Some of the things I like best so far about this summer’s Camp Mom are:
The opportunities for teachable moments:
On the morning that we trekked down to the Lower East Side on the F train, we got off at the East Broadway stop and made our circuitous way to Seward Park—a huge, shady lot which just happens to be in a largely Chinese neighborhood. We passed by three padlocked gates and initially couldn’t figure out where the entrance was. As we--the only non-Chinese people in the park's vicinity--circled back and walked in the other direction, still on the lookout for the right way in, Charlie sighed and said, “Maybe the park is only for Chinese people.”
"There are not parks only for Chinese people. Or only for white people. Or only for black people," I snapped. "That is just not allowed in America." We still hadn't found the playground entrance, but we'd already had our morning civics lesson, just in time for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.
"I wish I lived here," breathed Charlie reverently as he gazed at the shelves upon shelves of candy at Economy Candy
All of the good food
Before our 12:00 PM tour (we chose the Confino Family Living History Program, which was recommended for children five and over) at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Charlie, Vivi, and I squeezed in an early, delicious, and exceedingly cheap lunch of pork and chive dumplings (four for a dollar), huge, fluffy sesame pancakes, red bean buns, and sweetened soy milk. Afterwards, we satisfied our afternoon sugar craving at Economy Candy, an old-fashioned penny candy store in business since 1937.
Museum gift shops
I have a definite thing for museum gift shops. They usually have an excellent and quirky selection of children’s books and low-tech toys and the one at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum did not disappoint. Charlie scored a pair of toy handcuffs, Vivi picked out a retro change purse, and I lugged home a wonderful tome called 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up by Julia Eccleshare.
The discovery of the city’s best-kept secrets
On our way back uptown, we searched for somewhere to sit and enjoy our candy necklaces and strawberry licorice and comic books from Economy Candy. We started to go to a tired-looking playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park before stumbling upon a lush, shady oasis of a community garden heavy with hydrangea: M’Finda Kalunga Garden. We couldn’t get in, so we sat on a bench just outside and plan to return one day soon to enjoy this urban sanctuary when it is open to the public.
-Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller
-What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street by Elsa Okon Rael
-When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street by Elsa Okon Rael
A Day on the Lower East Side:
William H. Seward Park, Canal, Hester, Essex, and Jefferson Streets, Lower East Side, New York City, 10002; http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M082/.
Dumpling House, 118 Eldridge Street (between Grand and Broome) Lower East Side, New York City 10002; (212) 625-8008.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 108 Orchard Street (the museum itself is at 97 Orchard Street, but this is where the museum shop is, where tours start and end, and where tickets are sold), Lower East Side, New York City 10002; (212) 982-8420; www.tenement.org; Offers seven different tours, the first at 10:30 AM and the last at 5:00 PM, seven days a week; Adults: $20; Students (K-12): $15; Children under 5: Free.
Economy Candy, 108 Rivington Street, Lower East Side, New York City 10002; (800) 352-4544; www.economycandy.com.
M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden, Rivington Street (between Chrystie and Forsyth in Sara D. Roosevelt Park), Lower East Side, New York City; www.mkgarden.org; Open hours (summer, fall, and spring): Thursday from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM; **Free.