If you are new to Sharon Wheatley’s blog, I write stories in “blogisodes”. To start, go to blogisode one of this story here:http://wp.me/p1zRyr-eg
Happy Wednesday! Man oh man can a three-year-old have a melt down. I have to start with this, because it’s like a Hurricane Beatrix just blew through and I am still recovering. On the other hand, the storm herself is already snoring blissfully. If I were a drinker, this would be the cue to pour a glass of wine. Instead, I’ll blog.
The basis of the meltdown was in two parts.
Part one was in the bathroom. She is afraid of her tooth brush.
Part two was in her bedroom. She is afraid of her nightgowns. Notice that is plural, because I emptied her TWO DRAWERS of nightgowns (and pajamas–let’s not leave
anything out) saying she could choose whatever one she wanted. Screaming. Then I said, so fine sleep in nothing. Screaming.
The end result is this–she is asleep in a nightgown (a Hello Kitty hand me down) and her two front teeth are brushed. That was the best I could do with out a physical pin-down, followed by years of therapy. Not that therapy is a bad thing, but I didn’t feel like traumatizing anyone tonight (although she kind of traumatized me).
Giant snores from Hello Kitty with the two clean teeth. Maybe I should have put her to bed sooner. Alas. I had a long night and I was busy. To give you a vivid visual of what I am talking about, I finally managed to eat dinner–an over cooked Lean Cuisine– sitting on the closed toilet while giving Beatrix a bath at 9:10pm. That kind of night. Moms everywhere are nodding in understanding.
But let’s return to 2001, where I was dealing with a different 3 1/2 year old–this one less feisty and much more impressionable. All kids worry you in different ways. I was thinking about Beatrix at 3 1/2 vs. Charlotte at 3 1/2, and wondering if I would have sheltered Beatrix as much as we sheltered Charlotte, and I think the answer is probably not. I wonder if it is because Charlotte was our first and we were younger, but I also think Charlotte has always been very in tune with us and more serious. Beatrix is more of the baby and notices less than Charlotte did. But, that said, I still do not watch news when Beaz is in the room, so maybe I would have been exactly the same.
Regardless, and getting back to our story, I knew Charlotte could not be in New York. It
was too sad and stressful. There were fighter planes going over head, people were full of anxiety, and our buildings were gone. The skyline looked like it had teeth pulled. Just huge holes. Huge smoking holes.
I knew I didn’t want to take Charlotte back to New York, and I knew I didn’t want to get on a plane, which meant that we had to go somewhere, and we had to drive. I knew this wasn’t going to be a day or two–at this point (around September 15) I was closing Phantom in Atlanta and not setting a date to return to New York. Period. Things were too unstable.
As luck would have it, the tour of Phantom was heading to–wait for it–Cincinnati, Ohio for their next stop. What a crazy coincidence. My entire family lives in Cincinnati, and despite the fire, my parents had a nifty three bedroom apartment that I’d rented for
them! I got on the phone with my sister to make sure someone had a key to let me in (my brother did) and Charlotte and I loaded into a car heading north (another cast member volunteered to take us in their car) driving to Cincinnati on September 16th. A Sunday. I remember a lot about that car trip, mostly because I was so happy to head to family and I was so grateful for the ride. My biggest memory was at a lunch stop at a Burger King. We ordered, and they were out of a lot of items because there hadn’t been shipments since before 9/11. The guy I was with was really mad about it, and when we sat down to eat he said, “Burger King is out of KETCHUP? I mean I know the attacks were bad, but this is ridiculous!”
Isn’t that the DUMBEST thing you’ve ever heard? I’ve been holding that in for ten years. I feel better now.
We arrived in Cincinnati and I met my brother, Maryday (my best friend who married my brother) and their little daughter Gwendolyn. It was so good to see them, and we were all so happy to be together, but always hanging over our heads was how Mom and Dad were going to get home. International flights were just starting back up, but there was a huge wait, as you can imagine. We caught up on all of this as we drove to the corporate apartment to sleep. My parents didn’t even know Charlotte and I were in Cincinnati, let alone in their apartment, but I knew they’d be thrilled. Parents are good that way. Charlotte and I let ourselves in and walked around the strange and dark apartment, full of my parents possessions and smell, but empty without them. It was sad and a little scary.
The next morning, I called around and found a preschool that would take Charlotte. Just like that. In New York City you have to interview and beg and get letters of
recommendation from Oprah and sign a contract in blood if they deem you worthy, but Knox Presbyterian Nursery School said, “Oh, you’re from New York and you don’t know how long you’ll be here? That’s fine, bring her on over. Today!”
So, by Monday, I had a school for Charlotte, my parents car and apartment to use and groceries. Everyday I dropped Charlotte off at school, went to a local bookstore (Joseph Beth) and sat and read the New York Times from cover to cover until it was time to pick her up again.
Later that week, my parents made it home. My entire family waited for them at the newly constructed security gate at the airport, with signs and balloons and smiles. They cried when they saw us all there, and we cried too. It was a good day. They were full of
stories about flying and the new security, but mostly they talked about how kind everyone was in Africa. How people apologized when they saw they were Americans, how sad the world was for us. My parents did not have the trip they were expecting, but they had the trip of their lives.
Charlotte and I stayed in Cincinnati for a month, almost to the day. We missed Rob, the apartment was a little small, I had an expensive rental car–it all added up and it was time to stop running away. We were New Yorkers and it was time to go home.
The smell remained, the sorrow remained, but over time we all recovered. I regained the ability to drive, and the panic settled down. We all started flying again. Ground Zero became a main tourist destination. My parents moved back into their newly renovated house just after Christmas. Sorrow continued though, a month after 9/11 we lost a cousin’s husband to a sudden and massive heart attack at a young age, and a few months later, Gwendolyn, Buzz and Maryday’s daughter, was diagnosed with Leukemia (she’s fine now).
There are ways 9/11 changed me forever. I carry a flashlight with me at all times, just in case. I notice sirens and low flying planes. I avoid the subway at rush hour if I can possibly do it. If I see something, I say something (New York City’s motto). I still love Rudy Giuliani. But mostly, it isn’t 9/11 that changed me, it’s New York City itself. I love Chinese food. I love walks on the Upper West Side on a warm night. I love the city bus. I love the Pine Grove in Central Park. I love to drive in New York. I love Times Square. I love the Yankees. I love that my children are native New Yorkers.
But most of all, I love New York.
This aired the day after 9/11/01. It’s beautiful.
I will be back on September 28th (2 weeks and 1 day) with Something Funny Yet Still UnNamed. Why the wait? I am co-producing a benefit for the flooded Weston Playhouse, and I must devote my time to it. The benefit is on September 26th at 7pm. I will post a press release in the next couple of days for those of you who would like to come. In addition to producing, I am also performing, so if you’ve wanted to see me do a little something, this is a great cause to donate and a fun show to see with some big names.
Until the 28th, thanks for reading and take care!
To read the next series, “I Wish I Could Go Back To College”, go to blogisode one here: http://wp.me/p1zRyr-j6
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