Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Eyes of NYC

I’m halfway through reading RECURSION by Blake Crouch. It’s described as a science fiction thriller, and is filled with technical jargon about past memories and present experiences and the mental bridge created between them. I’m enjoying it, though I have to admit I shed a tear when one of the MCs described her mother, who is suffering from dementia. It was an apt description, and a familiar one.

I visited NYC once, many years ago, with my ex-husband. We took Amtrak from Baltimore to New York, went to a cat show at Madison Square Garden, had lunch in Chinatown, and returned that same afternoon on the train. It was fun. Here’s the passage from the book I’m reading, that I wanted to share with you:
“It was a long walk here, and yes, for much of it he was crying. That’s one of the great thing about New York—no one cares about your emotional state as long as there’s no blood involved.”

No blood...and no small child.

Some years back I was transiting through the Herald Square subway station. It's a big station, directly under Macys at 33rd Street, and serves seven subway lines.

The turnstiles click non-stop.

As I approached the exit, I saw a small child, probably no more than three or four, who looked to be alone. I stopped cold.

Within about five seconds three other women also stopped.

We didn't say anything to the kid, or to each other.

Within about thirty seconds a dad on the other side of the turnstile, his attention on a child in stroller, turned back and called to the small child we were watching.

Small child scurried under the turnstile and the family proceeded on their way.

As did the rest of us, not a word spoken.

But that kid had eyes on him. We may not say much, we may not intervene, but we're watching!


E.M. Goldsmith said...

I love this and am sending it to my daughter in Brooklyn. She will love it.

Fearless Reider said...

I love this small story. It's the kind of detail that gives a novel instant credibility with me; if an author takes note of a moment like that, it's a signal that the work will have emotional veracity and I can trust that the characters will not be constructed of cardboard. If an author takes note of such a moment and there are no eyes on the child, or no wary looks shared among the strangers... well, that tells me even more about the world of the novel.

Lennon Faris said...

Whoa, so cool. (Well, 'yikes' for that dad but cool otherwise).

I like hearing things that re-encourage my faith in humanity.

MA Hudson said...

When I visited New York in 2010 I noticed that people tended to avoid eye contact and mind their own business... until I bought one of those sky umbrellas at the MOMA and had to carry it around for the rest of the day. I lost count of the number of strangers who came up to me and asked if it was about to rain.

Kristin Kisska said...

This post has my mind spinning like a tornado. As a mom who still suffers flashback nightmares from that one time she was very-nearly separated from her kiddo on the NYC subway platform, just knowing that there is an on-call network of protective eyes is a welcome balm. Even after all these years.
Thank you!

Terry said...

Loved this so much. I was once in a mall (don't even know what city) and saw a little guy maybe four years old trudging along in cowboy boots and a hat. He looked determined. No adult around. Ten minutes later I saw him trudging in the opposite direction. I asked him where his mom was. "I'm going to see her," he said. Alarm bells. No adult anywhere. I told him we'd go meet her. He was reluctant to go with me but i convinced him we would find her. Took him to the mall office, and when he didn't see his mom tried to bolt. PA system did its job, mom came flying in semi-hysterical. Hugs all around. But I kept thinking what would have happened if a bad person had found him. Still gives me shivers.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This just conjured up a thirty year old incident I have never written about. Never talked about.

I was almost at the bottom of the stairwell, the little guy was at the door which was being pushed open by the throng of dozens exiting the auditorium after a school play. Scared and alone at about three years old he was trying to make his way outside but kept getting pushed back inside by the exiting wave.
"Is that kid alone?" Someone said.
At the bottom of the banister I pivoted and stood next to him. What would happen if he made his way outside to the parking lot alone?
"Is he yours?" Another asked.
"No," I said. Commenters rode the wave down the stairs and out.

I held his hand. We backed away from mass of people. He did not protest but leaned against me while watching the crowd. Was someone outside waiting, was someone inside looking, was some sorry excuse for a parent oblivious to his whereabouts?

From the top of the stairs a woman yelled, “Get away from him, he’s mine.” There I was trying to save a scared little boy from getting trampled or lost at night in a busy parking lot and I’m sort-of being accused of...I wasn’t sure what.
“Keep your eyes on your own goddamned kid,” someone yelled from the crowd.
The throng continued its rush down and out the door.
“She probably just saved your kid’s life,” another shouted.
Finally the woman got to us, grabbed the boy’s hand and pushed out the door. As I rode the wave to the lot another voice came up behind me, “You did good,” a woman said.

I still remember how I felt when the woman yelled for me to get away from her son.
Thanks for my chance to tell.
You know what...I did good.
I’d do it again.

Claire Bobrow said...

Every parent's nightmare - losing track of a kid! Thank goodness for the watchful eyes of caring community members.

Pivoting to picture books, there's a charming series about a wayward bear cub and his concerned papa, by Benjamin Chaud. First in the series is Bear's Song. I also can't wait to read Where Is Your Sister?, by Puck Koper. It won the debut author prize at the 2020 Bologna Children's Book Fair and looks both stunning and hilarious.

Craig F said...

A long, long time ago; when the Earth was young to me, I stepped out of the house to go play darts.

At the time I lived across the street from a once and future golf course. A young boy, in his PJs, was running to the dexter. He looked like he was lost.

I called out to him and he stopped. I asked and, yes, he was lost. He thought he was running toward home, so I joined him. He was tired so, after a sort while, I carried him, because he was getting scared, he didn't recognize the area.

I saw a friend outside of her house and went there. Then we called the cops. The cops took him and looked for his home. It took them a couple of hours.

His sister and her friends were supposed to be watching him, but lost track. They hadn't even noticed he was missing.

Brenda said...

I spoke to an Irishman recently about how easily we judge parents. He related this story.

He and his wife woke up one morning to the sight of their three year old clutching a (delivered) milk bottle. The problem was that they didn’t get milk delivery. The baby’s window was open and all of the doors were locked. The milk bottle was traced to a stoop four houses down.
As near as they could figure, their daughter had gone through her ground floor window, down the trellis, fetched the milk, and come back...carrying the milk. He said they didn’t have another good nights sleep for years.

Beth Carpenter said...

Kindergarten was half days when my daughter was that age. She went afternoons, which meant she caught the bus about noon. After waiting in vain one day for the bus (substitute driver missed a large swath of the route), I drove her to school and came across another child waiting, alone. I stopped and suggested we go find her parents to get permission for her to ride along with me, but they had gone on a errand. I didn't want to encourage her to ride with a stranger, but I couldn't leave her there, so I loaded her up and drove her to school. It scared me a little that she was so agreeable to that. I comfort myself that I'd volunteered in the classroom before, so I wasn't a TOTAL stranger, but I hope she never trusted the wrong person.

Dena Pawling said...

Many years ago we took our 4 kids to Disneyland. We dressed them (and us) in matching shirts and taught them that if they got lost to look for someone wearing a uniform and name badge. My #2 disabled son was around 10yo and didn't talk. Yes, he got separated from us. We looked everywhere. Finally we found him, on the other side of Cinderella's castle probably 500 yards and 3 million people from where we'd last seen him, holding the hand of a park employee. Well actually she saw us first because of the matching shirts. She told us he came up to her and said "Snow White. Mommy?" We both stared at her.

My son (who the doctors said would never talk) said his first words at age 10 to a Disneyland employee who he thought was Snow White and asked her to help him find his mommy. We told her this and she said it made her day.

MA Hudson said...

2Ns - your story made my heart stop. Ugh, the false accusation when you'd just saved that kid from a hugely traumatic situation. It turns your stomach.

Dena - That's such a scary but lovely story about your son.

These stories are so encouraging. Most of the time, most people are really good.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

When I was 6, my dad took me to Disneyworld and to visit relatives on Florida for my spring break. At one point at Disney, I had to go to the bathroom, and I guess I was old enough that he didn't want to take me into the men's room? And he certainly wasn't going into the women's room. So he sent me in and waited outside. And waited. And then got nervous and wondered if there was another door to exit and I'd used that one? He stopped a lady and asked her to go in and check on me...I don't remember this bit of the trip at all, or even what I might have gotten up to, but it all worked out!

LynnRodz said...

Love this post and comments.