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Riding the Rails

As Maddie grows up (sometimes against my explicit instructions) and her protective bubble must perforce grow with her, we see more and more that we’ll be less and less able to shelter her quite so easily. And native New Yorker that she is, we’ve put off one of the quintessential New York experiences – riding the subway.

At first she was a newborn and we didn’t want to expose her to germs. Then it was winter, and we didn’t want to expose her to all the extra germs. Then it was spring and summer and she was mobile and content to hit the local parks. And then – we sort of ran out of excuses.

Of course, one of my excuses was that I didn’t want to have to lug that stroller up and down dozens of flights of stairs in order to navigate the subway, but that makes Mommy look lazy so we’ll leave that one out.

We know she’ll be venturing farther and farther from home as her palm pilot fills up with play dates and toddler classes of some as-yet-undetermined kind, so we decided recently to take the plunge and ride the rails as a family, reasoning it was best to get the first time over with when there was no pressing event to get to.

To that end, last Saturday we hit the subway with Central Park as our destination. 

Maddie’s excitement at being on the subway was palpable; she was quivering with interest and turning so often to take it all in that she was practically chasing her tail. Staring out the window was an especial hit since we live near an above-ground stretch of rail. She kept pointing and exclaiming, melting the hearts of even the most hardened New Yorkers.

I, of course, spent the whole time calculating the likelihood of people noticing and laughing if I wiped the hand rails down with antiseptic.

Even sitting in the station while we changed trains was amazing to her; a new train would roar into the stop and she point and exclaim the equivalent of, “WOW!!”

When we got to Central Park Brian and I were almost as excited as Madeleine, though she wanted dearly to be walking on her own rather than strapped into the stroller. We haven’t walked through the park without a specific destination in mind for a long time, and it gave us a glimpse of the future when we’ll have more free time for “couple moments”.

We headed straight for the carousel, which she loved, and followed it up with a run through the Hekscher Playground, Central Park’s newest hotspot for the under-twelves. Can I tell you something? This playground is AWESOME!!!

Maddie ran straight for the sprinklers, of course, which I had foolishly not anticipated. Fortunately I had an emergency change of clothing in the bag, since she was soaked in seconds. Oftentimes she was the only child of any age in the water, and I could hear parents all around me marvel at her fearlessness. “Look at the baby in the water!” She spent a good half-hour running all over the extensive playground, climbing walls and running through falls and following baby footpaths.

When she was well and worn out, we headed to Stage Door Deli on 7th Avenue for a good New York dinner. Maddie had her first cheese blintz, which she didn’t love, and her first potato pancake with applesauce, which she did love. She charmed all the tourists in the joint, solemnly studying the menu and judiciously sampling the pickles.

Stuffed and tired, we subwayed back home, Maddie a bit droopy but still gamely staring all around. She never complained about the noise or the crowds and I can honestly say it was a successful trial run.

The trip also opened up my eyes to the fact that we may well be entering into one of the best times of her childhood. She’s mobile, like a newborn, but less fragile health-wise and more interested in her surroundings. She’s not tied to nursing or baby food: I can scrounge up a decent meal for her from her diaper bag snacks and any corner deli. And she’s down to one nap a day, which means we’re able to venture from home for longer stretches of time.

At the same time, she’s not yet into her own “schedule” of soccer practices and homework assignments, so her days are flexible and mine for the filling. And while too much curiosity may be a bad thing, she’s gotten past that stage of having to put everything she sees into her mouth. She can entertain herself quietly for whole minutes at a time and isn’t yet able to say, “I’m bored.”

So I’m looking forward to a fall filled with more museum trips, play dates, and park strolls.

Just a couple of chicks, riding the rails. 


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