Friday, February 25, 2011

Cheer Up Sleepy Jean

A few days ago I took Isabel and her friend down to New York to spend the day shopping at Macy’s and The Gap in midtown. Between purchases we took the subway up to Central Park and had lunch at the newly-refurbished Plaza.

The trip to New York on the train is one Isabel and I have made many times since we moved here from Ithaca. These daytrips have, in a way, become a means of measuring the changes in my daughter over time. When we first moved to New Haven, the stop at the Plaza would have been the main reason for taking MetroNorth down there. Isabel was a HUGE fan of Eloise and she believed that we might actually run into Eloise if we went and had tea at the Plaza.

Now that she is 11, going to the Plaza was an exercise in nostalgia. She led her friend into the lobby with the air of an old woman visiting her old grade school. After lunch we stopped by the new, (and horrifying), Eloise store and Isabel read through some of the sweet letters written to Eloise by some of her young fans and posted on the walls. She shook her head with an “awwww, isn’t that just so cute?” look on her face.

We had spent the time before lunch at the flagship Macy’s store on West 34th Street. I let the girls lead the way and they decided where to spend time and how long to stay in each section. I was particularly happy when one of the women working in the jewelry section took an interest in Isabel and her friend and gave them 20 minutes of time and non-condescending attention. I hung back and watched the girls positively glow while being treated with respect and seriousness by this wonderful lady.

From Macy’s we crossed the street to The Gap, where the girls again had carte blanche to spend as much time as they wanted browsing and trying on clothes. While they were shopping I stood off to the side, enjoying the feel-good music The Gap pumps in. At one point the first few notes of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” came on and I couldn’t help but smile.

This song is one it is impossible to dislike and as it played I noticed something strange. First, I found myself singing along out loud, which is something I DO NOT do in public. Second, I noticed every other adult in the store was doing the same thing I was. A woman walked by and as we made eye contact we were both singing along to the chorus—“Cheer up sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean to a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?” It felt like we were in a musical or in an episode of GLEE. Not one of us seemed even remotely self-conscious. We were all simply sharing a moment at The Gap. Weird.

After The Gap, we needed lunch, so we went to The Plaza.

From the Plaza we got back on the subway and went to Times Square, where we entered the M and M Store. We spent an hour there and it turned out to be a really fun hour. By the time we were ready to head back to Grand Central to get on the train back to New Haven the girls had each spent $100.00 and were as pleased as could be by their haul. They had changed into some of their purchases while at the Gap and they had on matching grey sweatpants and frilled camouflage shirts with M and M necklaces and earrings.

On the train back they were happy---far too happy for me to taint with any kind of anti-consumerist rant. I refuse to wear anything with a prominent label on it. It seems to me like companies should pay me for being a walking billboard for them rather than the other way around. Isabel knows I feel this way, but she also knows how much she likes to shop. When I was tempted to point out to her and her friend just what else they could have done with their hard-saved $100.00 I had to stop myself and remember that this particular trip was for them to be happy.

So, they have their clothes and their pictures from the photo booth at the M and M store and I have my Sleepy Jean moment and we all have good memories of the trip. All in all, a great day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

First Amendment Solutions

I watched last week as the events in Tahrir Square in Cairo played out dramatically and in real time on satellite television. I felt jubilation as I checked online last Friday at lunchtime and saw that Hosni Mubarak had agreed to step down as leader of Egypt. Part of my jubilation came from the fact that the protestors did not turn to violence in their efforts to convince Mr. Mubarak that his time as leader was up. They simply showed up in larger and larger numbers and refused to go. The sheer force of their wanting made it happen without resorting to force.

Somewhat lost in the celebration of this wildly improbable victory of the unarmed and peaceful protestors in Egypt over their kleptocratic longtime tyrant is the connection to the last month’s huge news story: the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Arizona.

Here in the United States many in the NRA and the Tea Party and Modern Patriots movements are dissatisfied with the current government. They claim President Obama is a fascist, a nazi, a dictator, a tyrant, and unqualified to be President. They say he wants to take the guns of law-abiding citizens. They say he must go. Some even carry signs talking of “Second Amendment remedies” and of the “blood of tyrants” watering the “tree of liberty.”

I think it is important to point out that it wasn’t a “Second Amendment solution” that brought down the Mubarak regime. It was, in fact, a First Amendment solution. The people of Egypt assembled peaceably to use their freedom of speech to ask the government for a redress of grievances. When told to go home, they refused. In fact, they asked louder. When beaten by supporters of Mubarak and other assembled thugs, they responded with free speech, not with any sort of Second Amendment retort. They asked even louder and more insistently for a redress of their grievances.

And in the end it was speech, not guns, that brought Mubarak down. I hope those on the right who use their free speech to spout crazy talk about President Obama’s tyranny can look at the situation in Egypt and see what a real tyrant looks like and how real patriots respond.