There’s an image that I work hard to keep alive, just as I’m learning to let so many other memories go. It’s the image of watching my daughter Jennifer, dressed in peach and lavender tulle, dancing the role of “Bon Bon” in a Ballet Arizona performance of “The Nutcracker” many years ago, before Ib Andersen unveiled his own choreography for the classic work.
I thought of Jennifer Thursday when I happened upon the Poets House on River Terrace in Battery Park City, because their children’s area had all sorts of folk art, stuffed animals and other things she’d truly enjoy — even pint-sized manual typewriters and old-fashioned school desks with chairs attached.
But it’s the desk of a gentleman who works there that really caught my eye. I snapped oodles of pictures, eager to show them to Jennifer when I got back to Phoenix. It was a creamy shade of green Jennifer would simply call “retro” — and it was covered in large magnetic words like “family” and “imagine.”
I was struck by how many of the words reminded me of New York — especially the word “different.” There’s an amazing diversity of people and experiences in the city, and I adore it.
After my time at the Poets House, and my stroll along the Hudson River that followed, I felt like running away from home — never leaving this city that feels such a rare blend of comfortable and thrilling.
Thursday night I went with Lizabeth to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where we saw “War Horse” — this year’s Tony Award winner for best play. While strolling between various venues within the center, we happened upon one of the “Pop-up Pianos” that Sing for Hope places around the city for a brief bit of time each year. Each piano is painted with a different motif, and members of the public are encouraged to play them.
Soon after we spotted the piano in an open courtyard where nearly a hundred people sat on long concrete benches or metal chairs at bistro tables, two men who appeared to be college-age played — one right after the other. Each played an elaborate, lengthy piece and we suspected, because The Juilliard School is located within eyeshot of the plaza, that they were accomplished music students.
Lizabeth was eager to play the piano when it first caught her eye, but hesitated after hearing the two gentlemen play — fearing she’d spent too much time away from piano to sound nearly that polished. I held back so she could choose whether or not to brave the piano bench, but shared that hearing her play might inspire younger, beginning students to give it a go.
Soon she was playing pieces like “Peer Gynt” from memory and trying selections from piano books left atop the instrument. She told her dad when we got home Friday night that she didn’t play as well as the others, but I told her it wasn’t about the performance. It was about courage, and she has it.
Like Jennifer’s performance in “The Nutcracker,” Lizabeth’s performance in that majestic plaza will stay with me for a lifetime — a fact that gave me comfort when it appeared my NYC photos had been lost. Still, I think sometimes that the moments we can’t preserve are the ones we remember best.
Coming up: Remembering 9/11