The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Childhood dreams translate to big city reality

| March 26, 2015 | 0 Comments
Anna, the author’s fiercely independent middle child, is in New York City. The pair took a trip to the Big Apple to check out colleges. (courtesy photo)

Anna, the author’s fiercely independent middle child, is in New York City. The pair took a trip to the Big Apple to check out colleges. (courtesy photo)



Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer
“Do you want that apple now?” I asked my daughter for the third time since boarding the train to New York City.

I brought Anna’s favorite snack in my backpack, hoping that a Granny Smith might keep my temperamental teen satisfied on our trip to visit colleges.

“No, Mom,” Anna huffed. “I told you I’m not hungry.”

As I turned toward the window, my mind wandered to a decade ago, when Anna, our fiercely independent middle child, had disappeared. She was one of those kids who would go off with a box of figurines and lose herself in pretend play for hours.

“Anna?” I bellowed, eager to find her in a corner, lost in a complex drama involving Buzz Lightyear, Polly Pockets and My Little Pony.

Just as my mothering instinct was about to mobilize a grid search of our entire neighborhood, I heard something in the bonus room over our garage.

Sure enough, there she was, sitting in a heap of paper, pencils, yarn, fabric and my sewing basket, dumped upside-down.

“Look-it what I made, Mom,” she coughed out, her voice box sluggish from hours of dormancy.
Anna held up her creation, a full-length garment of white fleece. After making sketches in a Hello Kitty notebook, she settled on a sleek one-shoulder design with an elegant neckline and fitted skirt.

Anna modeled her gown for us, and we looked on in amazement at the sophisticated silhouette and even hand-stitching. Apparently, Anna had seen someone do it on TV and was now determined to be a fashion designer.

Ten years later, we’re on our way to The Big Apple to follow Anna’s dream.

Sitting beside my 17-year-old daughter, I still see her big brown eyes flitting, lost in thought.

Intuitively, I know that she is envisioning what it would be like to be a fashion design student in NYC, walking city streets in stylish outfits, sketching on sunlight-dappled park benches and hailing cabs to meet friends for lunch in Soho.

My baggy brown eyes are flitting, too, but I am imagining rat-infested alleys, marauding pick-pocketers, subway stairwells reeking of urine and catcalling ne’re-do-wells. My husband and I would much rather send our daughter to college somewhere in rural Vermont or Wisconsin, where sleepy campus police officers busy themselves writing citations for spitting on the sidewalk.
But, we know, Anna must see for herself.

Emerging from the subterranean chaos of Penn Station, we begin our two-day odyssey.  The subway stations are a hideous cornucopia of acrid odors and filthy corners piled with discarded cigarette butts.
The housewife in me wants to spray the whole place with bleach and give it a good scrubbing. Anna, on the other hand, is mortified that I am a quintessential tourist, fiddling clumsily with my maps and subway diagram. Despite her embarrassment, we manage to visit all the fashion design schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn in two days, using only a Metrocard, one $12 cab ride and just under 42,000 Fitbit steps.

After our last tour at Parson’s School of Design, Anna slumps over a chair in the admissions office, sore, tired and overwhelmed with the realities of the big city college experience.

I thought I’d be relieved if Anna was disappointed with urban life, but my parental instinct to protect my daughter from danger is tempered by my need to support her dreams.

“Whaddya say we take a cab and go get chocolate shakes?” I say, tossing the fruit into the trash. “I know a great place on the upper East Side.”

As we walk out into bustling Greenwich Village, I realize that, no matter where my daughter’s aspirations take her, she’ll always be the apple of my eye.

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