November 23, 2002 - Saturday
We visited an Artists' Open Studios in the city this afternoon with both Harry and Jeremy. It's an ambitious undertaking that, in a way, I'm surprised we even did. But, it actually worked out surprisingly well as long as we kept things moving. The exception was that more often than not we would enter an artist's studio and Harry would fairly quickly and quite overtly say something like, "I don't like it here," or "I don't like this one." At least there were a few that he liked.
We did this in the late afternoon and ate dinner before the long ride home. It was at a pizza place near a subway station and after we finished eating we made a brief visit to try to see the trains. The station is a place I used to take Harry some two years ago while we were still commuting together and, while I certainly didn't expect Harry to remember it, I knew the tall escalators and glass front elevators well and figured they'd be a cheap thrill for both boys. I heard a train pull into the station as we walked in and, since it wasn't crowded at all, I asked the man in the token booth if he'd mind if I took Harry, who I was carrying, across the mezzanine to look down at the trains. He turned out to be quite a nice man and said 'sure', even offering that we might take a ride to the next stop on the line and come back.
Even with all Harry's interest in trains, he's got a hang-up about subways. I'm quite certain that this comes from riding the underground airport shuttle on the trip to grandpa's house. On that occasion, we got in the front car and could look out the window at where the train was going. I thought Harry would love it, but I guess the confined quarters of the tunnel gave the visual impression that we were going far faster than Harry would have liked. Add to that the possible perception that the shuttle train is heading straight into a wall at the end of the line and it's easy to see how a little boy might be alarmed. Whatever the reason, I was pretty sure, having talked with Harry about subways many times, that he would not want to ride on the train. Surprisingly, he did ask to go down to the lower train platform and even consented to looking inside the train for just a moment while I was holding him, but that was enough and we went back upstairs.
But, the real story for the day has less to do with trains and more to do with Harry and the kind man. We went back up the escalator and I went over to thank the man for letting us go in without paying. Harry was now walking and mommy carrying Jeremy. The man, half way out of his token booth asked Harry if he had gone in the train. Harry answered enthusiastically about seeing the trains pull out of the station (we had stayed to see two leave and one arrive), but avoided the direct question about going on the train. On the side I mentioned about Harry's mild phobia with subways. To that this very nice man reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins, then handed two shiny gold ones to Harry, telling him to give one to his brother and to save them in plastic and they'd become valuable. (His mother and I thought they must be subway tokens, but found later they were two gold dollar coins that are apparently being discontinued by the government.) Harry, a lover of coins, squeezed them in his little hand and turned away.
I've been trying to teach Harry lately about saying "thank you," but with little apparent success. Jeremy's baby-sitter, for example, lent Harry a large floor puzzle and, on other occasion, a small toy airplane and Harry refused to say "thank you" when we took or brought either back. He played the shy boy and as I put him in the car after each incident I told him I was disappointed that he couldn't be nice in return. Are we raising a self-centered boy? Have we neglected manners, focusing on "please" at the expense of other politeness? I've worried and wondered.
I quickly tapped Harry's head and whispered "say 'thank you'," more to show my appreciation to the man than really expecting Harry to do it.. His past actions didn't give me great confidence and I, for the instant, imagined another talk with Harry about being nice to people who are nice to him. But, Harry instincts proved my worries ill-founded. He quickly turned and offered a very audible toddler "thank you" to the man, who offered us all well-wishes for the holiday in return.
The boy we see most of the time - the two-year-old fighting for independence, respect, his own space and personality, if not some Freudian battle for alpha-male dominantion of our household - is not the true Harry. It's not what is really there and I know that. But, sometimes through the course of daily events it's hard to remember. And, every now and then, it's very nice for us to see what boy is really in there.