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Tag: New York City

The Indestructible Dining Room Table

Living with this old dining room table has taught me how to be a better parent. Here’s the story.

When I was growing up, my father constantly hounded me not to jump on the living room couch and to stop spilling my milk on the dining room table.

No, my parents didn’t cover everything with plastic, but our New York City apartment wasn’t really designed to accommodate the usual physical energies of a growing boy. Still, I made it through without causing too much damage.

Now, I’ve got my own son. He’s almost eleven, and I find myself on opposite side of the same equation. Like father, like son?

A Fateful Meeting
Many years ago when I lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, I picked up an old and somewhat beat-up dining room table from the curb. It was abandoned there, the table top and legs, just up the street from where I lived, near the Capitol Theatre.

I carried it home, put it together and then took a closer look at what I had dragged in. It wasn’t really in that bad shape, and the craftmanship was solid. It must have been built in the 1940s and lived in someone’s home across a generation or more.

Then, circumstances clearly changed, and it was cast out, waiting for the garbage truck.

But I saved this table and integrated it into my own life. And it’s stayed with me across my journey and into parenthood.

Reflections of Family Life
It’s lasted far beyond my expectations. I figured it would eventually get replaced with a nicer table, but then a funny thing happened to it during our early parenting years.

To borrow a phrase… it took a licking and kept on ticking.

No matter what kind of abuse it took, it had this seemingly magical quality to bounce right back.

  • Pen and crayon marks? No problem.
  • Fork gouge. Not that noticeable.
  • Water spill? The stain somehow evaporated.

Actually, there were so many little marks, the scars simply began to blend together into a dull, well-worn, distressed look. I’m sure the table sported a uniform shine in the previous century, but now, it simply absorbs the daily life of our growing boy with its own muted elegance.

Learning from your Mistakes
I woke up on Saturday morning and began setting the dining room table for breakfast. Sitting in the middle of the table was a science experiment and magic trick of sorts from the previous evening. Our son had created the illusion of dry bits of paper floating inside a Ziploc bag of water. It was a clever design that, of course, used two Ziploc bags.

My wife and I enjoyed our son’s after-dinner illusion, but unfortunately, we all forgot to make sure it was cleaned up and put away.

Sometime overnight, the bag with the water sprung a leak.

So when I walked over to the table in the morning, there was a huge water stain that spanned the entire length of the dining room table.

In many situations, this would be a game-over moment for a piece of wooden furniture. And for me, it should have prompted a response of significant stress.

But it didn’t.

After observing the pool of water, I walked over to the kitchen to retrieve some paper towels, and then I mopped up the mess. I took another look at the massive wet stain, which I knew would mostly disappear when it dried. I shrugged and went about my breakfast prep.

That’s it.

Yes, I later pointed out the water illusion’s structural failure to my son, and I did suggest that he shouldn’t leave aqua experiments lying about.

But compared to other corrective conversations, it was very Zen.

The Real Value of a Dining Room Table
Parenting is a messy business. Growing up is a messy business. Good messy.

I’ve realized it’s just fine for your dining room table to reflect that.

  • A table for science experiments
  • A table for art projects
  • A table for family Zoom chats
  • And yes, sometimes a table to eat on

I expect that some folks might be horrified with my position on dining room table protection, but I’m so happy letting this table be the surface for so many of our family’s home adventures.

And now, it’s clearly become my own little experiment.

I think one day… a few years down the line, we’ll get the table refinished. It’s certainly earned it!

Life Lessons
Yes, my indestructible dining room table has been an invaluable tool across these years. It’s ongoing presence has also taught me not to worry so much about the little nicks and dings… and water stains.

That’s life.

This lesson has helped me to avoid some of the parenting styles I grew up with. And I’m really thankful for that.

I don’t know who left this magic table for me all those years ago. But whoever you are, thank you!

7 Photos and 8 Verbs for Spring

This image of a blooming tree is a classic example of spring’s arrival. But you may be surprised how springtime can subtly influence so many of your other photos…

Wherever you point your camera, it’s almost impossible to avoid both the literal and figurative influences of spring. For your consideration… 7 examples that I snapped and the energies they reflect.

EXPLORE

Here is the moment when our one-year-old cat discovered these spring tulips. You can almost see the neurons in her brain going crazy.

DISRUPT

When you find a petal from a nearby flowering tree glued to your window, you know a chaotic spring storm has recently passed by.

REPAIR

This utility project on a Manhattan street has the feel of a picnic lunch being laid out on a warm day.

GROW

The One Vanderbilt building across from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan continues to sprout and stretches upward to its planned 1,401 foot height.

RADIATE

There’s nothing more classic than a perfect spring day in New York City at high noon.

MIGRATE

Those are really trucks traveling on your train tracks! Now, where’s the train?!

BURST

Nature has a way of sprinkling itself everywhere. I love my nature-dusted driveway!

SHARE

More specifically… share your life. (This really isn’t season-specific.) As you know, I’m a huge believer of not holding onto your photography. Do share! And let others smell the blossoms along with you…

Happy spring!

12 Degrees, 5 Faces and a Central Park Wedding

Here’s my view earlier this week from Belvedere Castle in Manhattan. If you look closely, you can spot the warmth of a wedding in action. The cold can bring out the best in New Yorkers in more ways than one…

On what felt like one of the coldest days of the year in New York City, my wife, son and I walked about Central Park last Thursday with two other families… friends from the Boston area. The three boys ran about care-free in 12 degrees like it was a summer day. As for me, I wondered whether I was getting frost bite.

We eventually arrived at Belvedere Castle and walked to the top to experience the big Central Park view. I observed a small wedding ceremony in progress at the edge of the pavilion by Turtle Pond. Incredibly, the young bride and groom weren’t wearing coats! At the conclusion of the ceremony, a crowd that had spontaneously gathered around broke out in applause and began to hum Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
(Now, that’s a New York moment!)

We moved on, but it was so cold, I think I began having some difficulty seeing clearly. Perhaps the molecular composition of my glasses began to change in the frigid conditions?
(I can only imagine how those newlyweds felt!)

Three Hats, One Scarf and a Hood in Zabar’s
Our little band eventually took a brief respite to warm up in Zabar’s Cafe on the Upper West Side. As you might imagine, it was packed with locals, sipping hot chocolate, tea and coffee.

As I looked about, I observed a crowd of faces.
Faces of experience that relayed different conditions… joy… angst… confidence… uncertainty… and enthusiasm.

If you want to find a certain cross section of life in New York City… there it was… right in front of me at Zabar’s.

On this day, the cold had brought out everyone’s winter wear.
It was quite a sight…
I zeroed in on three great hats, a massive hood and one vibrant scarf.
And I was immediately drawn to the faces underneath.

I had my Panasonic Lumix LX10 camera with me, and I asked these five customers if I could take their pictures for this post. They were all game to participate…
(Another New York moment)

Annette and Hope

Howard

Gerry

Judy

My New Year’s Resolution
I saw a spark in each of these faces. One of my friends called it an aura. It was this warm energy which compelled me to break out my camera.

I don’t really know their stories, but all five were interested in chatting and helping me out.
And I could see they all had a strong sense of self.
I was inspired.

As we enter 2018, these five friendly souls reminded me of the importance in nurturing and growing our own sparks… to feed who we really are.

There are any number of New Year’s resolutions out there.
But for me… I think it’s simply not forgetting to fuel the spark.

Everything else follows.

Thank you, Annette, Hope, Howard, Gerry and Judy.

Congratulations to those Belvedere Castle newlyweds, who I expect have warmed up by now…
…and Happy New Year!

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