by Nicole Crews
Uncle G: How did you get your mother’s ashes through security?
Me: It turns out that small of an amount of cremains looks like heroin so I put them in an old eye shadow container in my make up bag.
Uncle G: Any problems?
Me: No, I was totally expecting a full body-cavity check, but all they did was throw away my hand lotion and feel me up a little.
The trip from LaGuardia to Tribeca, the pre-tip of Manhattan’s appendage, is a long one considering the limited distance. And considering the baggage I was carrying — my mother’s ashes — it made it feel all the longer. The dismal gray of Queens, the abysmal traffic, the multiculti hawkers of throwaway goods as we edged Delancey and Chinatown all harkened back to a conversation I once had with mother that would have made Donald Trump proud.
Me: It’s interesting that your immigrant parents were from such diverse backgrounds.
Mother: What are you talking about? My parents weren’t immigrants.
Me: Um. Your mother was Canadian and your father was Greek. I suppose his stopover at Ellis Island was just part of the “grand tour” he was on.
Mother: Oh, well, that doesn’t count.
I was heading to Soho Photo Gallery where my childhood friend George was manning a show. I was there to pick up a key to his digs before settling in to a long weekend of pilgrimages to places near and dear to mother’s heart.
There was her old apartment off Park Avenue West, of course, where I was going to drop the ashes — or at least not let them fly directly into a Sabrett hawker’s hot dog cart.
There was Benihana, the groovy, ’70s teppanyaki Trader Vic’s of Manhattan, where mother was obliged to take her tourist friends on visits. (She hated it, but had — and still have — a killer collection of Buddha cocktail vessels from years of playing tour guide.)
There was the Museum of Modern Art, where she took me to see the Picasso retrospective when I was a wee lass and when I think I finally quit rolling my eyes and realized I was in the presence of greatness. A collection of Picasso sculpture serendipitously installed — for my visit I’m convinced — brought our mutual love of museums full circle.
And speaking of Serendipity, there was the classic restaurant that sold delightful baubles, many of which ended up in my mother’s carry-on bag on trips back to North Carolina. I still have the camel boho hat with a multihued peacock band — now back in vogue. I still wear the green crystal necklace every holiday. And the stack of bamboo bracelets will be all the rage — at least on my arm — for resort 2016.
And then there was church. St. Patrick’s Cathedral you ask? St. Paul’s Chapel? Trinity Church? No, I’m talking about the mother of all churches: the 5th Avenue cathedral known as Bergdorf Goodman. I eyeballed the legendary holiday windows, as holy as stained glass. I edged my way past the other worshipers, solemnly and slowly made my way from level to level via the thin, central escalator that ascended to my version of heaven — the designer salon’s sale floor. All the saints were present: Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Akris, Elie Saab, Carolina Herrera, Valentino, Stella McCartney, Lanvin and mother’s patron saint Balenciaga.
As fate would have it, there happened to be a black, deep V, crepe jumpsuit that made me look like a cross between a Bond Girl and my mother circa 1975. I danced around the amply sized dressing room, posed like a Charlie’s Angel in the mirror, then, like a frugal Greek girl, slid out of it, placed it properly on its hanger and fled the store with my next month’s mortgage payment still intact. Mother would have been proud.
Or she would have said, Kid, it’s Christmas, Balenciaga at 60 percent off, and you don’t want to look like yesterday’s news.
Me: Mother, I work for newspapers. I am yesterday’s news.
The haunting continued as I climbed the stairs to George’s apartment for the umpteenth time and realized that the upholstery in his living room was designed by mother. It hit me like a flash. Then as George and I descended the same stairs to attend a campy musical I got a text from stylist and bon vivant Colin Lively who was meeting us there. It read, “You can’t miss the theater. It’s right across from that piano bar — ‘Don’t Tell Mama!’”
Don’t worry Colin. I don’t have to. She already knows.