Monday, November 29, 2010

Doing the Met Thing

Annette, Ethan and Trina at the Met, 2010
Spending time with my cousins, Jessie and Annette, has always been the best part of my Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  We don't get to do it every year any more, as there are, of course, now our subsequent families and their families involved.

This year, although my cousins were both back at home on Long Island for Thanksgiving, we had gone to spend it with my husband's family.  My Aunt Eva, Jess and Annette's mother, had fallen down a full flight of stairs the previous November (which was why we had not gotten to spend Thanksgiving with them last year, either) and she has never been the same.  What was the living room half of the living/dining room in their house has been taken over by Eva, who can no longer negotiate stairs.

Between my Aunt and Uncle, my cousins, their husbands, and two children each, it had been thought that adding our five bodies would be the tipping point and the house could not hold.

Even when we haven't been together for turkey day itself, we have often found ways to get together over the long weekend, either out on Long Island or in the city.  This year the cousins wanted to come into the city to participate in another sometime family tradition, braving the insane holiday weekend crowds at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Cousins at the Temple of Dendur, 2010
Cousin visits past: guessing this is 2005 (Ethan on the far right)
First, however they visited Aunt Marilyn who has been moved from the hospital to a nursing home, and is, thankfully, no longer seeming at death's door.  She is now willing to drink milk and eat ice cream.  While not exactly a health diet, at least she will not be starving herself down to nothingness any time soon.

Jess and Annette figured out they had not seen Marilyn since Annette's wedding some 15 years ago, the last significant family event she ever attended.  In 1995 Aaron was a baby, and none of the other kids had been born.

There was much crying all around as they took turns going up to see Marilyn, hold her hands, introduce her to grand-nieces she'd never met, did not know existed.  I didn't join in this part, didn't feel it was right to bring the boys by at this point.  Besides, I was having a hell of a time dragging them out of the house, prying them away from their "screens" large and small.

I feel sad and bad that we live in this city full of magnificent art museums and rarely go.  I was a regular and constant visitor throughout my childhood to both the Met and the Modern (as those of us who live in New York City fondly and familiarly refer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, respectively).

When the kids were little we went from time to time, but I have a pair of boys with poor impulse control, and one a sensory seeker, to boot. The "do not touch" proscriptive was unbearable to them and I got really tired of having to pull them off temptingly climbable sarcophagi while the guards gave us bloody murder stares as they yelled at my kids.

Ethan even claims to want to be an artist, while remaining completely ignorant of art history.  I feel like I have lost my vision of myself as the parent I thought I would be, sharing my many cultural interests and enthusiasms with my kids. The combo of boy energy and Autism has slowly eroded that, and I can see now that I have to try to find a way back.  I think a pair of solo visits, just one boy at a time with me, and on an uncrowded day is in order in our near future.

But back to our outing...

The crowds were out, but not unbearable.  We managed to stay reasonably together and regroup when separated.  We hit up Egypt and then European painting up through the impressionists.  The boys were not completely awful.  Small victories, but significant.

Did they get something out of it, besides cousinly bonding?  I like to think so.  Jacob was sometimes looking at the art, occasionally engaged, sometimes sprawling on the benches claiming he wanted to sleep.

Jake stood in front of this somewhat gruesome, rather morbid painting titled "Massacre of the innocents" and asked "Does he have an owie, Mom?"  Sometimes autism provides the best punch lines.
Jake thinks this (dead) kid has "an owie"
Ethan, on the other hand was mostly practicing his kung-fu moves at the sculptures.

Also?  Giggling away and pointing at all the "privates" exposed.  Having the time of his life yelling "Mom, come look at the weird penis on this one!"

I *might* have hissed at him to get a little class.

He did have some insight, though.  When confronted with a wall full of Picassos I told him they were from his "Blue Period" and said, "You can see why they called it that, right?", thinking he'd go for the obvious color suffused throughout them all.  But he surprised me.  "I think it's also because he was sad."  So there is hope for him.  Also?  He recognized Benjamin Franklin from his portrait.

Finally, a nice Italian restaurant dinner was eaten, and then dessert procured at a very New York deli of many sugary delights.
Think Ethan has had enough chocolate yet, huh, huh, huh?
Cousins were kissed, and sent on their way back to Penn Station.

And when it was all over?  Three "vacation" days were blessedly down, with only one to go.


  1. my love you are a wonderful mother and you need to be okay with only being able to do so much. We have the most demanding job and you more so than others.
    It is lovely how you and your kids could connect through art, its lovely how they are always filled with such wonderful surprises.

  2. Fair play to you for braving museums and art're made of sterner stuff than me! Love your descriptions of the boys take on it XXX

  3. Brave woman doing that with all the crowds. Laughed out loud at the second last photo, very funny. Jen


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