Eightieth Street, finally. There was a short line, so I took a number and waited at the counter. After a few moments, the counterman yelled, "Number 64!" I waved my ticket and said, "That's me." He smiled in recognition and said, "Hey, Robin, what can I getcha?" "I'll take a dozen chocolate croissants," I answered. "What, no pumpernickel? No rugelach?" he prompted, remembering the specifics of my mother's usual order. I smiled back, tickled by just how familiar I was to him and how familiar he was to me. "No, I'm just here to get chocolate croissants for my boys." Suddenly I was bursting with pride, feeling I was continuing a family tradition in, literally, my own special flavor. "I bet they're getting big, huh? I haven't seen 'em in a long time," he went on. "Really big," I answered, now smiling from ear to ear. "Well, you're in luck, Robin?I have some chocolate croissants right out of the oven." Oops! I'd almost forgotten about Stephanie. "Make that ten chocolate and two plain." "You got it." He handed me the bag of chocolate croissants first -- "Careful, they're hot" -- and then the bag of plain ones. "You take care and say hi to your mom. And Robin, Happy New Year!" Once again, I was pleased to say "Happy New Year!" in return.
I left the store carrying both bags and a cup of coffee I'd gotten for myself and headed down Broadway. I wondered if the boys might be awake and asking for me. It was too warm for gloves so I pulled them off and stuffed them into the pocket of my big down coat. This walk had reminded me just how much I love New York, but it was also difficult to put out of my mind the reasons why I felt I'd had to leave my home, the events that had shaken my family loose from its core,but not from each other. My mom added extra locks and an alarm to an apartment that for years had been kept safe simply by the protective scrutiny of our doormen. The safety and, most of all, the sanctity of home felt violated I fumbled in my pocket, past the gloves, and pulled out my cell phone. I scrolled down the stored numbers and stopped at one in particular. I felt anxious about making this call. My legs felt a bit weak and my head felt a bit light, but actually I felt a bit lighter too. There was a bench in front of a coffeehouse near Seventy-second Street. My heart was pounding and I took the liberty of sitting there, cell phone in hand, as I sipped my coffee and drifted off in thought ..."Rob, come on! Ma told us to hurry up," Michael said, rushing down Broadway. But I wasn't trying to hurry or even keep up. "Michael, the snow is so great!" I yelled as he got farther away. On my hands and knees in the fresh snow, I made a couple of snowballs to catch him by surprise.
"Will you come on?" he called once again. "No," I answered, as a snowball struck him in the chest. "Rob, stop it," he said, dusting the snow off his coat, unfazed by my attack. "Do you have the list?" "No," I answered again, throwing another snowball. This one was even less successful than the first, as he turned away so it never even touched him. I became a little pouty. He wasn't playing and my snowballs were all duds. "What do you mean, 'no'? Ma gave you the list. I know I saw it."