Yesterday on the subway I started to put a tie on, and realized I didn't know quite how.
The problem wasn't the knot, thankfully, but the length -- I went to adjust the two ends, and discovered that I wasn't quite sure how short the short one was supposed to be. It was like going to sign my name and discovering that I couldn't remember what the middle name was supposed to look like.
When I thought about it, I realized what was going on -- I hadn't put on a tie in years. Literally several years. I never acquired the habit of wearing one while teaching, I've long since moved to the open-collar-and-jacket look for public speaking engagements, and I haven't been to a wedding or funeral in this decade.
(After a few seconds of puttering around, yanking on the two ends of the thing like Emelio Estevez with his hood string in Breakfast Club, it came back to me, by the way.)
So why the tie yesterday?
Well, nine days ago was the one-year anniversary of Casey's heart surgery, and I'd promised her a trip to the new gelato place near her school to celebrate. (She's in school downtown, far from either her mother's place or mine, and usually takes a school bus to get there and back. But about once a week I take her on the subway, and about once a month I meet her in the afternoon and we take a subway home. The gelato place is between the subway and the school, so it'd piqued our interest.)
Casey wound up being sick on that Wednesday, and we rescheduled for the following Monday. And then both forgot that plan until it was too late to write the necessary note about the school bus. So we rescheduled again for this Wednesday, and had a lovely time about which I may sometime write -- ask me about my tarragon and pink peppercorn ice cream and her feminist response to my wheedling her to try it.
So Casey got an afternoon out for a special event with her dad, and Elvis wanted one too. Given teaching and afterschool schedules and such, I realized that yesterday would work perfectly for me to grab E early at preschool and take her down to the Metropolitan Museum for a couple of hours.
When it was decided that we were going to the museum, Elvis decided she wanted to dress fancy, and picked out a party dress, her "tap shoes," a cloth tiara, and a gaudy green-jeweled ring to wear to school the next day. She instructed me to dress fancy too, specifically requesting a tie.
For me to show up in my classes wearing a jacket and tie would have been enough of a departure from my usual practice to distract my students, so I shoved the tie in my bag, to put on on the subway. Which brings us up to where we started.
When I got to Elvis' school, she'd told everyone that I was going to be wearing a tie, and about our plans for the afternoon. She squealed, the other kids squealed, they chanted "Bye Ellie! Bye Ellie!" as we left. Couldn't find one of the "tap shoes," so she wound up wearing her magenta ankle boots, which pretty much made the look of her outfit.
On the way to the museum, we discussed what we wanted to see. I was suggesting the weird stuff in the contemporary wing, but she reminded me that we'd done that pretty recently before. (She even remembered, as I hadn't, that we'd tried to find the Damien Hirst dead shark in a tank, and failed.)
So after a couple of other suggestions, I asked if she'd like to see a sculpture of a ballerina. That idea went over well. We went in, bought tickets, dumped her coat and my bag at coat check, and I gave her my M pin to wear on her dress. (They don't give the pins to kids anymore, which I understand given the fact that they're both razor sharp and the perfect size to choke on, but am still irked by. I still miss the AMNH's pins, which have been completely abandoned.)
So we schlepped up the big front stairs to the second floor, and I started poking around the European paintings looking for the Impressionists. Either they've changed things around a bit or I just got off on the wrong foot, but I couldn't find them, so we wound up bouncing around Renaissance (etc) art longer than we'd intended, having a couple of good conversations along the way. En route we also discussed the fact that she and I are bigger fans of museums than either her or her sister, and should really do this more often. (On the street on the way to the museum, she'd pointed out that with it just being the two of us, she didn't get interrupted nearly as much by her sister as she was used to.)
Oh, and while we're wandering around, she says to me that she wants to find some paintings by "Ehgouh Dayguh," which was an impressively good approximation of Edgar Degas' name from a four-year-old who'd only heard it for the first time that morning. Turns out that she and her mom had been looking through a kids book about a trip to an art museum, and she'd liked the paintings of the dancers.
Which meant that the sculpture I was taking her to and the paintings she wanted to take me to were by the same guy.
When I eventually stopped to ask directions, she asked me what I'd asked, and when I told her I'd asked where the Impressionists were, she remembered that name from the book too. And then she also remembered that she'd meant to ask about the Renoirs.
So we went and found the Renoirs, and I showed her the one tiny painting of his of the toddler girl that I've loved since I was a kid, and we went and found the Degases, and I showed her the sculpture of the ballerina and she found a painting of dancers very much like the one in the book and I explained a bunch of stuff to her and she explained a bunch of stuff to me.
And then we went looking for food.
We'd been thinking of having a hot dog in front of the museum, but it was really cold, so we decided to do food inside instead. But by the time we found the American Wing Cafe (after poking around musical instruments and stained glass and the photography exhibit we're going to go back for next week), it was closed. So we checked out various sculptures in the atrium and she asked me questions I tried my best to find answers to on cards, and we realized that the facade at one side, which I'd always assumed to be an original pre-expansion exterior wall of the museum, was actually saved from a torn-down bank in Philadelphia or someplace.
And then we went out and huddled on the steps and got hot dogs. She had hers plain, despite her love for ketchup, because she didn't want to spill anything on her fancy dress or the fancy sort of matching velour jacket her sister had lent her.
And that was that chunk of that day.