Strawberry Fields Forever


I think I said at one point that four years old is the perfect age for a human. And then I think I said it about five year olds. But I really mean it this time: six-and-a-half is just the best. Henry and I took a super-quick trip to New York City this weekend, and I can’t get over what a great time we had. We met my dad there on his way back from a very long international trip, so our first stop was lunch with Papa Bill–pizza, of course!– and a quick run through the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center.

The weather was truly, truly terrible: 49 degrees, windy, driving rain. But the great thing about a little boy is that rain means puddles and puddles mean splashing. We splashed in every puddle in Midtown, then we hit the Upper West Side puddles, and a whole bunch in Central Park, too. I had a whole day planned–Cantral Park Zoo, rowboats, Empire State Building–but it went out the window when the rain started, and as is so often the case when you’re traveling, the new plan was full of great moments and surprises of its own.

After lunch with Papa, we took a pedicab along the park to the American Museum of Natural History, and it blew our minds. Henry is in a hard-core dinosaur phase, and his kindergarten just did a unit on dinosaurs, so he raced from room to room, shouting out facts and names–Cretaceous! Jurassic! T Rex! He was in his glory. We loved the whale exhibit, and I was surprised at how interested he was in the meteorites and the minerals, too. We held hands and wandered from hall to hall. It was so wet and stormy outside but so cozy in the cavernous, dark museum. We stayed for hours.


You know that if I had been with almost anyone else, I would have planned the whole trip around restaurants, but this kid could care less about food, and the trip was for him, not for me. He is, however, passionate about one food item: the hamburger, so we stopped at Shake Shack for burgers and fries and ice cream cones. I loved Danny Meyer’s book, and his philosophy of hospitality is so compelling to me. Maybe next time I’m in NYC we’ll get to one of his fancy restaurants, but this time around, we gobbled up his crinkly fries and burgers, and we were happy as clams.

After dinner we walked by the Dakota Hotel and then Strawberry Fields in Central Park. Aaron is a serious, life-long, hard-core Beatles fan, and it was surprisingly moving to explain to Henry John Lennon’s life and death and the significance of what he created, and how much it shaped Aaron a generation later.

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Next stop: FAO Schwarz, which is absolutely kid-heaven. Then hot chocolate, and then Henry absolutely begged to go back to the hotel. We snuggled up in the big bed & watched a movie until he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. We slept with the curtains open, the lights of the city blinking and glittering, keeping us company as we slept.

In the morning, he watched cartoons with Papa, their tradition since they’re both such early risers. We had breakfast with friends and then we were on our way. We were back in the Midwest by noon, full of stories and memories.

When I was growing up, my dad took me all over the world with him, and I’m so thankful for those experiences, for the smells and sounds and tastes and images and memories that I carry with me from those trips. I’m so thankful to have seen and tasted so many things in this big beautiful world, and thankful that I saw so many parts of it first as a child. It’s very meaningful to me to continue that tradition with our boys.

Parenting and traveling are similar in that you think you know what it will be like, and then you realize at almost every turn that you had no idea what was in store, and that it’s better that way. The things you couldn’t have planned end up being the moments that take your breath away. Surprises abound, in parenting and traveling both. I’ll hold the memory of splashing in puddles in Central Park with my sweet silly boy in my heart all my life. I’m thankful beyond thankful for that boy, and for what the world looks like through his eyes.

18 thoughts on “Strawberry Fields Forever

  1. My husband and I have always traveled with our business and it’s taken us all over. From an early age, we took our son with us, signing contracts with his school, taking homework with us. There is no match for that kind of experience and education – both for the parents and the kids. I love something you mentioned in one of your books that your dad said: He didn’t want school to get in the way of your education. Our son is now 30 and he’s lived/traveled all over the world. One of the best things is that I know he will provide that opportunity for his own kids, just as your dad did for you, and now you’re doing for your son.

  2. Beautiful, Shauna. We have found that traveling with our kids too. The most magical moments have happened taming a squirrel in Battery Park while we waited for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, or picking blueberries in a silent berry patch while we took a break from Soul Fest. Sure, the big things are great, but if you are too married to your itinerary, you may miss out on the most amazing little things, too. (may be a good lessen for big people, too)

  3. What a gift for him and for you! Not to mention Grandpa. : )

    I heard once that the best things we could ever give our kids aren’t things at all but experiences.

  4. What a lovely memory.
    Makes me want to get in the car and go.

    Just go.

    No itinerary, no reservations, just my favorite people and an adventure waiting to happen.

  5. Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Oh, how true!

    I never really had a chance to travel with my parents, and I don’t have kids. Still, I’ve been to every continent on earth save for Antarctica- many countries by myself- and the experiences I’ve had are far more meaningful than any “stuff” I could’ve purchased.

  6. Sounds like a lovely time. I’ve never been to NY but am dying to go. You made it sound like a dream land, as does everyone. I’m in the middle of Bread and Wine and LOVING it, Shauna. Your voice comes through so purely and beautifully that I feel we’re the best of friends. Or at minimym, I want to come over to your house for mango chicken curry. Keep writing, please keep writing.

  7. beautiful post, shauna. love how you compare traveling to parenting and how plans go out the window. so true. sounds like it was a wonderful time!

  8. I really missed reading your book (Bread&Wine) after finishing it and love being able to continue hearing your voice and your thoughts through your blog xx

  9. I love your writing Shauna. It is so visual and filled with feeling that it makes me feel like I’m right there having those experiences. Your post reminded me of how my 11 year old grandaughter just swells my heart. I see her after school 3 days a week and she gets off the bus with a big smile, hugs me and says it’s good to see me. We both love reading and I told her that when I was her age I would walk to the library and come home with an armload of books, sit on the porch swing with a pitcher of kool aid and read for most of the summer. Well, her mom told me she put a pillow on a backyard bench and said that was going to be her place to read. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am enjoying Bread and Wine and have been giving copies as gifts to family members.

    1. What a sweet tradition you’ve passed down! Loved this comment and the picture it painted. Happy summer to you and your granddaughter!

  10. My son is 13 and we’ll be traveling together internationally for the first time serving special needs families in Ukraine.

    “you think you know what it will be like, and then you realize at almost every turn that you had no idea what was in store, and that it’s better that way.”

    Thanks for this reminder!

  11. bonjour shauna! i just finished bread and wine at the request of a friend..i read it on the couch and then brought it to the kitchen with me and read as i prepared dinner. i brought it to bed with me last night and read well past my bed time…. i feel i could have written many parts of your book, although not quite as eloquently as you have!
    my husband and 4 children and i just moved to paris a year ago…and i will tell you that i have always been a skinny girl…until now. i’ve eaten my weight in bread and cheese and drink french wine nightly. how can i not??? we also lived in germany for 3 years..and have traveled all over europe.. happily eating and drinking our way through it.
    my husband and i both grew up on cape cod and summer on martha’s vineyard….i gorge myself on steamers (pronounced “steamah’s) and lobstah rolls all summer long on the beach…
    travel and food and family and cooking is my life.
    and i’ve enjoyed reading about yours.
    just ordered Cold Tangerines.
    looking forward to reading more!

  12. Your blog really hit home today. I recently lost my husband of 52 years and we traveled a lot, but he took each of our children on trips with him. I sent your blog info to them to read. We spent the day reminiscing….very healing at this time. Thank you for your words.

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