A Day on the Upper East Side


There is a fable the girls and I have read recently from a few sources, and each time I have read it, I have realised how important this message is. It is the tale of the fisherman and his wife, or you may have heard it told through a little girl and her family also. Which ever way the fable unfolds it is about being granted some luck, and then realising this luck is a source to be tapped and then wanting more and more and more, until the greed bites the greedy and they end up right back where they started, with nothing. One of the points of the story is to be grateful and not to keep wanting more, and to be at peace with what naturally comes to you, and not actively seek out the next thing that is bigger and better. I really like this fable, and have realised that I have to apply this to my life.

Recently the girls and I made a trip into Manhattan to take some images and focus on details for a post we are doing for the Caramel Baby & Child blog. When this opportunity came to me I felt such incredible luck and gratitude. I suddenly felt like the fisherman in the fable, just doing his thing, and then unexpectedly the fish spoke. One day I woke up, and there in my mail was a lovely message from Caramel. Just like that I was hugging my inner self whilst saying repeatedly to myself  “Oh this is a dream!”

Caramel Baby & Child is a company I have long admired in the children’s fashion world * and to connect with them felt like a pinnacle of success for me. A lot has happened creatively and professionally for me in the past year, beyond my dreams (well maybe that is not true as I have some pretty wild dreams) but what I suppose I am saying, is beyond what I imagined would be my reality. I sat with the culmination of good fortune that has come my way, and this connection, so as not to take it all lightly and I realised that this is my point to stop wishing for more good fortune, and feel grateful and not want more. It is hard to not wish for more and more and more in life, but as the fable teaches us we must not. In that moment I knew I had to sit and feel a deep resonating sense of “This is enough, I am satisfied”  and make it my truth. I had to consciously be still with an empty mind in a peaceful place and not entertain fantasy of “Well if this happened, what can I manifest next!”

Now given that I am not the best at meditation, my mind stays empty for about two seconds before the sentences grow, and so I must resort to my other meditation…story telling. So in celebration, and in gratitude of this dream, let me tell you some real life stuff about our day on the Upper East Side.

After years of me not driving our car into Manhattan, the girls and I set off in our car to the city. One might liken my driving to the city as preparing for a deep-sea scuba dive. Licence, check, Can I breathe, check, how am I handling the pressure, check! Seriously, after a day of driving in Manhattan the muscles in my arms ache from gripping the steering wheel! Ok it is not that bad, but I do have to concentrate intensely (no room for daydreams on Broadway!) and I have to constantly deal with fear of those crazy taxi drivers, the rest of the traffic and the pedestrians. I have come to accept that I must drive to Manhattan, and all I can do is insert a self motivating super hero pep talk “I am a woman who can do anything!”

Being able to drive into the city was a gradual process but eventually I found the confidence to navigate the one way streets, the patience to crawl, and the reflexes to swerve and brake. Still though, when I know I am going to drive into the city with the children, I have to psyche myself up for it and make sure I have a good night sleep and breakfast. I feel so responsible driving with the girls in the car. I learnt to drive on picturesque single lane country roads, and I never imagined that life would lead me to what feels like rally driving, on streets of New York.

Anyway on this thursday morning with much excitement for the day ahead, off we set out to Manhattan. As I said we are working on this project for Carmel, and I had a few places I needed to visit and document, all of which were to be a lot of fun. Cam text me from the bus a little after he left saying “The traffic is really bad today” I took his text in my stride as the things I had to look forward to made the impending traffic seem of little consequence.

The drive in presents a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline, it seems to rise up and out of the freeway like Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. An imperial silhouette that offers promise, making you feel like anything is possible. Oh yes, that is the enchantment of New York City. I had a parking garage facility location typed into the GPS. Driving from our house into the city is theoretically a short 30 minute drive. Technically that is of course not the case, but on this day we reached the upper east side in less than an hour, so that is actually pretty good.

A good habit to be in when going to Manhattan is to plan, but equally important is to accept that your plans will be interfered with by the subway system, the police and bomb squads, or as was the case on this day, oil tankers. Oil tankers filling up residential oil tanks obstructing traffic because cars can not fit past them, so whole blocks get closed while fat iron bellies guzzle up oil, and of course the parking garage I had picked was in a block closed off. Ahhh! Eeek! Noooo! Now I can be one to panic. Not a bad panic, but I will get into a tizz. It is the Vata dosha in me. “Oh no, where are we going to park now!” I cried to the girls feeling bothered by this truck blocking our way. “Well I suppose I will just drive around the block again!” I said as the traffic light had turned green and I had to take action. Thankfully at this point Maya said “I saw a P sign on the last block!” and sure enough Maya had spotted a letter P indicating parking in one of those small discrete descending driveways that are like chipmunk holes in the lawn. Very easy to miss unless you know how to spot them. Into the underground cavern we went and finally we had arrived in magical Manhattan, where anything is possible, except finding a cheap place to park your car.

With the children hand in hand we walked a few blocks to the Caramel baby & Child boutique. I had made some effort with my appearance which I rarely do. “Let’s pretend we are those fancy ladies that live on the Upper East Side”. I do love to play the part, whilst being ourselves of course. Which for me meant, a beautiful silk headscarf that I had sewn and hand dip dyed. The scarf lengths graduating in colour from white to blue hung in very long tapered ends, meeting the length of my hair. The girls, gifted with elegant clothes looked much the same as they always do, so really I was the only one pretending to be fancy.

When we arrived at the boutique we were warmly welcomed, as everyone is. The sweet store is loved by the staff, and the staff love their customers, and you can really feel it. Everything is neat and pretty, but also creative and unique. The clothes are beautiful and the shoes are beautiful and the decor is beautiful. The girls tried on shoes as I have resolved to buy them one pair of good shoes this Autumn and winter, that are quality and classic and therefore go with everything. I photographed, and the girls played and then we were on our way.

Our day progressed with numerous other activities, which I will not go into great detail now about, (but you can see photos and read about it over at Caramel) except to say that then I met with the lovely Alex of Cabbage and Kings, Maya was very frustrated and naughty at the playground, and Elle had her dream come true when she got to pat a 5th Avenue Poodle “Who is a model” and no doubt lives a better lifestyle than millions of people. Photo taking, ideas talking, child reprimanding, poodle patting and all of a sudden it was 3:30pm and once again driving was at the forefront of my mind and I was ready to hit the road to avoid afternoon traffic.

As we came out of 66th street that cuts through Central Park, traveling from the east side to the westside we were met with what looked like the start of some fanfare. All forms of police, those in vehicles, on motorbikes, on horses and on foot were gathered. With fascination we stared and marveled how wonderful it was to see this site. En masse it was all so impressive. Little did I know that moments later this ribbon of police would lead to a raveled thread! As the traffic light turned green, I turned left, thinking I would be beyond this traffic stopping procession by the next block and that I would be able to continue our journey downtown in order to enter Lincoln Tunnel and return to Jersey.

On we drove to the next block, all the while I am speaking aloud the navigation to the girls. “Oh yes one way uptown, can’t turn left, so on we have to drive to the next block” and then “Oh this avenue  is also blocked off too, oh dear!” On and on we keep driving until finally we have gone as far west as we could go in order to travel downtown. By this point I was getting a little agitated, and I was becoming acutely aware that the gas tank was hovering just above the red empty warning. “Oh silly Mummy, why didn’t I get petrol before we left home?” I said to the girls whilst thinking I was such a dummy. I honestly thought I had enough gas to get back home, but I did not take into account the car sitting and idling while going nowhere, nor numerous detours.

With mounting worry, I was starting to feel a little hopeless and so as mother with children can feel entitled to do, I stopped the car in the middle of an intersection of a green light, put down my window and spoke to the Policeman doing his best to divert traffic. “Excuse me, but can you please tell me how I can get downtown, I need to get to Jersey” The policeman looked at me and with tremendous effort to balance his duty and compassion he said with a tilt to the head, “Ma’am, you are blocking the traffic”. Indeed I was blocking the traffic, I was not going anywhere and people where beeping their car horns at me. Perhaps it was the tinge of hysteria that entered my voice when I said “I need  to get to Jersey”  as he quickly added “Just pull in there” and pointed to the dead-end of a St. A moment later he was at my car window. Now at this point I would like to digress and say that this was the most gorgeous policeman I have ever seen. Seriously I am not one to go on about men in uniforms because that is just not my thing, but if we are looking at iconic representations of New York characters, there is a reason why the Upper East Side ladies are fancy, and there is a reason why the NYPD are hot. This young dashing policeman was all that, he was tall and muscular, and tanned with strong blue eyes and short neat blonde hair, but in addition to all of that, he was being my hero. “It is Obama Ma’am.” He said as explanation to my predicament. “Oh well that explains it” I said, feeling suddenly less perturbed and slightly elevated for my idolized crush on Obama. “Will I be able to get downtown or should I head uptown and take the George Washington Bridge?” With a shake to the head indicating do not think of going downtown, run, run for the hills. He said “Head uptown and get out of here.” And so I did.

With a suitable reason for our diversion to digest, the girls and I headed north. It would make our drive home twice the distance, but driving and feeling free is much better than being stuck in traffic. I was happy that I was no longer feeling lost and confused and that we were able now to talk about other things. “Mummy what does a president do?” Elle Asked. “He has ideas for the greater good of the people, and he represents them and the country, making decisions based on what the people want and need.” I said to Elle all the while thinking…”He causes really big traffic jams” and making a mental note to myself “Do not drive to the city the same day Obama does.”

Conversations continued with Maya wondering “What is Obama’s favorite colour?” and letting us know that when she builds a house “There is going to be a whole room just for a poodle.” Obviously the poodle interaction had impressed Maya, but what I wonder is, how is it that the poodle became so lucky? Surely a great haircut can not shape the destiny of an entire species? A poodle with its own room, my goodness!

At some point on the drive home I relaxed and was able to take in the diversity of New york city life. At each traffic light we stopped at I enjoyed a momentary glimpse into a world. There on the pavement sat a little girl no more than three. Legs spread wide and long on the cement while her back rested on the wall of the Laundromat. Sitting there alone, staring down at a small toy in her hands, she pretended. The boy gazing out the screen-less window through the child safety grates, playing with the lace curtain like it was a veil of imagination while he sang unhindered to the afternoon breeze. Like little gifts of insight these children captured me. On this day we saw very rich people, and we saw very poor people, and a whole heap of people like ourselves, somewhere in between. I was struck numerous times on this outing how being fortunate, and having rewarding life experiences is so random and subjective. As I emerged out of these deep thoughts I said, “Girls, you live a privileged and fortunate life and we have to be grateful for this day we had today” because life really is what you make of it.


* There are many other brands that I admire equally and do or would feel grateful to know and work with, and this specific admiration with Caramel, in addition to the great style is for their longevity in the children’s fashion industry and how their success has been a source of inspiration for many brands that have since followed.

4 thoughts on “A Day on the Upper East Side

  1. Can I recommend, being I grew up on the upper east side and we often drive in to see my Mom- do not take the Lincoln tunnel on a weekday! Sundays are fine but if you are going to the ues only, take the bridge! We make it 30 minutes door to door- my mom is east 80th and then you can take the crosstown bus up to Madison, the park etc. Just a thought. and I feel your pain on the driving- these are the streets I learned to drive on and took my road tests on and still I feel stress in my body when I go!

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