The doors opened, I turned to say "now!" and pushed forward. It was time to escape.
A few days earlier, when my mother was about to make her first trip to visit me in New York in 1968, she hesitantly asked if I could meet her at the airport. She was a tiny, charming, very outgoing woman at home who had traveled extensively with my father, but too many TV shows of brash New York taxi drivers had made her wary of getting from the airport into the city alone. After picking her up, I took her on a quick tour of famous city sights before arriving at her hotel. I had reserved a room for her at the St. Moritz Hotel on the south end of Central Park, asking specially for a room that overlooked the horse drawn carriages at the edge of the park waiting to take tourists for a ride. It was the perfect introduction to the city, with a view just like the one she had recently seen in Life magazine. She was delighted. I wanted her first trip to New York to be an adventure; this was a good beginning.
She had come to the city to meet up with my father, returning home from a business trip to Europe, so they could both see my New York life as I had described it in letters to them. Before he arrived, however, Mother hoped to see her first Broadway show, particularly the very popular "George M" with Joel Gray. I was able to get matinee tickets for this, and while in the lobby before the show she ran into hometown acquaintances who were on a group tour to the city. How proud she was to modestly say she was not there on a tour herself, but rather visiting her daughter who LIVED in New York. She enjoyed the show even more knowing this news would make its way back to their rather cliquish group at home.
After the curtain we left the theater to return to her hotel, only to find it was pouring rain outside. Since it was rush hour I knew we would never get a cab, and the only way back was by subway. My mother, all five feet nothing of her, thought it would be an interesting experience. Rather than frighten her by telling her the reality of the subway at rush hour, I squeezed us onto the subway car along with a packed crowd of commuters, all of us smelling of damp coats and poking each other with wet umbrellas. As we neared our stop, I told my mother to hold onto my coat. When I said to go, she needed to follow me closely or she would be pushed back into the car by the hordes trying to get on, ending up somewhere in the city where I might never find her. She nodded, ready to do battle.
As we pulled into our station, I elbowed us through to be near the door. When it opened I said "now!", shoving our way out against the incoming crowd. Mother hung on to my coat tightly and to my relief we made our way out of the car and up the stairs to the street. I turned to look at her, expecting her to be shaken by the crush of people, the noise and the chaos. Instead, she was grinning at the excitement of it all. "There's an ice cream shop in the lobby of the hotel, let's celebrate!" she said. And so we ended the day discussing the amazing dancing of Joel Gray as we spooned up ice cream sundaes at famous Rumplemeyer's Ice Cream Shop. It had turned out to be, after all, a perfect New York adventure.
Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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