Gotham Diary:
Friday, 25 February 2011

Oh, for a couple of photographs! Lacking which, I want to stamp my foot and abandon blogging altogether. If you could only have seen Will yesterday, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! I’ll say straightaway that he showed no interest in Art, and the idea of a Museum is a little abstract for his tender mind. But I think that he got the Metropolitan part, and that will make 25 February 2011 one of the very few real Dates in my life — and probably the first one not to involve some sort of public ceremony.

Let me be the first to laugh at the pretentiousness of taking a not-quite fourteen-month old child to a museum of anything. Let’s get that out of the way: ha ha! Now, let me tell you why our visit wasn’t pretentious. I’m not going to bore you with blather about the importance of introducing children to culture &c &c. No, the simple fact was that I needed to spend an hour or more indoors with a toddler, and, in my neighborhood, the Museum is the only place that would take us in. From the moment that I knew that I’d be in charge of taking Will out of the apartment so that Megan could get some work done in it — did I say that school’s out this week — I knew that I’d be taking him up the stairs at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street.

I’d had a vague idea of tottling through the Greek and Roman galleries. Why? Because they’re full of big statues of people, which seemed the likeliest artifacts to elicit Will’s curiosity. But that’s where my idea stopped. It wasn’t until we were actually there that I knew that I’d take him out of the carrier and help him out of his snowsuit. I’ve gotten pretty good at getting Will in and out of the carrier. I’d never taken off his snowsuit before, but just that morning his mother had taught me that if I went about it like so, Will would help out. This turned out to be a lesson that I learned fast.

And so we sat down on a bench in what used to be the Fountain Room (it seemed so much larger when I was small) and I took Will out of the carrier and then out of his snowsuit. I unbuckled the carrier and slipped it over my head, and fashioned it into a sort of bundle in which I could store all of our outdoor gear except for my heavy corduroy jacket. Will stood between my knees for a few beats, and then he took off. Oh, he never went far; he was never ten feet away, and he generally hovered close by. But he stood very much on his own, gazing about the gallery with an expression of beguiled delight that made me feel that I really wasn’t going to ask anything more of life. Kathleen had foreseen that Will would like being a large, airy, light-filled room, and, indeed, a major railroad station or a grand old bank would have done just as well, fifty years ago. He pointed, he cooed, he turned as if to tell me things; once or twice he almost lost his balance, and I thought what hell I’d catch if his head hit the marble floor. But he never fell down, not among the Greek and Roman statues, not among the Nineteenth-Century hideosities in the Kravis Wing, not in the Medieval Hall, not in the Engelhard Court, and not at the Temple of Dendur. Nor did he ever ask to be picked up. He was relishing his safe independence as much as anything. I had no idea what was going through his mind, but he seemed to register the diffference between the big, grey unmoving people standing on plinths and the livelier mortals who came and went at their feet.

After five or ten minutes, I donned my jacket and, with Will on one arm and the bundle in the other, I walked us through the “primitive” galleries to the Kravis wing, where I found a small park chair. This time, all I had to do to be comfortable was to take off my jacket. Later, in the Engelhard Court and at the Temple of Dendur, Will would be mesmerized by the fountain and the moat, but for me, the joy of Our First Visit condensed into a glistening pearl of memory around those first moments among the ancient sculptures, when Will established his metropolitan inclinations.

And then we came home and I cooked dinner for six: you’ll understand why I’m a bit stretched at the moment. More anon…

Oh, for a photograph!