I give myself the credit and blame for my daughter’s love of The Big Apple. I just dropped her off for a two-week program. I don’t know how she talked me into this. Or, maybe I do.
I was almost exactly her age when I talked my mother into convincing my father into letting us go to NYC. My daddy wasn’t leaving Lee County, but he agreed to let us go.
Our mother-daughter weekend was set. We had a few hours before the first item on our itinerary. My mother wanted to wait on the group, but I was ready to go. The concierge assured us we were very close to Times Square. “Make sure you turn the right way,” he said.
We didn’t. Instead of heading right to go to Times Square, we turned left, towards Hell’s Kitchen. This was not Giuliani’s squeaky-clean Broadway. No, this was Mayor Koch’s grimy, gritty New York of the ’80s. We passed one XXX show after another, careful not to step on the homeless along the way.
We finally made it back to the hotel. My mother held me by the wrist the way angry mothers do. We got to our room and called my father. She told him we were not leaving the hotel until it was time to come home on Sunday.
I’m not sure what my daddy said, but I’m thankful for it. Probably something like, “This is what you both wanted so no need crying about it now.” And then he must have told her that he slipped some extra money in her Bible in case of emergency -- the equivalent of him leaving her a sweet note, his way of making everything alright.
Somehow, over the telephone, my father fixed it all. My big city adventure was back on. We left with our group and stepped out into a big, beautiful, very different world. We were not in Bishopville anymore.
On that trip, I rode in a limousine for the first time. It took us to the Lincoln Center. The show was awful, but the experience changed me. I remember standing in front of the iconic fountain in the Lincoln Center Plaza, mesmerized by beautiful big-city people who looked different from my beautiful small-town folks.
Yes, 36 years ago, I stood in that spot with my mama who somehow talked my daddy into letting us go and see another piece of the world. My mother got scared but got over it. Now, it’s my turn.
My daughter’s dorm, part of the Fordham University satellite campus, shares the plaza with the Lincoln Center. I just left her beside that very fountain where I first fell in love with New York City. Now she gets to look at that fountain and all it represents. For two weeks, she will be a part of that world. She will not be in mine. And, as a parent, I have to be OK with that.
It was not easy leaving my child in that big city. But in the same way I wanted to see the world when I was 16, my daughter wants to see it now. My job is to let her.
Before the two weeks is out, she may call me crying, the same way my mother called my father. I will be tempted to say something like, “Well this is what you wanted, so no need to cry about it now.” I’ll be tempted to say that, but I won’t. Instead I’ll listen. I’ll remind her she comes from strong stock.
I’ll tell her to look in the pocket of her suitcase. In honor of my first trip to NYC when I was 16, in the spirit of young girls with big dreams and mothers who try to let them have them, I packed something special. I packed a Bible with a $100 bill tucked inside.
(Tammy Davis lives in Columbia, SC. She can’t wait to see the pictures her daughter sends from NYC – especially those of the Lincoln Center fountain.)