Homecoming

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April, May, June …

Here I am, with the second-youngest of my grandchildren, Olivia, a few weeks from turning three. We are on the Chelsea High Line, NYC’s most recent local amenity and tourist attraction. The first section opened in 2009, the second in 2011. The project is the realization of some forward-thinking people, who got the idea of turning a section of abandoned overhead rail line into a pedestrian walkway. They preserved portions of the old track and turned them into gardens that feature the kind of plants that had settled in.

It’s all a matter of perception. As an abandoned rail line, we would ordinarily say the track has been over-run with weeds. As part of a community asset, however, we see a special beauty. The enlightened ones in our midst, of course, see beauty in unlikely places. The visionaries responsible for the High Line, needless to say, saw it all along …

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And here is a view, looking out into the city. Daughter Emily is posing with Olivia and my newest grandkid, number 4, Mary. On a side note, I love the name, Mary. No one calls their kids Mary, any more. I hope this is the beginning of a trend.

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Okay, let’s rewind a bit …

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This is the interior of a NJ Transit train taking me into NYC to see my family. Ever since my heart surgery back in July, I had dreamed of seeing my family again. I was living outside San Diego, and my daughter and son-in-law Hamish and my three-and-a-half grandkids had just moved from Brisbane to NYC. They paid me a visit in late June, on their way to their new home for a year. Two weeks later, my brother was driving me to the emergency room.

I had wanted to hit the road in late Oct, after I had sufficiently recovered from my surgery. But eye surgery and other complications pushed the time back to late Dec. Plus I had projects that needed completing, plus a massive reorganization of my life to attend to. In late Jan, I was finally ready to pull out.

I had a deadline. My daughter and her family would be returning to Brisbane in early July. Hamish had a one-year surgical residency at Sloan-Kettering. I needed to see them in May at the latest, before they were caught in the mad scramble to return to Brisbane.

Quick background: Back in the 70s and 80s, I had lived in New Zealand. Two years after arriving, baby Emily came along. She grew up in New Zealand, got a law and marketing degree, and entered the workforce marketing NZ wine. Ten or eleven or so years ago, she met Hamish, then a surgical resident. Seven years ago, Ted came along, and, two years after that, Maggie.

Then Emily and Hamish settled in Brisbane. Soon after, Olivia made her entry into the world. Then, in New York, came number four.

Now here I was, back from the dead, miraculously alive, May just around the corner, about to realize my dream. I had driven through 16 states and was now commuting into number 17, the end of the line less than an hour away. Two days before, I landed in Lawrenceville, NJ. There, I was staying with an old friend, Leigha. But that is another story for another time.

I get out at Penn Station, and after getting lost several times, I finally board a subway on the new Q line, which will take me into Emily’s neighborhood on the Upper East Side. Don’t let the address throw you. The Upper East Side is associated with Manhattan socialites, but an aspiring professional class also dwells here. Emily and Hamish and kids are living in a two-bedroom shoebox subsidized by Sloan-Kettering. The building doesn’t even have a doorman.

I alight at my designated stop, and make my way to the surface. In the mist, visibility is low. I cross the street. Over on the other side, I make out a woman in hat and rain jacket, boots and thick leggings, sheltering under a canvas overhang, back toward me, child in one hand, rocking a stroller with another. Emily? Hard to tell. I cross to her side of the street.

“Is that you, Emily?”

She turns.

Emily!

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