I swear the guy smelled her coming. We had barely set foot in the lobby of The Plaza when he swept up, a slight young man in a dark suit, holding out a small bag of jelly beans.
“Would you like these?” he asked Sophie in his best concierge voice.
She took the bag and examined the pink and white sticker with the little girl in the iconic black jumper on it.
“Where’s Eloise?” she asked.
“Oh, Eloise is in Paris,” the sweet concierge answered, not skipping a beat. His name was Daniel. “She lives here at The Plaza, of course, but she does travel quite a lot.”
Sophie nodded, accepting this. I figured we’d hit the gift shop after that, but the man had stepped behind a counter, checked something on the computer, and was back.
“Would you like to see Eloise’s room?” Daniel asked. Sophie beamed.
For the uninitiated, Eloise does not exist. She’s the precocious main character in a series of children’s books by Kay Thompson, popularized by at least one feature film and I believe some cartoons. Sophie’s read the books and she saw the movie — all many years ago. I was a little surprised she even remembered Eloise, whose story centers around her life and mischief-making at The Plaza.
We were only in New York City for a couple of days, and we’d decided that each of us would choose one thing we really wanted to do. I wanted to visit the Marimekko store. Annabelle couldn’t decide (but I feel okay about this after I bought her a $30 pair of socks at Marimekko). Sophie wanted to see Taylor Swift’s apartment. This wound up involving trips to two boroughs (did you know that there’s a 155 Franklin Street — T.S.’s address — in Tribeca AND in Brooklyn? neither did our Uber driver) and a screaming, crying fit in front of Taylor Swift’s apartment, even though I’d explained beforehand to Sophie that there was no way we’d actually meet Taylor Swift.
Ray wanted to go to The Plaza. He said he’d never been. I lost interest in The Plaza long ago, around the time Donald Trump shut down the Trader Vic’s, but Ray really wanted to see it. After the T. Swift debacle I didn’t imagine Sophie would be into Eloise, but it turned out to be a pretty perfect scenario.
“Certainly she knows she’s not real, right?” I muttered to Annabelle as we crammed into an elevator and headed to the 18th floor. Annabelle shrugged.
Daniel handed Sophie the room key and she opened the door. I’ll admit I was impressed. The Eloise suite was designed by Betsey Johnson, and it features more pink than even I could stand (and pink is my favorite color). It’s pretty adorable.
“What is this, a thousand dollars a night?” I asked Daniel from behind my hand. “Three thousand!” he stage whispered back. Three times his monthly rent in Astoria.
Sophie’s questions were much more appropriate. She loved the whole thing, even wrote a note to Eloise (which she wouldn’t let me read) and put it in a special mailbox outside the gift shop (which we did eventually visit, of course).
In so many ways, Sophie is growing up, and I’m not just talking about the boobs or even the make up and the skinny jeans. She’s maturing. Slowly, slower than Annabelle, but I see it. And yet every time I think that she’s done with the kid stuff — I realize she’s not. I find her watching Peppa Pig or Elmo. She’s dying to see Piglet at Disneyland. She refuses to wiggle her loose teeth (even with the fear of surgical distraction looming) because she’s that afraid of the tooth fairy.
And she was super into Eloise, last week at The Plaza.
Until the day Taylor Swift comes through, I’m more than okay with that.
Amy Silverman is a writer, editor, teacher and — most important — mother. Her daughter Sophie has Down syndrome.
Sophie is 13 and fully mainstreamed in the eighth grade in a public school in Tempe, Arizona, where she lives with Amy, her father Ray and big sister Annabelle, 15. Sophie is a cheerleader — both at school and with Special Olympics. She also studies ballet and drama and has appeared in performances with Center Dance Ensemble and Detour Company Theatre.
For many years, Amy has explored what it means to have Down syndrome in the 21st Century on her blog, girlinapartyhat.com. Amy has also written about Sophie (and a lot of other things) for New Times, the alternative newsweekly in Phoenix, where she is managing editor. In addition, Amy’s a contributor to KJZZ, the National Public Radio affiliate in Phoenix, and her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life, in the New York Times, Washington Post, salon.com and many other places. She co-teaches the long running workshop Mothers Who Write and co-curates a live reading series, Bar Flies, both in Phoenix. Amy’s first book, “My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome,” was published in Spring 2016 by Woodbine House. To learn more, visit myheartcantevenbelieveit.com