You’ve planned the perfect vacation. You bought museum tickets in advance, reserved hotel rooms, marked every rest stop along the way. Things unravel as soon as you leave your front door. The car has a flat tire. The flight is delayed. The museum is closed for renovations. The subway breaks down. The baseball game is cancelled because of rain.
My nine-year old grandson requested a trip to New York City so we could “do everything.” What he really meant was, “Let’s go to New York so I can find Pokemons.” I planned the perfect touristy vacation anyway.
My son, eight-month pregnant daughter, grandson and I took the trip during the most oppressively hot week of the summer. We visited the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, and Times Square. We saw Aladdin on Broadway. We even rode the Green Line Subway to see the abandoned subway station under old City Hall. Of course we found Pokemons everywhere.
Our last day was particularly full. We had this brilliant idea that since we were in lower Manhattan we could go to the 9/11 Memorial, walk down Wall Street, see the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and then visit Ellis Island.
By the time we finished walking around Liberty Island, looking at each view through every high-powered binocular, we were hot, thirsty, hungry, and tired.
We stopped, bought $5 glasses of lemonade and sat on a stone ledge under the Statue of Liberty. As we drank freshly squeezed lemonade we talked. The conversation started with how amazing the statue was and how beautiful Manhattan was from the island. Then somehow the conversation shifted to what our names would sound like if they were spelled backwards. We sat on the grass and looked up at Lady Liberty laughing at our names, making up rap songs about them. No place to be. No boat to catch. No next thing to do. We simply sat there under the Statue of Liberty and drank lemonade.
To end the day, we stopped at Ellis Island, caught the ferry back to Manhattan, walked up Broadway to find a subway and headed home. That night as we gathered exhaustingly around the dinner table I asked my daughter, son and grandson, “What did you like best about today?” The 9/11 Memorial? The Statue of Liberty? Lunch in Zucotti Park? Ellis Island? Wall Street? The walk up Broadway to end the day? The universal answer? “Drinking lemonade on Liberty Island.”
This essay is not about making lemonade if someone gives you lemons. This essay is about making an extraordinary moment out of an ordinary one.
We saw amazing sights that last day in New York City. The truly amazing times, however, were those moments in between what was on the list—while we waited in the elevator line, waited for the ferry, waited to get through security, waited in the ticket line, waited to cool down. Around us people complained about the heat and the long lines of waiting. Parents dragged screaming children from one view to the next. While all that was happening around us, we turned those moments into something extraordinary. We drank lemonade and sang songs about our backwards names.
The moments of waiting. That’s what made our trip to New York City extraordinary.
When we stay completely and totally where we are, ordinary moments turn into unexpected perfect extraordinary moments. When we live our lives fully awake, a hot, sweaty, exhausting moment turns into an unbelievably glorious one. When we let go of preconceived ideas of how things should be and just let them be, we end up with moments that touch our hearts in unexpected ways.
Let go of those expectations of what will make your day perfect, your trip perfect, your life perfect. Grab onto those imperfect moments, those moments in between, those moments gone awry. Sit back and enjoy some lemonade.