Images, October 29, 2001

Do not distress yourself with imaginings.  Desiderata

One by one, many by many, they fall in diagonal lines, pushed by the brisk wind.  Gold, and yellow and beige, some trimmed in red.  Swept across the traffic, abruptly stopping in a mountain, trapped by the park wall of gray and black and aged patina.

The toddlers, a dozen strong, troup in a line, grasping loops in a frayed cotton rope.  Feet purposely avoid the walk to trod in the mountains of leaves-scrunch, scrunch, rustle, rustle.  Guarding their charges, three dragoons talk or daydream, apparently oblivious of their perpetuity on a string or the surrounding babble of the city.

The daily field trip to Central Park for these preschoolers.  The warm sun rays through the thickets of trees stripping in the wind.  Meeting in the play area, nannies greet nannies in a myriad of tongues and colors, and smile at their stroller strapped progeny.  We have joined this before-a normal day.

Yellow ribbons flutter “caution” as they stretch across the roads and walkways.  The smell is muted by the wind as we stand so small against the silent glass towers.  We stare thru the chain-link fence, curious or reverent.  The view beyond comprehension.  Empty trucks wallow in, are filled and lumber out towards the Hudson.  Cranes poke into the unseen center, grab their quarry and raise to disgorge their continuing appetite.  Ahead and to the far side is a mammoth skeleton, every floor exposed to us.  High above a large flag hanging red, white and blue, nearly hidden by the action.  To the right a gaping hole about ten stories above.  Is that a refrigerator exposed?

We stand there, a dozen or so looking, thinking, observing, taking pictures in our minds and with our cameras to study later.  We have been here several times, viewing this metropolis as from an eagle’s view.  We could see Liberty shining her light to those who chose to come home.  We could see for miles in every direction.  We could feel swaying if we stood in one place.  Now we can only see from the sidewalk what was once so mighty.  Now a normal day.

The plane had been full; we profiled two that were different -one short, unshaven, baggy pants, the other tall, blond, blue eyes with short hair.  When we arrived guards, long guns ready, checked us out.  Our taxi driver greeted us with a turban and a long, flowing beard.  We drove in silence, not knowing what to say.  The skyline appeared and only our memories would know the difference.  Not fear but apprehension would jolt us for the next few days.

The Playroom hosted 33 kids and numerous parents, nannies and siblings.  Son, Eric, told us later that he paid by the head and did not expect so many.  It is expensive to raise a family in Manhattan.  It was Karl’s third birthday. We bought our tickets on September tenth!  Tiny tables with balloons tethered to tiny chairs.  Pizza and punch and birthday cake.  Upstairs was a playland that would put the biggest McDonalds to shame.  Two hours of frenzy and then it was over.  We lumbered through the streets to home with bags of presents and food, pulled along by a dozen balloons in the brisk wind.

A normal day.

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