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The things we never do

It began again with a friend’s question on Facebook.

“I’m from St Louis”, she wrote, “and I’ve never been to the top of the arch. Have you?”

And that started The Legal Genealogist back down Memory Lane again.

Because every last one of us, I suspect, has That Place firmly in our minds.

The place we grew up with … and never went to.

Or at least never went to until some touristy friend from out of town decided to go and dragged us along.

Some place in our own backyards that everyone else sees… and we don’t.

Some place we figure will always be there, and we can always go to, some day.

Me, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life living within a scant few miles of two major American cities: New York City and Washington, D.C.

And the sheer number of places-I-should-have-gone-to and things-I-should-have-done long before I did is nearly endless. There are still some on my “I really ought to” list even here at this stage of my life.

Now I’m not going to take the rap for some of this. The fact is, my parents never took us anywhere in New York City except the circus, and then only until the number of kids (five, then six then…) exceeded the number of parental hands (four). So I can say I went to Madison Square Garden as a kid, to see the circus.

And of course there were the obligatory school trips to the Hayden Planetarium and the Museum of Natural History and the magical outing when I was in seventh grade to see Oliver on Broadway.

But any other New York City landmark? Central Park? Empire State Building? Nope. Not until I was grown. And generally because some touristy friend from out of town wanted to see something.

Ditto for my years in the Washington, D.C., area. Tourists are such a fact of life in the D.C. metro area — and such an annoying fact of life — that the locals tend not to do any of the touristy things or go any of the touristy places. Unless a touristy friend comes in from out of town.

Yet it’s often those touristy folks from out of town who help us to the most magical moments, isn’t it?

For me, it was an Easter weekend many years ago. I’m going to guess at the year, but 1982 is pretty close. My brother Warren was living with me, and my cousin Susan was coming to visit for the weekend. A very young widow, and rarely if ever in the New York area before. So Easter had to be special.

Which meant — ulp! — I needed to figure out something special to do.

I remember asking some of my colleagues for suggestions and getting the disdainful, “Well, if you want the touristy thing…” type of response.

And, well, yeah, actually, that’s just what I wanted. And so I made a reservation at a lower Manhattan restaurant for Easter dinner in a very touristy place. A very early dinner — early afternoon as I recall, because that’s all I could get.

But we did get a table right along the windows and I was able to watch my cousin’s face as she took in the city from high above. To watch my brother’s face. And — truth be told — to savor the view myself.

It was the one and only non-business occasion I was ever in that building. It was the one and only time I was ever in that restaurant. And it’s something that, today, I can’t repeat.

The restaurant?

Windows on the World.

The location?

The North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Which collapsed into a pile of rubble on the 11th of September 2001.

I’m so glad that my touristy cousin from out of town came to visit that Easter. And that I decided to do the very touristy thing and go to that very touristy place.

It was a magical moment in a place that I pretty much grew up with … and would likely never have gone on my own.

The place is gone now, and so is that sweet cousin. Time marches on.

Which reminds me.

There’s a restaurant at the top of the new Freedom Tower, pictured above, now in my backyard.

I think I’ll make reservations for a day when everything opens back up.

And the next time I’m in St. Louis?

I’m going to the top of the Arch.

Dragging along some local who wouldn’t have gone except for some touristy friend from out of town…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “In the backyard,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 29 May 2021).


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