
Naively, I held the same expectations for Christmas in New York. I could not have been more wrong.
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE! People crammed onto every street corner, jostling for position to view the tree and ice skaters. SO. MANY. PEOPLE.
I still couldn’t resist having this picture taken:
Seriously, how cute is my husband?
Then we headed to Saks 5th Avenue. STILL. MORE. PEOPLE.
It was like Disney World. Literally. And I really do mean literally because this year Saks opted to have their windows display scenes from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
As a writer, I felt a huge sense of disappointment and dismay. Not to minimize the work and production that went into creating these windows, but where was the imagination in this process? Every single scene was a snapshot from the movie and I’m pretty sure most are featured on the Disney World ride.
Equally disappointing was that every window featured sponsorship by Mastercard. Although, I suppose nothing says Merry Christmas in our 21s century consumeristic society like a credit card.
Just when I was on the brink of feeling totally Scrooge like at everything going on around me, two small miracles occurred. First, I got to experience this child’s wonder at seeing the windows:
Then, I just happened to be there when the Saks’ storefront came alive in lights and music:
For a moment, I could let go of ALL. THE. PEOPLE. and I could feel the wonder around me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long. I don’t know if it’s the energy in NYC or something else, but with where I am right now in my life, NYC and I are just not that into each other.
The real highlights of my trip were the animals I got to take care of and love. Meet Clyde, a mini-Schnauzer:
Schroeder, a Bichon Frise:
Sheena, a very vocal white cat:
And Heisenberg, a handsome ball of fluff and fur:
The single best part of the trip is the fact that Sheena rides around in a backpack.
We took her for a walk the first day and I’m so glad we did because it’s been so freakin’ cold every day thereafter, and even though Sheena has a sweater, it’s just too cold outside for her little body.
FUN FACT: The sweater Sheena has is the same sweater I bought for Cody the Boxer when I lived in Naperville, IL.
A gang of dogs and cats wearing matching skull-and-cross-bones sweaters? Sounds like a children’s book in the making!
There are so many benefits to the housesitting lifestyle, but at the top of my list are the sources of inspiration I encounter with each new house and animal I meet.
After this recent stay in New York, I can say with certainty that any fantasy I had about living in the city in now kaput. I wouldn’t trade the week for anything, though, because now I find myself dreaming of the stories I could write about my new furry friends.
At this very moment there could be an editor thinking to themselves, what I really want in a picture book is a story about a cat who goes everywhere in a backpack or a little dog who takes on the winter world when he’s wearing his flannel cape.
These will likely be the next stories I write. Because they’re based on my house-sitting adventures and animals I now know and love, the writing process is going to be one of joy and enthusiasm.
Nothing may ever come of these stories, although I hope that’s not the case. But in the meantime, I’m going to give myself some good laughs, stretch my creativity and imagination, and work on the art and craft of picture book writing.
Wishing everyone one a Happy New Year! May 2018 be filled with abundant joy, prosperity, love, light, and laughter.
End Note: I wrote this post before I found out yesterday that a dog I love dearly had to be put to sleep. He was surrounded by his family at the time, and although I am so sad the world has lost such a funny, loyal, brave, and true companion, I am grateful for the love and laughter he brought into our lives. If everyone who has a pet could give them a special hug and kiss from me today, I would appreciate it. The world is always a better place when there’s more love in it.