These days when I get off the train at Back Bay station I walk by numerous oversized Tiffany ads that portray images of New York City as some sort of idealized winter wonderland. There are beautiful people doing wonderful things in perfectly snowy cityscapes. It gives the impression that we can all experience some sort of dream life if we merely buy overpriced items bundled up in a Tiffany Blue bag.
Last winter for a few hours, we got to experience this version of New York and we didn’t even have to buy anything. Last year on the day after Christmas, we had Central Park virtually to ourselves.
The forecast for the entire east coast was dismal but I felt like we could beat the snow if we headed out of Norton early enough. The hotel was already booked and paid for. The agenda was mapped out. As a family, we decided to go for it.
We hit the road at 6:00 AM. The snow wasn’t supposed to start until late morning. The original plan was to drive straight to Manhattan, park on Fifth Avenue, catch the 10:00 mass at St.Patrick’s Cathedral and then spend the Sunday after Christmas in one of the great cities of the world. What could be better?
As we were driving through Rhode Island the radio newscasts made it clear that the storm was as big and bad as they were predicting, if not worse. Knowing that there was no way I would turn around, my wife proposed a sensible alternative plan. We decided to park the car at out hotel in Stamford, Connecticut and take the train into the city. We had no idea how important of a decision this would be. New York would be brought to its knees for days in the aftermath of the storm.
Our side plan worked. We made it to St. Patrick’s in time for the next mass and by the time they opened the massive doors a little after noontime, Fifth Avenue looked like one those aforementioned Tiffany ads.
After checking out the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza we headed over to the Museum of Natural History (the Night at the Museum place). When we were done we got to experience something that no amount of money could buy.
We walked directly across the street and into Central Park. It was basically empty. Most of New York was either still somewhere else for Christmas or hunkered down for the storm. It was incredible. We had snowball fights, we saw some random cross country skiers, there were a few families playing with sleds. That's it.
I think back at all the times we used to try to make the kids birthday parties special when they were little. If you wanted space, you had to pay. There was no way around it. By contrast, here we were in one of the most beautiful parks in one of the most densely populated places on the planet. It was perfectly accented with snow and it was empty, and it didn’t cost a penny.
From that point on the trip became a lot more of a harrowing adventure complete with a meteorological phenomenon called thunder snow, cab rides that were more like sleigh rides, and barely catching the last train out of town. Like the Tiffany ads, I’ll block that part out of the frame and choose to remember our time in Central Park living in a snow globe.
PS The attached picture is a color picture.