For years, our Chol Hamoed motto was “an extra half hour in the car to save two hours on line,” and we traveled far and wide in every direction from NYC. We did Mystic Seaport and Norwalk, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Scranton, and NJ from North to South and East to West. Then Itty was born. Itty got nauseas in the carriage when I drove it over pebbly concrete as a newborn. She threw up in a car ride to my niece’s graduation, and again when I headed out by car to thirteenth avenue to run some errands. Since then, we go where we can get with a carriage.
Occasionally, we prepare for the inevitable (bags, towels, bibs, wipes, air freshener, change of clothing), and head out for the closest attraction we can get away with, while still satisfying the older children’s craving for excitement. To our surprise, we’ve found an inordinate number of things to do rather close to home, and they were not nearly as crowded, even on Chol Hamoed, as I had expected.
And so I’d like to introduce you to one of our favorite haunts, perfect for any Spring or Fall Sunday when the weather is fair: Floyd Bennett Field. And you’re not going to get claustrophobic there anytime soon, it used to be an airport.
If you’re a history buff, you can find some information about the field’s previous life here: http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/flbe.html.
As usual, our first stop is on the way, at the beach area on the belt halfway to JFK. The kids get a bit of sand therapy while my husband checks if anyone is parasailing, in which case we will settle in for a longer stay to watch. To our surprise, although it’s a beautiful day, there is no one in the water. Perhaps the black flag planted on the beach is a warning of some sort. We return to the car. In the parking lot, Itty throws up. Pretty good, considering. The car is clean and maybe she’ll feel better now.
Next stop, Floyd Bennett Field. We have our route figured out, and we start at the mini-car racing area. Adult hobbyists sit at tables tinkering with gas-powered mini remote control racing cars. When all is in place, they set the car down on the track and climb the steps to a platform from which they can see the track and zip their cars around. These may be adult toys, but watching is fascinating for children. They are curious about everything, from the mechanics of the car assembly to the dynamics of the race. Only baby Yanky is terrified of the zipping, full-throated motorized sound effects, so after wiping Itty off, I leave her with the family, and take Yanky off to the side.
When we have had had our fill, we head to the next corner of the vast expanse, the archery range. From some reason, this section is less-known; it’s a shame – it’s one of the most exciting and educational of all. If you turn your back on the parking lot, you can transplant yourself for an hour one thousand…two thousand, even five thousand years back. The sportsmen let arrows fly from graceful bows, aiming at the dozen or so permanent targets spaced around the field. With the exception of one master marksman using a gear-enhanced bow with an eyepiece, the rest of the crowd uses bows that are remarkably similar to the ones with which our ancestors fought their enemies throughout the earliest generations. The advice and assistance with which the archers guide and encourage each other are likely PRECISELY the same, as are the exultations of success and sighs of disappointment! But we do get the added fun of a couple of balloons pinned to the targets, and there are shouts of applause when those are popped.
The only damper is that Itty throws up again. We vote to continue to the remote control airplane arena, but Itty will have none of the car. I volunteer to walk with her (twenty minutes? thirty?) I send Yanky off in the car, Itty gets the carriage, and we begin to explore on foot. As we walk, we pass various gated sections that intrigue me, but I have no information on them. There’s a police training section, sanitation training, army training. I don’t know if they’re only closed Sundays, or if they’re no longer active. I check in periodically by phone to check what the kids are doing and make sure that I’m headed in the right direction. The boys brought their brand new remote control, a new addition won at Chevras Tehilim, and have a grand time with it on one of the old runways. By the time I complete my forty-five minute(!) walk, I meet them at the bleachers near the airplane launch.
Exhausted, I sink into the bench near my children. The place is filling up, and another frum family takes the adjacent seating on the same bleachers. I note that the mother seems about my age, maybe even my type, and she looks friendly and fun. If I wasn’t so shy, I would say hello. I glance in her direction once or twice, but she’s busy with her family, as I should be, and I leave it at that.
After fifteen minutes of oohing and aahing over the antics of the small planes, Mrs. Anonymous turns around. “I think I know you,” she says. “What’s your name?” I reply, and she reminds me that we spent time together at a mother and baby home five years ago. Wow. Does she have a great memory, or am I just The Memorable Type? If I were Petunia the goose, I imagine my neck would have grown just a wee bit longer. “You write, don’t you?” she asks, and my Petunia-neck almost gets a crick. We exchange a few words; I find her five-year-old and she finds mine. Hers is gorgeous. Mine is adorable. And then it happens. One of my children drops a small bottle of coke and splash, Mrs. Perfect Memory is perfectly soaked, and she jumps up and runs away. I offer apologies and wipes to the empty space, but they fall flat with no one there to catch them. My neck shrinks back to its usual size. We will not be best friends forever after all.
It’s a shame; she seemed so nice. Then again, do I need friends who can’t survive a Coke soaking? But really, she should have been happy; it was just a bit of Coke. We had Itty sitting right there. It could have been worse!
Been to Floyd Bennett Field? Share your own adventure! Drop a comment below.