I always remember that Macy’s is on 34th Street. What I forget is the cross street. At the stoplight I asked, “Which way is Macy’s?” Each of the ten to twelve persons standing there pointed to the right. Everybody can find Macy’s! For the first time, I was in New York the week before Christmas. I had to see Macy’s decorations. Nobody does Christmas decorations like Macy’s. I was not disappointed. I walked through the door and stopped immediately. I gazed at the many huge white/silver ornaments, probably basketball size, illuminating the main aisle. All ornaments are attached to greenery. The strings of ornaments and greenery flow from one wall across to another. Down the center of the store are rows of identical ornaments and greenery. The sparkling rhinestones take everyone’s breath away. I stood to the side, watching people enter the store. Mouths flew open. Regardless of age, gender, race, or any other category you choose, everyone stopped, momentarily paralyzed. Anyone not spellbound by the beauty managed an “ahh.”
The beauty simply magnified New York’s overflowing energy. I have been in New York for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Easter Parade and New Year’s Eve. However, this was my first time being there for the week before Christmas. Walking up and down streets watching others walk up and down streets, purchase hot dogs, chestnuts, soft drinks, pizza, peanuts purses, hats, gloves, watches, scarves, paintings, belts, and just about anything else one can think of from some of the countless vendors can occupy someone not in a hurry for hours. Christmas quadruples—at least—the people and activities, revs up the city.
What was different in what I long ago labeled New York’s assaults on the senses was this observer. Age has taken its toll. Sciatica struck June 15; yes, I remember the date. The first time I visited New York I was in my thirties; I am now well past my thirties. New Yorkers seem to think there are no long blocks in New York. Any address seems to be two to five, maybe six blocks away; “You can walk it” they say, cab drivers included. On the other hand, they explain, “You can get there faster by walking Perhaps they can get there faster; I can’t. In ’78, I walked it. Then the subway steps that seem to go almost forever surprised me because of their length; now they are obstacles to be overcome. I beg for escalators and try my best to remember, “to stand to the right.” No one must worry about me walking to the left. I look for landings. I stop at landings. This is new. When once I never looked for elevators, I am terribly aware of their absence. I regret there are no elevators. I wonder was there no one who thought of the older, old, handicapped.
The trek from the subway on “mostly flat terrain” to the Metropolitan Museum requires several stops for breath. I recall no such stops in previous trips, and I was talking to one or several companions, acquaintances. I always go to the Museum, always carve out time for this amazing repository of some of the greatest masterpieces of humankind. And once I arrived at the Museum, I must walk farther, stand longer. And I breathe harder. Knowing there is a show on Michelangelo automatically means walking and standing.
Walking up the many steps I know I have run up many times, I begin to wonder where are my eyeglasses. I couldn’t have forgotten them because I have several pairs. However, forgetting the glasses is just what I have done! The days of reading the descriptions minus glasses are gone. And I have forgotten them on a day when the Met has Michelangelo and Rodin! I venture to lost and found and discovered they have only one pair of glasses and they are broken, but the employee offered a magnifying glass.
Though I have seen work by Michelangelo several times in several places, I am as amazed as ever. No one will convince me that some of the smaller works are unfinished. I think the artist delighted in showing what he could do with marble. He wanted to show what was “trapped” in the marble. Despite the increasing pain, I trudged on.
I’m good at telling myself that I can eat, sleep, rest at another time. Whatever I am doing at the time—viewing art in a museum, for example—I may never get a chance to do it again or do it again soon. I always think I must seize the day. The big difference was being technically handicapped. Each time I saw a person using a cane or walker, I wondered if there was pain, if the pain is only temporary. Several times, I spoke to such persons.
Lying down three to five hours usually alleviates the pain. Now I am much better, trying not to fear the pain will return once I venture out. As far back as I can remember, I have wanted everyone to be healthy. This trip has made me more sympathetic even as I realize no one’s sympathy eases another’s physical pain.
~Georgia S. McDade