Chapter Six, The Mother-Son College Odyssey

We have a fifteen-minute break between dinner at the Olive Garden (spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmesan, lasagna, garlic bread sticks and salad) and leaving for Next to Normal, our last show on Broadway on our last night in New York City, followed by a midnight trip up to the top of the Empire State Building.

The adults are tired. The chaperones drank two bottles of wine at dinner tonight—we all agreed it was the last night and we deserved it—and as we sipped, we grumbled about the midnight trip through four layers of security to see NYC skyline from the top of the Empire State. But the kids are excited.

I, at least, had a nap today. I’m packed and ready for our departure tomorrow, up for one more Broadway show and whatever adventures the evening has in store.

This morning, while I stayed with Emily, Eli got left behind (since he was in my head count) and had to take the train uptown himself. He did fine, like a real trooper. I can’t wait to find out what his assessment of New York City is, now at 17. For years, we came to New York with his grandmother to see shows, one a year, and he spent the entire time griping about the noise and the grime. I wonder how he sees it today. Maybe he feels the excitement and the edge that is New York. The openness, the possibility. All I can think is that if he goes to college here, I’ll have an excuse to visit!

The dinner conversation between all the chaperones was about college and letting go of our children and their futures. It’s nice to be with a group of moms who are all thinking about the same issues, facing the same transitions, and letting go with more or less grace. The end of high school is huge for the kids, but it’s huge for parents as well.

This afternoon (where sick Emily and I rejoined the group) was spent at H & M, a cheap outlet for teen clothes at corner of 51st Street and 5th Avenue, where 12 kids shopped till they dropped. I was determined to buy something for Lizzy, but she is particular about what she wears and when I buy for her without her around, it is inevitably a failure. But with Enid’s encouragement, I bought her a little black dress, size 2. Hopefully, she’ll be able to find a way to accessorize it into a fashion statement she can live with.

Time to go….more later after the show.

Now it’s after midnight, so this will be brief. Nearly Normal was a very intense, emotionally exhausting rock musical about a bipolar mother and the devastation her illness wreaks on her family and her teenage daughter. The music was amazing, the staging incredible, but I found the subject matter very hard to take. I have a friend who’s been suicidal recently. I just found out and this show was too close to home.

It was cold and pouring rain when we came out of the theatre and we walked many blocks and then took the subway to the Empire State building for a last hurrah—a final event before this trip winds down. But because some of our crew hung out at the stage door, waiting for autographs, we arrived five minutes too late and they wouldn’t let us go on our tour. They had closed up shop for the night.

We begged and pleaded and finally sang to the folks working the night shift. They loved us and posed with us (and the acoustics there in the hallway were great), but they still couldn’t let us in. Oh well, we had our own Empire State Building experience and frankly, I was relieved to cut it an hour short since Eli and I are going to have an early start tomorrow. We’re taking the train uptown to tour Columbia, then we’re going to have lunch with Melaku, a Kirby graduate who’s a freshman there. Then back downtown, pick up our bags, take a taxi to our rental car and drive to Philadelphia and a seder with my childhood friend, Abby Stamelman and her family. After that it will be a new destination and a new place to sleep almost every night.

I’ll post some photos on Facebook from the Empire State singing extravaganza. Good night!

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