It was two years ago, 5:30 in the morning and still dark, as I tried to cram a dozen bottles of Poland Spring into a small cooler. “That’s way too much water,” my husband said.
“The girls will drink it.” I assured him, offering some to our 8-year-old granddaughter sitting with her friend in the back seat. They chose juice boxes instead, but I figured that sometime during our trip to the city they’d want water and when they did, we had plenty.
Fully loaded with water, snacks and two giggly girls wrapped in blankets, we caught the first ferry off Shelter Island, on our way to Battery Park.
It was a full year before that Grandma had said, “The Statue of Liberty? Of course Grandma and Grandpa will take you there. Someday.”
Someday came, and even though only the base of the statue was open to the public on the day we made our excursion, the girls were excited and chattered like squirrels during the ride in. “Omigosh! This is SO fun!” they both said, over and over again. Their excitement ratcheted up a notch to squeaky and high-pitched when we entered the Midtown Tunnel.
“Omigosh! We are SO under the river right this very minute!” they squeaked all the way through. When we came out they switched to “Omigosh! We are SO in the city right this very minute!”
They were the first on the boat taking hundreds of us to Liberty Island to spot the statue through thick fog and reacted at maximum excitement level. “There she is! She’s green! She’s beautiful! OMIGOSH! We are SO looking at the real, live Statue of Liberty!”
People smiled at the girls and snapped pictures of them as they squealed and jumped up and down and hugged each other. One man, a tourist, took a few dozen too many pictures, even after I asked him to stop. Apparently he didn’t understand English. Finally I positioned myself between his lens and the girls and gave him a look that said, in every language, “You are SO going to knock it off!”
He knocked it off.
The girls wanted to ride the elevator but I, the self-appointed tour director, said we should climb to the top of the base of the statue since it was only 156 steps. Turns out that 156 steps are about 25 more than I can manage gracefully. When we made it to the top the girls were still jumping and squealing and I was down on all fours, gasping to pull air into my lungs.
“Hey people down there on the ground!” The girls shouted from our perch. “Hey! Look up here! We are SO inside the Statue of Liberty!” People down there looked up and waved.
When we left the statue we boarded yet another boat to Ellis Island. Once there the girls stopped to read every marker. “Why does the Department of Invaders run this place?” one of them asked pointing to a sign. “It says Department of the Interior,” I told her, trying not to laugh at the mistake. But I did laugh when one of them read another sign and wailed, “Omigosh! Millions of people were prosecuted in this very building,” and the other one said “Omigosh! That is SO sad!”
I told them to lighten up, it said processed, not prosecuted.
Inside we followed the girls, moving from one exhibit to another. They spent a long time staring at life-sized photographs, straight on into the wide eyes of immigrant children their own age. I told my granddaughter that her great-great-grandparents came through Ellis Island, probably her friend’s relatives did too. Then both of them had to sit on all of the scarred wooden benches in the big room, the very benches that were there during the late 1800s and early 1900s. They flitted from one spot on a bench to the other, landing for just a second then moving, like hummingbirds on speed.
“Omigosh! I might be SO sitting in the exact same place where my ancestors sat,” they kept telling each other and everyone within hearing.
It had been a wonderful day and once back in the car the girls were Omigosh!ing and rehashing all they had seen when I heard a peculiar bubble and sputter sound that wasn’t coming from either of them. At the same time the water temperature gauge shot from cold to hot. We drove over a sidewalk to pull off the road under a highway in a creepy part of the city so Grandpa could take a look under the hood.
“We have a problem,” he whispered, so as not to alarm the girls but I was plenty alarmed and about to cry until he explained what was wrong ¬– ¬¬the radiator was low on water.
“Omigosh!” I said as I reached into that cooler filled with way too much water. “I am SO about to save the day!”
And I did.