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Girl Goes to the Museum - Again

One of Maddie’s favorite books is You Can’t Take A Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum. It follows, among other things, a girl through her visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We’ve been to the museum before but hadn’t gone for a while, so one day last week Maddie and I decided to make a spontaneous day of it and headed into the city, with the clear goal of following in the character’s footsteps. And in case you’re worrying about my newborn, she was safely at home with Daddy. Unemployment has its advantages.

july_07_015.jpgThe whole way in, Madeleine kept saying one of her current favorite phrases – “Oh, boy!” followed by a breathy, anticipatory chuckle. She loves adventures and exploring. Book in hand (to prove to Maddie it was really the same place!), we started out on the famous front steps. Madeleine excitedly scanned the photo for similarities. “No cabs today,” she said critically, comparing the street before her to the bustling traffic sketched in the book. “True,” I acknowledged, “but there are the flagpoles from the picture! Look!” Following my arm, she saw the same flagpoles standing at attention that the little girl had seen. Mollified, Maddie agreed to go on in.

We followed the book as best we could, given that my daughter’s only two and, while a champion walker, has her limits. She wanted a photograph of herself going up the grand staircase just like the little girl, and stopped and admired several works of art on her way to see her favorite painting in the book, Seurat’s “Sideshow”. Much to her dismay, the painting (which is part of the permanent collection) was temporarily grouped with a special exhibit and thus excluded from photographs. Try explaining this to a toddler, who only sees a bad man in a navy jacket ruining all her fun.

july_07_021.jpgI think the other highlight of the “book tour” for Maddie was the Temple of Dendur. I’m an Egyptology buff and have long loved the Met’s collection, but this actual Egyptian temple carefully exported to the floor of the museum would awe anyone. To get there you have to walk through the entire Egyptian exhibit, which is extensive; I was in mid-lecture on the Book of the Dead when I realized Maddie just wanted to get to the good stuff, so we hurried on to the temple. Madeleine was intimidated by the size but loved seeing all the drawings people had made on the stones. We sat and had a string cheese break by the low water surrounding the room – something else Maddie really dug. She wanted to know why there was money all over the bottom of the pool, and I explained that people would throw coins in there and say a prayer. I’m not sure now if I haven’t set myself up for a long discussion on having to pay to pray a few years from now, but I’ll save that worry for another day.

By this point Madeleine was starting to droop, though she gamely kept going and begging to see more, so we stopped for lunch and called it a day. We saw other sights, of course, as I gave her relatively free reign and allowed her to go after whatever caught her eye. All in all, a wonderful day on the town, though I did have one scary moment:

Taking a break from paintings, we strolled through the newly opened Greek and Roman Sculpture gallery (which is, by the way, fantastic). Wandering through all the amazing nude statues, Madeleine’s eyes popped open wide. “Look what he’s got, Mommy!” she exclaimed, pointing to an anatomically correct naked man in front of us.

Here it comes, I thought. The big question. I steeled myself, even as I saw the amused glances around me – eavesdroppers clearly wondering what I’d say. “What, sweetheart?” I asked in a faux casual voice.

“Ooh, look Mommy!” she said again. “You can see his belly button!”

Back from the brink of a heart attack and ignoring all the snickers around me, I agreed. “Yep, kiddo, you sure can.”

“That’s so cool!” she said.

I forgot whom I was dealing with.


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