Like Father Like daughter
“White cottage cheese with bacon and an omelet, this strange combination is very familiar to me”, I said as I was sitting with my wife Tamar for breakfast in the Hyatt Hotel that’s near Sixth Avenue in New York. Tamar laughed, she knew exactly what I was talking about and immediately recounted the well-known story about how she and her father, Yitzchak, would enjoy themselves over a pastrami sandwich with white cheese. A family with no sensation in their palate, I always thought to myself. This was pretty much how we began our trip in the Big Apple.
At age 35 I had flown to New York for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. Tamar knew, she enthusiastically prepared our trip route ahead of time like a veteran tourist guide in order that we wouldn’t miss any special sites or events. Nonetheless, we had flown out there to celebrate her 30th birthday overseas. Three of us boarded the plane – myself, Tamar, and her father. He had visited the city many times with his girl, however, this time was quite different. He didn’t need a seat on the plane this time, neither by the window nor by the isle. He was simply there the entire time.
“Do you remember the video where we’re playing word games with dad?”, Tamar asked. “That was from here”, she said as we strolled through Bryant Park. We could see our warm breath as we exhaled into the cold air, and I realized that there was some story hiding around every corner. I had the privilege of getting to know Yitzchak for only three months until he had lost his battle with cancer. Today it feels to me as if it was three years. Perhaps it’s because I now have a face to put with his spirit, his personality, and with Tamar’s stories. Each time they’d come to the city their family would switch apartments with an Israeli family that lived in the city. They’d come for two weeks and would enjoy each and every moment together.
This trip was very special, I thought. Yitzchak was going on 60 that year, with his birthday coinciding with Tamar’s, which almost added a feeling of sanctity to the whole event.
All the car noise woke me from my daydreaming, we have to cross the street with the crowd. I pass by quickly, slicing through the steam that’s coming out from under the manholes, trying to keep my eyes on Tamar in order not to lose her in the sea of people surrounding me. We finally reach Times Square. I stop and look up, in all my life until this moment I’ve never come across such intensity. All the flashing lights flooding our faces and there’s a feeling that anything is possible, that we can be anyone or anything we want be.
During our last six remaining days of the trip we visited all the great sites that the city has to offer. We went to SoHo, Chelsea, Williamsburg, and even accidentally found ourselves in Chinatown, where an old Chinese man yelled at us in broken English that we couldn’t understand. Is it still really possible to make all of one’s dreams come true here? – I wonder, as we pass by a very long line to the Jimmy Fallon show outside NBC studios. My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a man standing behind me wearing a cowboy hat and holding a book with Donald Trump’s picture on it, as he’s yelling “There’s only one way! Either you’re Americans or you’re not!” Only afterwards I understood that the man was upset about the lack of support on the part of New Yorkers of the man who owned the most golden tower in the city.
Another homeless man was bursting through from the street corner, looking as if he was almost frozen to death. A car was honking at two people who were arguing over a few dollars next to a pile of garbage bags. Is this what the big dream looks like? – I ask myself, rather disappointed.
Silence overcame Tamar and myself as we sat in the subway car on our way to the hotel after a day of endless walking. It’s interesting what story is going through her mind now, I wondered. A train of yearning is passing through a dark long tunnel, among so many people who are all chasing an impossible dream. Sometimes, I thought, the most important things are the smallest things, such as a smile, or the memory of a smile of a loved one who’s no longer with us. If only I had been able to experience this kind of trip, even if only for a moment, the same way that Tamar experienced it, in a way that’s deeper and more significant than even the most magnificent skyscraper.
Finally, a moment before we boarded our flight home I understood what real dreams truly are. Tamar glanced distantly at the city as the plane was slowly beginning to move, and for a moment I imagined Yitzchak under the plane wing, preparing for a long morning run, waving and smiling. There are those who want to be everything they can and there are those who want nothing more than for those they love to simply be there, I thought. Farewell, New York, city of golden dreams.