We headed over to The Feast of San Gennaro the other day with our partners in crime, River & Latonya, to stroll the famous culinary festival and enjoy some good old fashioned Italian fun. I first stumbled upon the festival about 10 years ago, as a bright-eyed new-to-the-city girl, and was instantly enchanted. I remember walking around downtown with a friend in the late evening hours, seeking out dumplings or ramen or some other delicious cuisine from a certain "secret" basement-level Chinatown restaurant that had been rumored to be the best in the city. We somehow got mixed up and walked a few too many blocks north, and a little too far East, and then, bam! Smoke and music hung in the air, lights dangled from fire escapes and across the narrow streets, church bells rang in the distance, and grilled sauasages and hot nuts and sugary cannolies filled the booths. We had no idea where we were, but we knew it was somewhere special. It was a greasy smoky over-crowded good time. It was kind of amazing.
I hadn't been back in many years, but decided this year to take Biet and baby Lou to experience a little Italian street food. All I can say is, The Feast of San Gennaro is a different experience during the day, especially with kids. Holy tourist haven, was it crowded! We made it a couple of blocks in the strollers, but then the kids wanted to run, and there were far too many hot grills and drunken party-goers and swarming crowds to make that happen. We decided to go out on a limb and try some Italian empanadas. And.. I don't know about you, but when I bite into a cheese empanada, the last thing I expect is to find is hot cream cheese inside. Hmmmmmm, ok, San Gennaro. We eventually escaped all of the mayhem and went out for burritos. Maybe we'll try again next year, when the kids are a little older (and also, during the night.. the festival takes on a special magic at night that somehow eludes the daytime hours). Until then, San Gennaro..
As we were stopped on a side street plotting our escape, I looked down and saw the most amazing thing: Biet and River, taking turns playing with baby Lou. They had teamed up and were sticking their tongues out at him and tickling him, taking turns and laughing all the while. And while I would imagine that witnessing one of your children tormenting the other in such a calculated and matter-of-fact way would usually cause alarm in a parent, this particular sight made me profoundly happy. In that moment, Biet was such a big sister. And Lucien, beaming at the girls and giddy for all of the attention, was such a little brother. And even as future arguments and cat fights and anti-sharing strikes flashed before my eyes, I was overtaken with happiness. Sometimes it's these little in-between moments, on a street corner in Little Italy with empanada wrappers in your pocket and a diaper that needs changing and two hungry toddlers on your hands, that perfect moments take place, that relationships grow, and that life happens.
And so burritos were consumed, and afterwards chocolate (because a meal just isn't a meal without a little bit of chocolate, according to Biet... and maybe to me too), and big sisters were a little too rough with little brothers, and little brothers didn't seem to mind getting roughed up a bit, and best friends were willing and encouraging accomplices, and Mamas were tired but happy all around, and another full and gratifying day in the city was had by all.
*Biet's shirt by Coup