City Visit from Country Mouse Friends

My best friend from college and I have five children between us, aged 2-7. They are finally at the age where traveling with them is not a complete nightmare. We began an annual summer visit tradition last year where we would alternate our visits. Last summer, we spent a few days in their bucolic suburb outside of Boston. The kids happily played for hours in the backyard, discovering beautiful Robin eggs, getting soaked in the sprinklers and riding bikes. We went to an old-fashioned ice cream store, barbequed on their deck and even made it into Boston a few times. This summer, it was their turn to come to our city. It was her kids’ first time to Manhattan and from the moment they arrived, I braced myself for a country mouse/ city mouse dichotomy.

For starters, the closest they had been to an apartment building was a hotel. We explained the role of our doorman and they were fascinated to learn that every time we needed to leave our ‘house’ we had to use the elevator. It was a scramble each time for who would get to hit ‘door close’. Once in our apartment, they realized there was no ‘upstairs’ or downstairs’ and that we would all need to share our ONE bathroom (a fact they found as hard to accept as we still do)! They scampered around excitedly and were finished exploring pretty quickly. As if on cue, I heard 2 very loud signals and told them quickly that a ‘blast’ was imminent from the subway construction taking place half a block away. We all gathered at the window and they were dumbfounded when our building shook as though we were in the midst of an earthquake. Given the heat wave, we decided to take a quick walk to the closest playground to cool off in the sprinklers. When I told them how we don’t have a car and that we walk mostly everywhere, they looked at me as though I had three heads. Our short 3-block walk felt like an eternity to them and they made themselves heard with countless variations of “are we there yet?” At the playground, they tried to make the best of the heat, but I laughed when William commented that he couldn’t believe they had to travel SO FAR just for sprinklers. Once home for the night, we settled in for a cozy evening, with VERY close sleeping quarters.

The next morning, we started out for the Museum of Natural History. They were more excited for their first city bus ride, and subsequent subway ride, than for the museum itself.  They were giddy and a little nervous, being extra careful to pick the right seats, and stay far from the platform. When my daughters mentioned that sometimes we see rats on the tracks, they thought it was a joke. At the museum, we were one of many who sought relief from the heat in the AC of a spacious museum. My friend remarked that they had never been anywhere in their lives as crowded as the museum that day and I chuckled since I actually thought the crowds were nothing compared to the ones you find on weekends! We made our way around the dinosaurs and space center at the only pace that happens when you’re with five kids and a stroller. After lunch, they unanimously voted for the bus over the subway since it gave them a chance to ‘see more of the city’ and all of those strange yellow cars. Our no-brainer destination? The NYC mecca of CANDY… Dylan’s Candy Store. Upon entering, they flipped out and roamed the three floors of endless candy aisles wondering how to spend their allotted candy cash. Without a doubt they were more impressed with the variety of jellybeans than the enormous whale at the museum.  We made it home just missing the insane thunderstorms. Given the horrific driving conditions they were elated to learn that they would stay an extra night. They loved coming to get the mail with me and were fascinated by the bank of mailboxes requiring keys. When we took the garbage down the hall to put down the chute, they looked on with a look of wonder. They couldn’t believe that we had to take the elevator, with our laundry and detergent, share machines with our neighbors and PAY for each load!!! The best was seeing their reaction to our building’s ‘backyard’. It was inconceivable to them that our outdoor space did not have one blade of grass but instead was a concrete area with a shed holding community bikes and scooters.

As they got ready to get on the road, one of them wished out loud for another thunderstorm so that they could extend their visit yet again. My friend and I got teary at the sweet hugs and kisses our kids exchanged and snapped a million pictures hoping to capture the genuine connection they  had effortlessly made with one another. After they pulled away and headed back to the ‘country’, we headed to 16 Handles and Fairway. A few hours later, my friend texted to me to let me know they had arrived home safely. William was playing ‘traffic cop’, mimicking what he had seen on the entrance to the FDR. Katie was busy playing ‘Big Apple Shopping’ with a cart of pretend candy. And two-year-old Tommy was just happy to be back in his spacious home, stomping around without anyone telling him to go on his tippy toes because of the complaining neighbor downstairs. From what I remember from the fairy tale, the country mouse and city mice did not really enjoy visiting each other all too much. For us, it was the opposite, a wonderful visit for all. While it was an eye opening adventure for our country mouse friends, it made us, city mice, take stock of all the eccentricities which are unique to NYC living, and realize once again how proud we are to show it off to visitors!

Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.

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