The following evening email is not written by me but rather a long-time recipient of evening emails, my daughter Chloe. This is the transcript of her senior speech as she approaches graduation from University School. I sat in the crowd that day not knowing what I would hear her present to the school body. An indescribable pride filled me as I heard not only these words but the method in which they were delivered and for a short moment I staved off the familiar feeling of not having done enough for my child and allowed myself to recognize that something beautiful has grown in this beautiful young woman I have the fortune to call my daughter.
Today I walk down the white hallways taking in the views. A woman wearing a Victorian dress looks forlornly out the window. Silly string hangs from the ceiling like dead worms. I almost trip over the janitor casually leaning on the wall. Is that a real person? I scramble around for my Metropolitan Museum brochure and begin to leaf through the pages.
Page one: The impressionists. Let me sum it up for you: pastels, clouds, and some water lilies. I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night in New York City. I was astonished they could cram that many tourists in a closet-sized room. Good thing everyone and their best friend was there because upon seeing it—I burst into tears. True, there were contributing circumstances. I was anxious from wrestling my first cab from a vicious pack of native New Yorkers. What people don’t tell you is, after seeing the impressionists you are usually ready for a nap. Degas and Monet will totally tucker you out. So today I make a brave choice, to skip page one.
Page two: The area with the Egyptian tombs. Multiple artifacts of varying significance reside here. A small clay bowl made by child, or maybe King Tut himself. It’s really a gamble. Sometimes, if you are lucky there is a video about how they built the pyramids. Because mummies are such a crowd-pleaser they put this exhibit where prime museum traffic occurs, practically the entrance. For fear of crowds and people in general, I skip page two as well.
Page three: Chairs and other furniture. Thankfully you won’t run into anyone down here in the basement where they keep this stuff. You are free to peruse plastic futons and obscure upholstery to your heart’s content. I feel the overwhelming urge to sit on all of these items, but the security guard’s glare says not today young lady. I bookmark page three just in case.
I continue to navigate the ever-confusing museum map but always easily distracted I spot a door labeled, “installation”. There’s nothing quite like stepping out of your routine and exploring something completely new. I hate it. I am happy in my comfort zone, and not afraid to admit it. But today I walk to that door and cautiously push it open.
It closes with a small suck of air. Wrapped in a blanket of instant darkness, I immediately regret my bravery. As a proud owner of a nightlight, I start to feel pinpricks of panic crawl up my arms. Glowing light from the three expansive TV screens just illuminates my hands and strangely a couch – finally, a piece of furniture I can sit on. Enveloped by an over-sized futon, I feel smaller than usual.
Suddenly the TV screens burst into color and movement. I jump out of my seat but in this unexpected spirit of adventure I settle in for roughly fifteen minutes of eccentric filmography. On my left, a boat and fishing net bob in the water. Center stage, a herd of people tumble down a staircase; and to the right, a floating iceberg. Extraterrestrial noises and human yodels ring across the dark room. What in the world is this alternate universe that I just stumbled into? I love it.
I’ve realized that a little curiosity didn’t in reality kill the cat. In fact, I started thinking about all the things I have missed because I was too scared to go out on an adventure. So here’s my advice, open any and all suspicious doors, forget that map, try out a little exploration once in a while. Even if you are scared of the dark.