When New York City was as quiet as a vacant church

When I lived in New York City, my husband and I liked to take walks. But because the sidewalks were crowded most of the time, we preferred to walk in rain or snow when there were fewer people to jostle us. We would huddle together and speak in whispers, succumbing to the mystery of clangorous streets made pleasantly quiet.

One winter, long after midnight, my husband woke me and said, "Put on your coat. I want to show you something."

I rose from the warm bed feeling a bit put out that he had wakened me from a deep sleep. He made me put on my boots and gloves and helped me with my coat, saying only that it was important. It wasn't until we stepped outside that I understood.

Fat flakes of snow were falling through the still air. Cars parked along the curb were great mounds of white. Trees and railings, street lamps and garbage cans were covered. All was a thick, soft cloud. The city had stopped. It was as quiet as a vacant church.

We giggled and started to walk but didn't go more than 20 feet before we leaped into the street like children into a puddle. We kicked and stomped and laughed out loud, then stifled our laughter with mittened hands for fear that someone might yell at us to stop the racket. We lay down and made snow angels - 10 of them - down the middle of the street, snow slipping down our necks and up our legs, but we didn't care. We were delirious with the silence and pristine air and the pretense that there was no one else - no one in the city - but us.

Then, from off in the distance came a strange swoo-oosh, swoo-oosh.

We jumped up and looked around, suspecting a snowplow.

Up the street, emerging from a white haze, a single skier slalomed gracefully around our angels, cupping them gently with his S-curves. Slowly (for our street was barely a hill at all) he bent and straightened in a steady rhythm. We stood back as he swooshed past us, his whispered "Beautiful evening!" hardly audible. We nodded and smiled, and watched him disappear through the haze, the spell broken.

But we stood in the street for a long time, holding hands, listening to the quiet click of snow hitting our shoulders.

Even more than the glorious skyline or the glitz of Broadway, small things make New York City magical.

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