Did you miss the beginning of the birthday adventure? you can find it here.
3:45. My alarm must have gone off, but I have no recollection of hearing it, just of silencing it so it wouldn’t wake Marisa. Of course, she was sleeping three feet away from it, so it was bound to wake her up. We were roommates again, reminiscent of our freshman year in college. I tried to be as quiet as possible, since I was the first to rise and shine.
Everyone slowly woke up, ready for our adventure. By some miracle, we were all ready shortly before our target departure time, and we didn’t even feel rushed. We were already starting out well.
The air still had the frigid night touch as we drove to the train station. We were taking the train to New York. That had a nice romantic ring to it, a movie-like aura that I held on to even while we waiting in the station with the other tourists crazy enough to be up at that time of day. (I managed to hold on to my romantic notions all day, mostly thanks to the snowstorm.)
We were too excited to sleep on the train, even though my body seemed to wonder why it was on a train hurtling through the darkness instead of in a nice warm bed somewhere. Our plan was set – as soon as we arrived in New York, we were just a quick cab ride away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The sun had risen once the skyline came into view, the World Trade Center Memorial soaring high above everything else. The train had filled as we neared the city, and now we all poured out into Penn Station- the mass of humanity surging up the steps, up into the station, up to the streets.
My brother had told me there was a taxi stand just outside the station, and sure enough, there was a handful of cabs just waiting to take us to Mass. We voted Trena the honor of shotgun (a role we forced on her each ride) and we clamored into the cab.
While the whole day was relatively schedule-free, this was one of the few time crunches. Could we get to the Cathedral in time for 8:00 Mass? Yes – with ten minutes to spare.
I had been warned about the abundance of scaffolding inside and out due to the renovations, but I wasn’t going to let that dissuade me from seeing one of the most famous cathedrals in the United States. Daily Mass was in the Lady Chapel in the back of the Cathedral, which was scaffolding-free. I kind of regret that I hadn’t tweeted Cardinal Dolan to ask him to celebrate Mass (with #joanniesbday2013, of course. haha.), but it was neat that the rector celebrated it, since I recognized his voice from the SiriusXM Catholic Channel broadcasts.
After Mass we took our time praying and visiting the altars throughout the Cathedral. It was classic Gothic — while bare compared to baroque churches I had grown accustomed to in my Rome years, it was strikingly beautiful, allowing the architecture itself to magnify the Lord.
It was stunning how white the portions that have already been cleaned were. The restoration effort is much-needed- I probably would have assumed the church was built out of gray marble if I hadn’t seen the cleaned portions! (It reminded me of how stunning St. Peter’s colonnade is now, as they’re in the midst of that cleaning effort.)
As we pushed the big wooden doors open to leave the warm quiet church, the wind came rushing in. Someone had turned the New York snow globe upside down and given it a good shake. The snow had arrived.
It seemed natural to walk across the street to Rockefeller Center while we were in the neighborhood. While it would have been nice to see it at night, it was perhaps even nicer to see it without the crowds.
I’m not sure I can express how giddy and excited I was all day. I’m pretty sure I danced around at some point here — not really caring who saw me or what they thought. It was my birthday, I was in Rockefeller Center, and it was snowing. Really snowing.
We were headed to meet a friend of mine on Madison Avenue, but we all needed some caffeine in our systems. Would it be possible to find something other than Starbucks? We decided to wander down the street and see what we stumbled upon.
I had to take a picture here first — not because of the Today Show, but just because my birthday was displayed for all to see.
As we neared our destination on Madison Avenue, we had been unsuccessful in the non-Starbucks search. Trena suggested going into Grand Central Station, which was right across from the office building where we were meeting my friend. We found coffee and muffins and ate breakfast with some local homeless people.
You know how I know God planned the snow in New York that day just for us? Because it was picture-perfect. Literally. As we left Grand Central and walked back into the crazy weather, Trena noticed that you could actually see the shapes of the snowflakes. This just wasn’t any old precipitation falling from the sky. These were perfect little snowflakes.
Magical, I tell you. The day was magical.
And it was only 10 am.