It was almost 9:30 on Friday night when the Amtrak train finally pulled into Penn Station in New York City. The eleven- hour ride from Durham was my first solo journey by rail. Our younger son, Ross, was twenty-eight and had lived in Manhattan for five years. I would spend the weekend with him before I continued my trip on Monday morning to White River Junction, Vermont.
While my husband, David, and I had visited Ross several times in the city, I’d never gone by myself. I looked forward to our visit but wondered how it would be for him to have his mom staying. When things became testy with Ross—the typical parent and adult child tension, David was good at defusing the situation with his sarcastic, male humor—which he and Ross shared. I would remember David’s advice, “Don’t ask too many questions.”
The crowd of travelers in the tight space of Penn Station was difficult to navigate. It was noisy with frequent announcements of arrivals and departures, fretful children, and a protest group that marched through. What a relief when I saw Ross. He gave me a hug and kiss and took my heaviest bags.
“Is that the barbecue?” he asked, pointing to the thermal bag hanging from my shoulder.
“Sure is,” I answered. He’d told me his friend asked if his mom was bringing treats, and when he told her about the barbecue, she said, “Only a mother’s love.”
Ross hailed a cab and we took off for the Upper West Side. It was a relief to arrive at his second story walk-up in an older building with high ceilings and creaking wooden floors. He apologized for the small amount of space, especially the tiny bathroom. My husband and I usually stayed in a nearby hotel when we visited.
“It’s fine,” I told him, “I just like being here with you.”
By staying with him, I was getting to see more of his life—how he spent his days. We weren’t wasting our precious weekend going back-and-forth to a hotel.
On Saturday morning, he took me to his favorite bagel shop for breakfast then we walked around Central Park. He showed me the baseball field where he and a friend threw the ball and hit grounders. When I slowed down to look at something, he got annoyed.
“Mama, in the city you can’t just stop in the middle of the sidewalk. It’s like stopping in the middle of the road in North Carolina.”
I was more careful after that, making sure I paid attention and kept step with my city-wise son. He didn’t have to remind me again as we walked 55 blocks then took a cab back to his apartment.
I asked him where we could go for dinner that night, ready to treat him to a relaxing meal.
“I’d really like it if we could cook tonight and tomorrow night while you’re here,” he responded. That evening we’d keep it simple and make barbecue sandwiches.
On Sunday, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in record heat for mid-July. I managed not to be hit by ‘stepping out of my lane’ and into the path of the fast-moving bikers.
On our way home, we stopped to buy groceries for one of Ross’s favorite meals: Biltmore pecan chicken, wild rice, and green beans.
We worked quietly in the sparsely appointed bachelor’s kitchen. He cut the ends off the beans while I blended the butter and mustard for the chicken.
“When I was in a relationship, we’d always cook on Sunday evenings,” he said and reached for a sauté pan. I knew the girl he was referring to, one he’d broken up with some time ago. He drizzled some olive oil and continued, “Because Sunday night is family.”
I let his words sit there, feeling love for my son as we cooked together.
Remembering back to Sunday nights long ago, I was cooking in our kitchen when Ross and his brother, Brooks, came in from church youth group. We sat down to supper and shared the meal that was a sweet ending to our weekend together.
I’m glad I traveled here to see that my son remembers, too.
What about you?
Is there someone you need to visit?
How would it change the dynamics if you were with them without sharing the time with others?