angel of harlem

When I thought about bringing the girls to New York I had two mental images of how it would be. Claire would run around the huge gallery of the Temple of Dendur at the Met, and Julia would say “Rrrr!” to the T. Rex in the Museum of Natural History.

In fact Claire was a lot more interested in the water feature around the temple and the coins people had thrown into it. I had to explain about throwing coins into water and making wishes. Claire was very taken with the idea and demanded pennies. Four formal wishes were made:

  • Claire: “that I can keep twenty five million dinosaur models and put them in a book as BIG as the WHOLE MUSEUM.”

  • Claire again: “that an Egyptian mummy would come to life as a person at Halloween and scare everyone!”

  • Jeremy: “that we would get the backpacks back?”

    This made me smile sadly and shake my head a little. Jeremy and the girls flew in together on Thursday night. I was in Boston at a work event. Claire fell asleep on the taxi drive to the wonderful apartment we found in Harlem, and Jeremy was so frazzled trying to manage both girls and the stroller and the luggage that he left two bags in the cab.

    One was Claire’s backpack, containing kids’ books and Topaz, Claire’s beloved teddy bear. The other was Jeremy’s backpack with his camera, laptop, PSP and passport, and the girls’ passports too.

    So Jeremy in New York and I in Boston spent an anxious night calling the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the eight police precincts assigned to collect lost property from cabs. I learned more than I wanted to know about New York taxi lost property. It’s not centralized; the dispatcher can’t call the driver for you; lots of people never get their stuff back. I started making contingency plans, and tried to interest Jeremy in a MacBook replacement for his ThinkPad.

    Passports can be replaced (although being Undocumented taps into existential fears of mine, so that loss was nasty enough on its own.) And we could buy a new laptop and camera but, as Jeremy pointed out, it’s his personal kit; the lens an extension of his eye, his laptop with all his settings and passwords. Losing that is hard.

    But I didn’t believe we could get it back, so:

  • Me: “I just want Daddy to feel better.”

    The worst thing, for me, is Jeremy being upset. I was kicking myself hard for not flying down early enough to meet everyone and count their bags, but the work schedule hadn’t allowed it until the last possible minute. So I spent an unhappy night in Boston and Jeremy spent one here, and when I said “Is there anything I can do?” he said “Just come.”

    So I got to Logan and fast-talked myself onto an earlier flight and got to NYC to give everyone big hugs and drag them out for a cheering lunch at the Met. Jeremy was looking greyish and worn. I would have given a lot more than a penny to fix that.

The best part of any museum, for me and the kids, is the gift store. At the Met I found another red backpack, with a picture of the faience hippo William, for Claire, and an actual cuddly William for Julia.

And then I found a huge popup book with twenty five, if not twenty five million, dinosaur models. So I got that for Claire as well, and that was the first wish.

That evening the kids were watching Goosebumps and there was a brief flash of a mummy come to life, which was the second wish. By then Jeremy was feeling a lot better, so I got my wish too.

And the next morning Jeremy checked his mail on my Mac and saw what he thought was spam. He almost deleted it until he parsed the subject line: “stuff in cab.” The driver had the bags and wanted to return them to us. There was a number. When Jeremy showed me the mail my jaw dropped.

We spent the day at Natural History where Julia woke up just in time to say “Rrrr!”

Rajit Singh, saint of New York, returned the bags to us last night. He was apologetic; Jeremy’s water bottle had fallen out and been lost. Everything else was there. Rajit Singh told Jeremy he had felt it was his duty to get the bags back to us. He felt that he should have helped Jeremy more when he saw him struggling with the sleepy children. When he saw the important documents he was even more concerned.

We gave him a stonking tip, although I don’t feel it was enough. I say flowers grow in that man’s footprints.

Claire’s mental image of New York was of snow, and this morning we woke up to a dazzling white world. It’s snowing now and I am writing this from Jeremy’s laptop. Somewhere in New York, Rajit Singh will wake up and see the snow, and if you want to keep your feet warm, you should walk behind him, like the page walking behind Good King Wenceslas. I hope blessings fall on him like snowflakes.

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