Time Away, Time Together

A roof with a view

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. On the anniversary date itself we had a babysitter watch the kids, ate a modest dinner, played fancy indoor miniature golf, and finished up with a few of Richmond’s best cocktails. It was nice, but it was really only a precursor to the proper celebration.

We’ve had kids around for just over 6 years now, and in that time we’ve only been away overnight without them once. When our daughter was almost 2 and we didn’t yet know we were expecting her brother, we left her with some close friends while we travelled to a wedding for a weekend. That was over 4 years ago so, while we love traveling with our children, we both needed a bit of time as husband and wife instead of mom and dad.

So this past weekend we took the kids to my aunt and uncle’s home in New Jersey where they had a total blast while Valerie and I had time for us in NYC. The thrill of leaving Toms River without the kids in the car, knowing that we had a weekend ahead without complaints and demands, without having to accommodate any tastes but our own, without having to worry about the crankiness that comes from a tired 3-year-old…well I hadn’t been so excited in ages. Traveling with my wife is one of my great joys, and Valerie and I haven’t taken a trip the way we like since 2012.

We stayed in Little Italy, right across the street from Ferrara. Our room was magnificent. The hotel had a rooftop accessible to all guests with couches and a killer view (see above). The weather was better than we could have hoped. We had fun checking out new and familiar stuff over the course of a couple of days. We saw The Vessel at Hudson Yards (but didn’t go up since we didn’t have tickets). We watched Colin Huggins play his grand piano in Washington Square Park.

And something else…you see, when you grow up close to New York City, you visit the place a million times. I saw plenty of big sights in my youth (Bronx Zoo, Ellis Island, the dinosaur bones in the Museum of Natural History). I couldn’t tell you how many more times I’ve been to Manhattan since my teen and adult years, and I had plenty more memorable experiences in turn. But New York is a city that’s so rich in history, culture, architecture, and just…everything, so there’s always something you haven’t done before, even if it’s a broadly popular tourist attraction.

Valerie and I had planned to grab some slices from Prince Street Pizza, but we were already looking at a late lunch after schlepping everything into the city, so the line was a bit longer than we could take (I’ve been before and the line is worth it—if you’re not already starving). So back-up plan? We walked back a couple of blocks to, of all places, Lombardi’s Pizza! That early 20th century, coal-fired-oven, pizza legend. It’s hard to be a pizza mega-fan on the east coast without having at least heard of Lombardi’s. I’d always figured it was an overrated tourist spot, but my hunger made me willing to try it for the first time, and it was really good! It seemed rather like a distinctly American take on the pizza margherita, at once an ancestor to both the modern New York pie and the crispy tavern pizzas I enjoy over in Jersey.

And then there was the ding-dang Brooklyn Bridge. On Sunday Valerie wanted to at least walk partially across, but we ended up walking all the way to Brooklyn. I resisted because I was already wiped out, but I’m so glad we did it. The views were spectacular, the bridge is of course beautiful, and the experience of strolling with a flowing mass of people across the East River was something I’ll always remember. I can’t wait to see the film shots I took from the trek.

We got up early Monday morning to head back to Toms River and collect our children. The time apart was just what we needed, and it was great to get all the hugs and snuggles. I’m still kinda tired after the drive back, but the emotional and mental reset of the weekend still leaves me feeling refreshed.