New York, New York

“Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.” Frank Sinatra’s lyrics rang through my (Mel’s) head from the time we arrived to the time we left. Naturally, I played the song, about 20 times, for the kids too. I couldn’t be the only one with the song stuck in my head. 🙂

We spent five very filled days in New York. I’ve only had the chance to visit NYC once before, for a short period of time, right out of college with my roommate. I always knew I wanted to return and I was so excited to be there to share it with my family. In preparation for our arrival, we watched “Elf” and “Enchanted.” The kids loved seeing the places in real life that they recognized from the movies!

On our first day, we took a boat to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I could have spent an entire day at each location. It was surreal standing in the very spot millions of immigrants passed through in the hopes for a better life. As I read their stories in the museums, I quickly realized their experiences were no different than the ones immigrants and refugees face today coming to our country. They were fleeing famine, war, persecution, only to come to a country where people feared them and didn’t want them. Those immigrating from Ireland, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, and other European and Asian countries were looked down upon and discriminated against by many in the USA. It saddens me to think that we, as a country, have not changed from our fear of “other”. While we are now more accepting of Europeans and Asians, we struggle to accept people from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America although their stories of violence, war, and famine are the same as others who have come before. Our arguments to not accept them have not changed over the centuries. At one point, unless already here as a Native American or brought as a slave, each one of our ancestors, starting with the Pilgrims, all came to this country seeking freedom, a chance at a better life, and a place to safely raise their children. It’s what we all want still. We have much more in common with each other than we often like to admit.

Our second day in NYC brought us to the top of the Empire State Building with amazing views of Manhattan; a quick stroll through Bryant Park (where World Vision will be hosting the 2nd annual Give Back Gift Shop over Thanksgiving weekend); a bright, colorful, and character-filled walk through Time Square (Asher fit right in!); past Carnegie Hall; and to the edge of Central Park where we happily munched on large soft-pretzels after all that adventuring.

Our third day brought us to the fun of Rockefeller Center, the grandeur of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the welcoming stairs of the MET (for a much needed rest), and lots of adventuring and playing in Central Park!

Our fourth day found us spending most of our time in one place. Emily, a friend of mine from high school, has lived in NYC for 11 years and has her own jazz band. She is an amazing jazz trombonist (she always has been!). We had the wonderful opportunity to see her and her band, Emily Asher’s Garden Party, play at one of her regular restaurants. I loved getting to introduce the kids to live jazz and have them meet her. It really was a treat. If you love jazz, look her up and take a listen! The really cool thing about the restaurant, Fraunces Tavern, is it is a historical site of the American Revolution. Samuel Fraunces was a friend of George Washington’s. His tavern was a site for people to gather and discuss the politics of the day. In an upstairs room called the Long Room, George Washington gave his farewell speech to his commanding officers at the end of the Revolution. The whole upstairs has now been turned into a museum. I highly recommend going there if you ever get the chance! When we finally left Fraunces Tavern, we paid our respects at the 9-11 Memorial. Even after 17 years, it is still heart-wrenching to think of what happened that day and how it changed our country. We had hard, but good, conversations with the kids about what happened that day. As sad and difficult as it was to recount the memories of September 11, I’m glad we took the opportunity to visit the memorial and pray for those who lost loved ones and pray for our country.

On our fifth and final day, we got to do what I’ve been wanting to do in New York almost my entire life…see a Broadway show! We chose Aladdin as it would be great for the whole family and it was also Josh’s favorite Disney movie growing up. It was SPECTACULAR! We enjoyed every single minute of it. The stage adaptation was fun and just as magical as the movie, the acting was superb (there was even a Seattle actor, who played Iago, that we recognized from Seattle Children’s Theatre and the 5th Ave!), the sets and costumes were stunning, and the energy was electrifying. We all walked away with wide-eyes and huge smiles. It was definitely a highlight of our trip! With that high, we wandered to the final sites we had yet to visit but still wanted to; the New York Public Library, with it’s incredible architectural design and beautiful artwork, and the massive Grand Central Terminal. We finished out our time by heading to Emily’s apartment in Brooklyn which was built sometime in the mid-1800’s. She so graciously invited us over for making pizzas and cookies. It was lovely catching up with her and the kids absolutely adored her and her cat, Dixie. She is now “Aunt Emily.” It was the perfect ending to our very fun and very full time in New York, New York.

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