One of my favorite times in New York City is early weekend mornings. The same people with whom I do weekday sidewalk battle stroll leisurely through the street holding coffee, pushing strollers, and walking dogs. The streets look brighter, and it feels like the city is being re-born.
Unfortunately, my love for city mornings is usually eclipsed by my other favorite part of the weekend: sleeping off the insanity of the work week, and waking up slowly over coffee and The Times. But this morning, I stopped at the gourmet shop to buy breakfast sausage (for me) and almond flour (for this afternoon’s costly french macaron experiment.)
Ahead of me in the check-out line was a young girl pushing a folding shopping cart. She had a fashionable bob and Hunter boots, and couldn’t have been more than ten. I thought she was with the man behind her, until the cashier yelled, “NEXT,” and she toddled up to the register by herself. She pulled bakery bags of scones and pastries from her push cart, and leaned cooly against the counter in an obvious imitation of her mother. I giggled to myself because her head barely came over the counter. The cashier gave her her total ($10. 76,) and she proudly handed over a fifty. I watched her count her change as she’d been instructed, but she gave herself away when, satisfied that she hadn’t been ripped off, she flung thirty-nine dollars and change into the grocery bag, and clumsily stuffed the whole thing back into her folding shopping cart. She thanked the cashier, and headed for home.
A long line built up behind her, but everybody was smiling. Here was a mini city girl-in-training: very mature and sophisticated, but still wearing the mark of childhood. I wondered to myself, “is she growing up too fast?” After all, ten is very young to be buying groceries. But then I thought back to myself at that age. I wanted very much to be an adult, and nothing would have made me feel cooler than a solo trip to buy breakfast for the family. I played dress-up and make believe, but I also wrote stories, looked after my little brother, and could have been trusted with a fifty. No, this was just a little girl, marking her independence in a safe Manhattan neighborhood. And the simple humanity of it made the usual grim-faced, busy doers of New York stop, think, and smile.