New York City, The Bible and the Hundred Dollar Bill
I give myself the credit and blame for my daughter’s love of The
Big Apple. I just dropped her off for a two-week program. I don’t know
how she talked me into this. Or, maybe I do.
I was almost exactly her age when I talked my mother into
convincing my father into letting us go to NYC. My daddy wasn’t
leaving Lee County, but he agreed to let us go.
Our mother-daughter weekend was set. We had a few hours
before the first item on our itinerary. My mother wanted to wait on
the group, but I was ready to go. The concierge assured us we were
very close to Times Square. “Make sure you turn the right way,” he
We didn’t. Instead of heading right to go to Times Square, we
turned left, towards Hell’s Kitchen. This was not Giuliani’s squeaky-
clean Broadway. No, this was Mayor Koch’s grimy, gritty New York of
the 80’s. We passed one XXX show after another, careful not to step on
homeless along the way.
We finally made it back to the hotel. My mother held me by the
wrist the way angry mothers do. We got to our room and called my
father. She told him we were not leaving the hotel until it was time to
come home on Sunday.
I’m not sure what my daddy said, but I’m thankful for it. Probably
something like, “This is what you both wanted so no need crying about
it now.” And then he must have told her that he slipped some extra
money in her Bible in case of emergency - the equivalent of him leaving
her a sweet note, his way of making everything alright.
Somehow, over the telephone, my father fixed it all. My big city
adventure was back on. We left with our group and stepped out into a
big, beautiful, very different world. We were not in Bishopville
On that trip, I rode in a limousine for the first time. It took us to
the Lincoln Center. The show was awful, but the experience changed
me. I remember standing in front of the iconic fountain in the Lincoln
Center Plaza, mesmerized by beautiful big-city people who looked
different from my beautiful small-town folks.
Yes, thirty-six years ago I stood in that spot with my mama who
somehow talked my daddy into letting us go and see another piece of
the world. My mother got scared but got over it. Now, it’s my turn.
My daughter’s dorm, part of the Fordham University Satellite
Campus, shares the plaza with the Lincoln Center. I just left her beside
that very fountain where I first fell in love with New York City. Now she
gets to look at that fountain and all it represents. For two weeks, she
will be a part of that world. She will not be in mine. And, as a parent, I
have to be OK with that.
It was not easy leaving my child in that big city. But in the same
way I wanted to see the world when I was 16, my daughter wants to
see it now. My job is to let her.
Before the two weeks is out, she may call me crying, the same
way my mother called my father. I will be tempted to say something
like, “Well this is what you wanted so no need to cry about it now.” I’ll
be tempted to say that, but I won’t. Instead I’ll listen. I’ll remind her
she comes from strong stock.
I’ll tell her to look in the pocket of her suitcase. In honor of my
first trip to NYC when I was 16, in the spirit of young girls with big
dreams and mothers who try to let them have them, I packed
something special. I packed a Bible with a hundred-dollar bill tucked