2MSNNYC: A Memorial Day to remember

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, June 1, 2016

So our favorite Marine calls me from Camp Lejeune to talk about boots.

“You think I should take them?” he asks me, referring to his preferred pair and an upcoming trip to New York City. “Or is that too Mississippi?”

Hmmm. Should I mention the other aspects of his persona that the Big Apple might also label “too Mississippi?” I opted for another approach.

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“All I know is your dad sure looks good in his, whatever state he’s in,” I tell him, and we move on to other subjects. But a few days later, when the steady stream of photos lighting up my phone show him in peak tourist-mode, I realize running shoes were probably a more appropriate choice.

And in the midst of the pictures of Times Square and the call from Fifth Avenue, there’s this video he sends.  It shows his Marine Reservist buddy (the native New Yorker he’s visiting) cruising on a longboard (that’s a skateboard-type thing). Trailing not too far behind is Mississippi Boy, on a ten-speed. In downtown Manhattan.

Of course, I did what any mother 1,248 miles away would do. I sent a text, telling him to slow down (with exclamation points, which I rarely use).

Apparently he didn’t, because in the space of one afternoon those two saw the Empire State Building, explored Central Park, caught an impromptu Broadway performance, swung by Yankee Stadium and breezed through Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx, where Victor (the Marine buddy) lives. He even found time to join in with some kids who were splashing in an open fire hydrant.

“It was so cool,” Son No. 3 said of the neighborhoods. “Culture, language and skin color changed with each block.” All this was before the subway ride to Mama Sushi’s for dinner, shopping at SoHo and a special tour of Converse, where Victor works customizing sneakers.

The next day was Sunday so they donned their uniforms and headed out to church. It was a Hispanic congregation with an African pastor and everything was different, but Son No. 3 felt right at home because he found true believers and true worship right there in the heart of New York City. He says he will never forget it. I tell him, make sure you don’t.

And it just so happens that it was Mother’s Day, or Dia de la Madre, in the Dominican Republic. (Did I mention Victor’s family is from the Dominican Republic?) So after riding the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty and taking a photo beside the bull on Wall Street, it was time for Son No. 3 to experience total cultural immersion — from cielito lindo dip (he really liked that) to learning to dance the bachata (he really liked that, too). The celebration was courtesy of the aunt of Victor’s fiancé, Pamela. She’s also related to the professional ballroom dancer who just happened to be at the aunt’s house and took pity on the Southern boy with two left feet.

So if you’re like me, thinking no travel agent could top this itinerary, let me add that I’ve left out the 7-year-old on the bus who wanted to talk fishing because he’d never done it, and the bike trail along the Hudson. But the main point of the whole trip was what happened on Monday at Ground Zero. Some of you readers may recall the impetus for Son No. 3’s military service was a 9-11 project I assigned him in grade school.  Well, he had some respects he wanted to pay. On Memorial Day.

Before they went, I asked Victor, who was 5 when the World Trade Center was attacked, what he remembers about it. “Here in the Upper West Side we weren’t near the chaos of downtown. School did let out early, though, and I saw police and firetrucks rushing by,” he shared in a thick accent. “After that, the city was quiet and still. The trains weren’t working.”

Later as I’m typing this column, I hear that sound I love to hear coming through on my phone, the unmistakable ringtone of FaceTime. Son No. 3 is at the very top of Freedom Tower — the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere — and it’s like I’m there, too, right there where the Twin Towers once stood. He’s pointing out the sights and telling me how tough it was going through the museum.  I’m listening and learning (and living vicariously) when I remember to ask about those boots.

Yeah, sure, he had packed them.

Good.  And the thought of his wandering feet being firmly planted in something “too Mississippi” made me smile — a lot.


Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.