January 7, 2008 New York City
Toting my suitcase, I hurried along the sidewalk with my two teenage daughters in tow. The gunmetal sky felt close as my breath puffed in clouds. We huddled in our thick coats, mittens, scarves, and hats pulling suitcases and walking quickly for warmth. January in New York City. What was I thinking?
This was my third year of quarterly appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. My hair was finally growing into a pixie cut after months of chemotherapy. The past two years had been brutal for the family. I had survived radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries. My children had called 911 multiple times as I coded on the floor.
As a Christmas gift to my daughters, I planned a girls' trip to NYC including a trip to see Wicked and tour backstage. We needed this. We needed a time of joy, freedom, and music.
If we didn’t freeze first.
I knew that my budget was tight but darn it, now is the time for a taxi. There is no way we could walk thirty blocks in fourteen-degree weather. Hearty Northeast Ohioans be damned. Channeling my inner New Yorker, I stepped to the curb and signaled for a taxi.
We bundled into a small SUV yellow cab with our teeth chattering and dripping red noses. I gave our cab driver the hotel name and address and my daughters leaned into me for warmth.
The cabbie smiled back at us asking where we were from with his thick Caribbean accent. Replying with deep gratitude for the lift and warmth, I replied that we were from Ohio.
My youngest daughter piped up that we were there to see if Mommy still had cancer. My face red, I looked apologetically at the cabbie. His eyes smiled in the rearview.
As we lingered at a traffic light, he asked “Do you know all the president’s from your state? If you can name them, I will give you a free ride.”
My daughters immediately perked up. Free ride?!?
Immediately my honor student older daughter stated unequivocally that there were eight presidents. My younger daughter in a sing-song voice rang out “Harrison, Harrison, Harding, Hayes.”
The cabbie smiled broadly. “Good. That is four. Who else?”
Encouraging the girls, I reminded them that they were taught a pneumonic. My youngest sang “Harrison, Harrison, Harding and Hayes” again. Unhelpfully.
“Well, there is McKinley. And Taft.”
Our car began to wind through the town and I could tell we were growing closer to Times Square and our hotel.
“Good. Six. Who are you missing?” The cabbie encouraged completely engaged in the game. My daughters were on the edge of their seats with their blonde heads bent toward each other as they quietly sang phrases of the memory device to each other.
“Grant. I remember Grant.” My oldest called out as we pulled up to the hotel.
I shrugged my shoulders to the cabbie. “Well, girls you gave it a good go.”
Scrambling out of the car, the girls retrieved their suitcases and stood on the sidewalk waiting for me to pay. We had lost the game but the joy in their eyes was worth the effort. The cabbie shook his head no as I tried to pay him.
“No, you keep it and take those precious babies out tonight. Good luck tomorrow and God bless.”
He pulled away before I could thank him. A free cab ride. A game for my daughters. A joyful start to an anxious trip.
Garfield, Grant, Harding, Harrison, Harrison, Hayes, McKinley, and Taft.
I always forget Garfield.
About the Creator
Author, mother, grandmother, and former teacher - Annie Taylor has three decades of writing in a variety of forms. She has written manuals, speeches, books, and sales brochures. Annie travels the US in her RV obsessively writing.