Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Home Wherever

I love New York. Every time I go there I learn something new and important – about myself, about our culture, about human nature. You can’t pack that many people into such a small space without some wisdom seeping out somewhere.

The first thing I learned about is hospitality. No one I know does a classier job of that than my brother and his wife. I took mental notes the whole time. You see, years ago I ran across an article about how to treat house guests – I thought it was funny. A true hostess, it said, should supply the guest room with stamps and stationary (ornamented with pictures of the hosting house), a variety of reading materials, fresh fruit, swim suits, mending kits and – this is the best – a thermometer mounted outside the window so the guest would know how to dress. I suppose all that is useful if you’re not going to let the poor folk out of their rooms, but it seemed obsessive to me.

from Mike & Gloria's terrace
Mike and Gloria do it right. They had metro passes waiting for us, gave us tour guide directions for all the spots we needed and wanted to visit. They came home from work each night and poured wine, laid out cheese and crackers. They gathered everyone from the east coast that we wanted to see. They fed us elegantly. Gloria, who I’m sure knows everyone in the city, even set Maggie up with an important modeling firm – just someone she knows. Amazing. Mostly they were just themselves and graciously gave us the run of their lovely apartment and their magnificent city. How blessed can we be?

I also learned about homeness. Mike and I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, a beautiful city on the plains. Our father was a printer, our step-father a farmer, our mother a teacher in a country school. And yet I stood in Mike’s office just off Wall Street on the 33rd floor of a building overlooking Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. He’s at home there in that remarkable place so far from where we both started. He leaves there in the evening and rides the subway to the Upper East Side and thinks nothing of it. He has made the city his.