“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
The sun poured over the park, filtered through the magnolias and clung to my shoulders like a warm embrace. I may have been sitting in the heart of Manhattan but on this particular day Central Park felt like a faraway fairy tale complete with whimsical statues, blossoming flowers and giggling children lazily sailing toy boats across the nearby pond. Like an eye in the center of a hurricane, Central Park was languid and calm–impervious to the swirling crowds, honking cabs and subways just beyond the tree line.
A bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland sat nearby, shrouded by pink and white blossoms delicately hanging above Alice, the Mad Hatter and the time-telling rabbit. Children climbed on the sculpture, hopping from bronze mushroom to Alice’s lap as though guests at her tea party, while parents lingered nearby on wooden benches.
“The power of ketchup is that it can make the hot dog cool down.” Nearby a little boy’s matter-of-fact comment pulled me out of my reverie and made me smile. Not more than 7 years old, the little boy had bright blue eyes and skin so milky and fair it was almost iridescent. He sat contently staring at his hot dog while his proud father looked on lovingly, adoring every hair on the child’s head.
“This is the best park in the world, you know?” the father serenely stated, basking in the sunlight pouring over him and his son. The boy looked around, thoughtfully taking in the nearby families, children running in the distance and toy sailboats cutting across the pond. The park was reminiscent of Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg where French families come to sail colorful boats across the Grand Basin. As though reminded of something by the sight of the white sails sending ripples across the water, the boy turned to his father and asked politely “Is it our turn yet?”
Looking over his shoulder, his father regarded the line of parents waiting to rent toy sailboats and looked down at his watch, wondering if enough time had passed. As if on cue, the gangly teenager manning the rental stand looked down at his clipboard and called out a name that caught the attention of both father and son. “Time to set sail!” The boy was exuberant, looking as though he was about to cross the Atlantic rather than navigate the surface of a pool. Clearing the crumpled wax paper and remnants of the hot dog from their table, the two walked towards the rental stand, grabbed their sail boat and headed towards the water.
Looking just as eager as his son, the father seemed to let the child inside him come out and play as they gingerly lowered the boat into the water and got their bearings of the pond now teeming with boats. Lovingly, the father showed his son how to remote control the sail boat and then stepped back as the little boat’s sails billowed out in the wind, turned sharply and cut a path across the pond to an exciting and unknown destination in both their imaginations.