I’ve referred obliquely before to the romance of running in New York City; I know at least one of you know what I mean even if you’d never use that word.
Another early rise for me–5:35 AM–for a pre-work run. Oh my, did my heart fill with anticipation! As I pulled on my tights, buckled on little G, and tied my hair up in fetching pigtails, it was as if I was getting ready for a date. I couldn’t wait; my heart gave out little pre-run pitter-patters as I envisioned myself striding strong through Queens Plaza, and pushing the final uphill towards home.
The run did not disappoint; I passed so many familiar faces that it could have been pre-arranged, a party even! Oh, and one new face: an Anderson Cooper-esque cyclist. Wish he hadn’t sped by so quickly.
Cleary, I made excellent time. The Empire State Building obliged with her diamond lights, the Chrysler Building had to keep up and shined fiercely. Along the Upper East Side, the stately ladies-who-lunch buildings are aging gracefully, and cast their own brand of philanthropic glimmer onto the East River for me. The perhaps-first cable car of the day glided over from Roosevelt Island, its darkened interior reminding me I could still be snuggled beneath my puffy striped comforter.
Honestly, though–with no one else beneath that comforter? It’s much more romantic out here, on my bridge, which I know intimately, just an arm’s breadth away from fellow bridge runners, and a knowing grin away from sweaty, panting flirtation with my city and her citizen athletes.
All this, before sunrise! Of course, the sun’s knowing glare does tend to dampen the mood, but a jumpy day of meetings and project work kept my energy keyed up. It tapered as I took the 5:33 out of Penn Station to Mineola, for a 90th birthday celebration dinner in honor of my great aunt. Talk about romance. This is a woman who fell in love with her husband the first time she danced with him, a woman who enjoyed her children so much other responsibilities were left unattended as she played with the kids instead, who was so determined to experience California and New Orleans she went by herself in her late 70’s. Now those are 90 years I’ll celebrate. As a parting word, I said to her, both as observation and directive, Every day is your birthday. You celebrate every day. She’s been a widow for over a decade (although, who among my elder female relatives hasn’t been!?), but yet she finds the sparks: she traveled to my brother’s wedding in Colorado when she was 82. She congratulated me on my “astounding” marathon time. She laughed as she recounted to me, “I remember your husband’s exact words, when I asked about his job, were that he had a great vacation.” This is a woman who has tasted the sugar and the salt of life.
As we left the restaurant, taking the air with us (was no one else glad to be there? We were the only ones laughing), my father handed me a box with amaryllis bulbs. Beauty for his beauty. And my mom told me I’d aced Thanksgiving dinner. They don’t give me money, or shelter, or rules anymore; but they still give me what I need. This, too, is its own kind of romance. Moments that unfurl, when everyone effortlessly plays their parts: wise aunt, vivacious niece, adoring father and approving mother. I could live forever on these moments. I just may, considering the longevity of the women in my family who precede me!