On Saturday morning we set out to conquer another day on our packed itinerary. En route to Central Park, we sidled over to the Richard Rodgers Theater to gaze longingly at the Hamilton marquee and to fantasize about actually getting to see the show…
By this time we had more or less decided that we would probably try to get in the cancellation line on Sunday. We were still waffling, because the thought of the long drive home afterwards, in the unlikely event that we would actually get in to see the musical, was daunting.
We pressed on to our destination, slowed only by my daughter’s insistence on stopping every five seconds to peek into restaurant windows to check on the progress of World Cup games:
We made a stop at Rockefeller Center to visit Magnolia Bakery and La Maison du Chocolat.
We finally made it to the Central Park Zoo. We didn’t get to see the polar bears I had remembered from my last trip to the zoo, but we did get to see the sea lions working hard for their lunch:
By this time our feet were throbbing with each step, but we were determined to make it to Zabar’s, the next destination on our itinerary. Like those sea lions, we had to work for our food.
Why Zabar’s? you may be wondering…A few years ago, we were driving to my parents’ house to spend the weekend. It was around Christmas time and in the car ride up, I had been pestering the kids to come up with their wish lists. At my parents’ house, my daughter happened upon a Zabar’s catalogue that was lying around the house. She spent the whole weekend poring over the pages with rapturous wonder.
Could I put stuff from this catalogue on my list? she asked.
When we were leaving Arlington she couldn’t bear to be parted from the catalogue and asked my parents if she could keep it. It’s been enshrined on her bedside table ever since and has been thumbed through countless times.
Needless to say, a trip to Zabar’s was at the top of her list of things to do in New York.
In our 12-page itinerary, the plan was to stop at Zabar’s to buy a picnic lunch, then head back to Central Park to watch the Shakespeare in the Park performance of Twelfth Night.
The church next to Zabar’s, by the way, just happens to be where my dad was the minister for a Korean congregation in the 70s. Every Sunday for four years we would get up at the crack of dawn to drive two and a half hours from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania to New York City, and two and a half hours back again after church. That was back in the days of no air conditioning in cars. My brother and I were consigned to the cargo area of our station wagon, where we would alternate kicking each other, singing songs at the top of our lungs, and puking from carsickness into an empty coffee can we kept in the car for just that purpose. Ah, the good old days…
By the time we reached Zabar’s, we were completely out of steam. Our friends decided to head back to the hotel for a rest, and my daughter and I decided to skip Shakespeare and just hunker down at the counter to have lunch.
We met back up with our friends at the hotel and collapsed onto a bed as we contemplated our next move…
My daughter took one look at my swollen feet and howled with laughter. They looked like puffy baby feet with pads of fat on the tops!
According to our itinerary, we were supposed to take a ferry to Brooklyn, get dinner at the Brooklyn Market, then hoof it back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge in time to catch the sunset.
Instead…we decided to “plan for spontaneity.” We did a little shopping at Muji:
…which for some reason uncannily reminded me of the last birthday trip to New York City and a visit to Muji:
And then we hit the Hamilton cancellation line around 4 pm, four hours before the show was to start. There were already seven people in line ahead of us. Could we face it?
Our friends came prepared with the blankets we had been planning to use for the Central Park picnic that never happened, games to while away the time, and newly-purchased art supplies from Muji:
Having been the crazy person to have suggested that we try the cancellation line, I was anxious to try to manage the girls’ expectations. I kept trying to mentally prepare them for the distinct possibility of waiting four hours for nothing.
“Girls, don’t be disappointed if we don’t get tickets.”
“If we only manage to get two tickets, you guys will go and we’ll pick you up right here after the show.”
“Even if we don’t get in, standing in line is part of the whole New York experience!” my friend blustered with cheerful, if unconvincing bravado.
By the second hour, I began saying, “Girls, remember: don’t be disappointed when we don’t get tickets, because we probably won’t.”
“OK,” they would dutifully reply every time, both of them looking inscrutable, yet ripe for complete and utter devastation.
By hour three of our four hour wait in the line, my daughter was getting antsy. She leaned over to me and whispered, “Honestly, I’d rather just go to Brooklyn. We’re wasting four whole hours of our last day in New York just sitting here for tickets that we won’t even get.”
When someone from the box office came over to the line about an hour before the show and let just the first two people into the theater to buy tickets, we really began to lose hope.
“Let’s plan all the fun things we’re going to do this evening in case we don’t get tickets…Let’s spoil ourselves with a really yummy dinner in Brooklyn…and ice cream! And won’t it be fun to walk across the bridge? I’ve never done that before!”
“Uh-huh, yeah,” the girls replied as they stared off into the distance with glazed eyes, some unseen inner melodrama playing out in their little souls.
About a half hour before the show, all the happy ticket holders filed past us as they walked into the theater, stopping under the marquee for their obligatory social-media-worthy Hamilton photo.
Five minutes before the show we were still waiting.
Suddenly, a man ran over from the box office and pulled the first two people in line to enter the theater and buy tickets. After a minute, the man came back and got the next person in line. Another minute later, he brought over the mother and daughter who were directly in front of us. By this point, my heart was pounding, and I studiously avoided catching the girls’ eyes.
And then – glory, glory, hallelujah! – it was our turn! When we got to the box office, the woman at the counter said she had standing room only tickets left for $40 each.
We rushed up the stairs just in time for the opening number. The last person to get in was the man standing right behind us in line.
We stood there in shock, joy, and disbelief. It’s just possible that some of us may have even teared up a bit…
The opening number was spectacular, but my eyes kept drifting away from the stage and over to the girls. I can honestly say, it was just as fun for me to watch their rapt expressions as it was to watch that first number. As it came to an end, I leaned over to whisper in my daughter’s ear: “This is so boring. Let’s just leave and go to Brooklyn instead.” She barely deigned to acknowledge my frivolous comment, not even peeling her eyes from the stage for a second. (Cue the song: I am not throwing away my shot!)
It was literally painful to stand on our aching feet for the almost three hour show, but we loved every minute of it.
And now? My job as a mother to this child is done. I might as well retire now. What more could I possibly do for her in life to top this?
We returned the next day before we left New York for our obligatory marquee photos…