THE PRINCES OF PARK AVENUE
When my friends in Maine hear that I’m going to Manhattan for a few days, I think they make certain assumptions. Like maybe I’ve got fifth row center seats to see “Hamilton.” Or an 8 PM dinner reservation at Le Bernardin … or maybe even a mini-suite at the Plaza. Nope.
My Manhattan visit centers on an Upper East Side apartment just off Park. When I roll my suitcase through the front door, two little guys grinning from ear-to-ear barrel down the hall towards me, arms open, shouting VIVI! VIVI! They are Henry, 5, and Miles, 7. They are my grandsons, the Princes of Park Avenue.
Their two-bedroom apartment is spacious and light, but it IS a New York apartment. Which means “my room” is the living room couch. (Plaza Schmaza!) During the day sunlight pours in through the ceiling-high windows. At night, however, I notice there are no shades on those huge windows and the neighboring building is less than 20 feet away. Do you remember “Rear Window”? I do, and I’m not about to get naked for the night with some guy focusing his Bushnells on the situation.
So for a while, I used the front hall closet but found that extricating my body out of skinny jeans in the dark while fending off tennis racquets, baseball mitts, thick down coats, little yellow slickers, several pairs of rubber boots and a basketball didn’t work so well. I finally decided that if someone wanted to check out my aging carcass, go ahead and take a gander.
Morning comes quickly with the Princes of Park Avenue. I’m half-asleep on my bed, er couch, when I hear Darth Vader-ish breathing. I open my eyes and stare directly into Miles’ eyeballs. “Wanna play legos in our room,” he whispers. It’s 6 a.m. but there’s nothing I’d rather do.
My son has always told me that they live in a huge city but also in a neighborhood. Walking the seven-year-old to P.S. 6, a doorman hollers, ”Have a good day at school, Miles." At the boys' favorite Italian restaurant, Tiaramisu, the waiter recognizes them immediately (which could be why we are also immediately ushered to "Siberia," 10 tables removed from other patrons). These boys are truly not strangers in their hood.
Both boys take violin lessons and there is usually a mini-recital during my visit. Now, let’s be honest, Suzuki is probably a lovely word in Japanese. In grandparent-speak, maybe not so much when the younger budding Itzhak Perlman flails his way through “I like wa-ter-mel-on.” But there is hope! During my last visit Miles positively nailed the Gossec Gavotte, and was especially impressive when his seven-year-old fingers managed a final flourishing pluck.
I share the boys’ bathroom and take a morning shower in a tub filled with plastic red boats, yellow duckies and an Obi Wan Kenobi figurine. I’ve spent more hours at Central Park’s Three Bears playground than J.McLaughlin. I’ve watched them evolve from eating “sketti” one slurping strand at a time to seeing them actually use a fork. And I’ve probably read them The Circus Ship 122 times. As grandparents, you would all do the same thing.
A Welsh proverb says, Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild is born. What is it about these little ones that stirs such intense love? I have four grandchildren altogether and my heart has grown bigger with each. Maybe it’s as simple as finding the note that I discovered on the sofa during my recent visit, written with a purple magic marker in scrawly letters, that reads: “Vivi I luv ew henry”