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New York City

You can’t stand here any more. Alban, Daphné and their maman on the observation deck of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. It was June 1997. The tiny vertical finger in the haze of the sea behind is the Statute of Liberty. “Live free or die”. We believe.

The first step on our emigration from France to Santa Cruz in June 1997 was a British Airways flight from Paris to London Heathrow and another on to JFK in New York.

That sounds simple, but leaving Roissy was anything but. Sunshine had convinced a confused Versailles Court of Appeals to prohibit Nick and Tom from coming with us. We had their plane tickets, but we couldn’t bring them. So they accompanied us to the airport with grand-père, and we all said good-bye there. It was an awful feeling, just awful. A blended family that had taken so much time and effort to put together was being brusquely torn apart and, worse, there was nothing, not a damned thing, that I could do about it.

Ed Bailey’s photo of the twin towers and lower Manhattan. If memory serves, we were on about the 101st floor sightseeing.

In addition, Sunshine was jacking everybody around, which was her overall modus operandi during those years. In this case, she did not come to the Paris airport as arranged to collect her sons. No, she did not show up, or call (no cell phones yet), or anything else. What was she thinking, that the rest of us couldn’t leave if she didn’t show up? Probably something like that. As it was, Nick and Tom were understandably very distressed.

Fortunately, grand-père drove us to the airport, and so he was able to take Nick and Tom back to St Hilarion, the village where we had been living. He ended up dropped them off with a family of our friends there who were familiar with Sunshine and her behavior. She finally came and collected her charges a few days later. That was an early but vivid demonstration of how living with her was going to be for the boys. She was so angry she couldn’t think straight.

Charlie and I on the other side of the World Trade Center’s observation deck. The East River is behind us.

The five of us arrived in New York for the next leg of what was designed to be the trip of a lifetime. We had arranged a limo to pick us up at JFK and take us into Manhattan. Even without Nick and Tom, we had 17 pieces of luggage: we were planning on living out of our suitcases until our furniture arrived in California from France. We were now escorting only three children, but this was still going to be a challenge.

It was Marie-Hélène‘s first glimpse of the granite corridors of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, and she loved it.

From the twin towers again, this time looking uptown. Even on a misty day like this one, you felt close to the top of the world.

The hotel was in midtown, about three blocks south of Central Park on Seventh Avenue. We walked around the park, and across and up and down Manhattan. The longest walk took us to Macy’s. Jet-lagged, Marie-Hélène walked from the Hotel at 57th Street to Macy’s on 34th Street in the heat of summer with DaphnéAlban and Charles in tow.  24 long blocks in the summer sun is no picnic, even without a pushchair and two small children, and yet she had only good things to say about it!

This was notable in part because she is not generally thrilled to walk an extra 50 yards when a close parking space is nowhere to be found. But there’s nothing like a big city to change one’s habits. A city lover with a penchant for good shopping, Marie-Hélène was justifiably thrilled to be in New York City.

We spent three days in Manhattan, and then took the limo again to Penn Central Station for the Amtrak train west.

We walked through Trump Tower and up Fifth Avenue, as well as around Macy’s, and all was well in the world.

Oddly enough, we never made it back to New York again, except for the occasional change of planes for one or other of us on the way to or from France. We had a great time there, our appetite was definitely whetted, but we never made it back. Maybe it was the cost: New York hotel bills are high, and nothing is cheap there. Maybe it was hard to juggle our busy little gang. In any event . . . .

The bright lights of Manhattan paying tribute to the missing towers.

We love New York!!

There are not a lot of pictures of those few days in New York, in part because we were in shock after the judges did not let Nick and Tom come with us. New York is a fabulous city, but we did miss Nick and Tom. . . .

On to Santa Cruz . . .