As a member of New York’s largest volunteer organization, I accompanied a group of city elementary school students to The Metropolitan Museum of Art over the weekend. I raised two kids of my own to adulthood with their limbs still attached, indicating some degree of parental success, but I am sorely out of practice when it comes to snatching children from the jaws of danger. While shepherding a dozen youngsters through Grand Central Station on and off crowded subway trains, those primal mothering instincts came rushing back. The outing was well supervised with as many volunteers as students, and the kids were psyched for the trip, a reward for their high academic achievement. A few alumni who are now middle schoolers showed up to assist as well, and our joint purpose was to lead the students on a scavenger hunt through the museum’s famous halls and galleries.
Anyone living outside New York City, which is most of the world, already has a picture in their minds of subways, public schools, and New Yorkers in general. Perhaps the first thing they think of New Yorkers looking like are Wall Street brokers and fashion models, or homeless people and muggers. More than anything, New York is a tightly woven textile of wild diversification, and any gathering of random New Yorkers cannot help but provide a classic example. Our museum group of about thirty people encompassed as many different nationalities as it did ages, and enough colorful histories to fill a vault at the very museum we were visiting. I chatted with a young woman in her twenties who goes back to Moscow to visit her family every Christmas, and a man my own age who reinvented himself midlife, bicycling his way through a dozen different countries. While sharing lunch in the museum cafeteria, a teenager at my table described her difficult birth in Turkey and wondered whether it resulted in her being double-jointed. Like putting a period at the end of her story, she raised her arms above her head and lowered them straight behind her in an impossible arc that made us gasp in unison. She laughed while we shouted, “Hey, give us some warning next time!”
The greatest part was looking at majestic works of art through fresh eyes. My trio of youngsters took pictures of themselves in front of giant marble sculptures playfully mimicking the statue’s pose, and scrutinized paintings up close and then further away to test their perspective. We walked, jogged, and sprinted through the labyrinthine galleries as we followed the scavenger hunt’s instructions, such as, “Find the Tiffany Autumn Landscape, then walk through the archway on your right until you reach the Temple of Dendur.”
I stood in front of Louis Tiffany’s massive panels of stained glass beauty, and saw in the perfectly formed individual chips of glass the same mythic wonder of cohesiveness present in my companions for the day, and the city we all share. From far away, we may seem random, but up close, we are anything but.
Daughter’s Featured Fotos sprint through a Sampling of Art Citystyle