My son pulls his backpack onto his shoulders. He runs down the hallway of our apartment building, and I hear the high-pitched "ding" of the elevator before I round the corner. I jog into the elevator, my briefcase thumping against my hip. A huge Doberman Pincher on a short red leash greets me with a snort. Its owner doesn't look at my son or me. The ride to the lobby is short and silent.
We walk through the lobby of our building, my son giving our doorman a high-five and then a low-five. "Have a good day," he says in a Russian accent.
The noise of Church Street at 8 a.m. is thunderous. A construction crane moves huge metal girders 20 stories over our heads, a jackhammer eats away at the asphalt, taxis honk, a siren blasts in the distance. I have to lean down to catch my son's words, "I want to take the subway. Can we? Please? Please?"
I'd rather walk. It is a warm fall day, clear and sunny. Along the way to school, local apples, tomatoes and corn will be on sale at the small farmer's market in front of the World Trade Center site. But even a fresh apple from the farmer's market probably won't keep my 6-year-old from complaining about tired legs, a heavy backpack or an itchy sock for the 13-block walk, so I relent.
He throws his hands in the air, yelling "Subway! Yeah!" and bounds down the stairs, knocking his backpack into a lady hoisting a small dog with a pink bow around its neck (maybe a Pomeranian) up the stairs in a compact stroller-like contraption.
He ducks under the turnstile, I swipe my Metrocard and we emerge on the other side of the turnstiles at the same time. A German couple stands, swiping and re-swiping their card the wrong direction. People flow in and out of the turnstiles. I turn and look at the German couple, the woman wears a small backpack and the man holds a folded up map of New York. I hold my hand out and demonstrate the right way to swipe the card. They smile and nod, gratefully, and then pointing at the tracks, they ask "Times Square?" I point them to the opposite set of stairs. They disappear into the crowd.
I hear a train rumbling underneath us. Quinlan says, "Is it ours?" I nod.
"Let's go!" I grab his backpack and his hand. The train screeches and slows as we are halfway down the stairs, and then I hear the smooth "ding-dong" of the train doors opening. People flow out of the doors toward us, taking up the entire width of the stairs. We push and slide through the crowd.
"Stand clear of the closing doors, please." We leap onto the train and the doors close behind us. I squeeze Quinlan's hand.
"That was a close one!" He grins and grabs my leg as the train lurches forward. A man wearing a gray suit, with a black overcoat thrown over his arm, stands up, offering Quinlan his seat. Quinlan takes it. He squirms around to look out the window at the blackness, punctuated by flashes of light as the train flies underground. A few minutes later, an automated voice says, "This is Wall Street."
I take Quinlan's hand again and we pour out of the train with hordes of men, wearing suits of blue, gray, brown and black, with women wearing suits and heels, skirts and boots, and dresses and tennis shoes. We practice Quinlan's spelling words, as we huff up the stairs. He forgets there is a "c" in "school." As we emerge onto the street, we see Trinity Church rising up to the west. He spells all the "o" words correctly, "cot," "sob," "log," "mob."
We reach the corner of Broad and Wall. There are police officers, wearing bulletproof vests and holding automatic rifles, standing on the steps in the shadow of a statue of George Washington, commemorating the place where the first president of the United States was sworn into office. More officers, with gas masks strapped to their belts, are holding German Shepards on leashes and standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange. A huge American Flag covers the front of the building. Quinlan reminds me of the day that Chipotle, his favorite restaurant, went public, and we saw the company banner, featuring a big fat burrito, flying in front of the NYSE.
We walk into the lobby of his school, and greet the security guard. Quinlan presses an elevator button to go up to one of the 12 floors. He will play on a rooftop at recess and he will eat his lunch in a room that was a bank vault during the stock market crash of 1929. I wave goodbye to him, make my way back along the streets to walk under the stone arches of the Brooklyn Bridge to my office.
This is a morning in Manhattan. I wonder about mornings everywhere else.
Rachel Iverson lives in New York City with her family. She works as a writer and an editor and she leads workshops for mothers.