It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2012, and my mother, who was 89 at the time, and I were on our way to the Museum of Modern Art to view Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” As it turned out, she was correct in her feeling that this trip to MoMA might be her last of many.
We took the train in to the city and then rode the subway before walking the last few blocks. It was a struggle for her, but she wouldn’t let me hail a cab.
After arriving at the museum, we bought tickets, checked our coats and proceeded up several escalators to the large gallery where Munch’s masterpiece was on display.
Alas, even as big as the gallery was, it was overflowing with people. There was no way I was going to be able to navigate my frail, fragile mother through the elbow-to-elbow crowd.
“Mom,” I whispered, disappointed, “it looks like it’s just not our day.”
We were turning to leave when, without saying a word to us, a museum guard who was standing nearby sprang into action.
“Pardon me!” he said in a booming voice, gently but firmly parting the crowd. “Pardon me, please!”
He continued this way until he had created a path and was standing just two feet from the painting. Everyone watched him expectantly.
He turned, found my mother with his eyes and silently waved her forward. I steadied her until we were right in front of “The Scream.”
We lingered there for over a minute, taking in all the inimitable painting had to offer before thanking the guard and the crowd and making our way out.
— Garrett Andrews
It was April 1992, and I had two tickets for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with Daniel Barenboim conducting.
The person I had invited to join me was unable to come, so at five minutes before 8 p.m., I did something I had never done before: I stood on the sidewalk outside the hall and held up the extra ticket to see if I could find a taker.
A man approached me, asked for a discount and we completed the transaction.
We sat next to each other, and the rest is history. I had just turned 40, he was 45 and neither of us had been married. We got engaged that August and married in October, 30 years ago last month.
Happy Anniversary, my love.
— Jane Moos Cohen
It is 2 a.m. I dash up the subway stairs to catch the F back to Manhattan.
Just as I get to the platform, the train doors close and the train begins to pull away. The digital message board says the next one will arrive in 20 minutes.
I wander over to a bench and sit. As I wait for the train, a boy runs merrily up the stairs onto the platform. He has a huge smile on his face while he stares across the tracks at the other platform.
A girl there beams back at him. They start to play rock-paper-scissors. They don’t say a word. They play about six rounds, laughing and giggling at the end of each one.
The train on the opposite track whooshes into the station, cutting the boy and girl off from each other. Seconds later, she appears in the train window, smiling again and waving goodbye.
The boy waves back as he watches her train pull away.
— Pamela Ingebrigtson
My mother died earlier this year. It was sudden and unexpected. In the weeks that followed, I was taking care of my father in addition to my children. I was so busy that I barely had a chance to cry.
After about a month, I took a day off work to go to the Fotografiska Museum and then to meet my husband for lunch nearby.
After viewing an exhibition of nude photography, I walked directly into one that was a chronicle of the life and death of the artist’s mother.
The weight of the previous month and the unexpected connection to the artist hit me hard. I sat down in the mostly empty museum and sobbed.
I tried to be quiet and inconspicuous there in the dark room, but before long a man approached me and asked if I was OK.
I told him that my mother had died recently and that I just missed her so much.
He sat down next to me, rubbed my back after politely seeking my consent and told me he would sit with me as long as I needed.
I asked his name.
Owen, he said.
He asked mine.
Suzie, I replied.
And my mother’s?
He said he would hold us in his heart and he asked if I needed a hug.
I did. Even in heels, I stood on tiptoes to embrace a total stranger and sob into his shoulder. I thanked him with every fiber of my being.
I skipped the final exhibition and ran to meet my husband. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t bear to see Owen’s face in the light.
— Suzanna Publicker Mettham
It was December 1967. I had just finished basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and was traveling to Boston in uniform. For reasons I no longer recall, I stopped in New York City on the way.
Walking on the Upper East Side in a snowstorm, I spied another man in a uniform. He was older, and his cap bore the familiar gold band that identified him as an officer.
I rendered a snappy salute. It was not returned. The uniform was unfamiliar, so I guessed he was a foreign officer. Military courtesy still required me to salute.
A little farther down the street, I encountered another officer and offered another salute that went unacknowledged. His uniform was strange to me as well.
The third time it happened, the man I saluted ignored me while holding the door for a couple on their way into a large apartment building.
I realized I had been saluting doormen.
— Stephen Salisbury
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee