I want to bathe in that fountain, even if it doesn’t exist anymore

Claudia knew she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her living home would not just be running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Every time I reread From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I wonder two things:

– How many kids have the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art had to kick out of bathroom stalls near closing time since this book was published? Have any ever managed to stay the night? Would anyone at the museum actually tell me this, if I asked?

– Why on earth didn’t I ever try to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a kid? I wanted to run away, but I didn’t quite know how to go about doing it–and here were detailed, practical running-away instructions. Was I not interested enough in museums? Did it not occur to me that I could take the Long Island Railroad from my own home town as easily as Claudia and James Kincaid took the train from Connecticut?

This time, I also found myself wondering–could anyone pull off running away to the Met anymore? Train fare has gone up, and they now charge you to get into the Museum. Claudia and Jamie never could have afforded the daily admission fee, and getting in and out of the museum for side trips was part of their adventure, too. Could they even have rented a P.O. Box, without proper ID?

With all the security and kid-watching both that are part of the world now, it seems it’d be a bit harder to slip through the cracks and into a museum now than it was then. Yet we need those cracks; everyone needs to be able to go places no one is watching once in a while, to have adventures that aren’t entirely shared.

None of which keeps my from finding this as delightful a book now as I did when I first discovered it, through a school reading assignment, of all things. Maybe it only makes it more so. Even the most rule-abiding kids–the sort of kids who would never run away for themselves–can slip through the cracks when they’re reading.

“The other part is–I think the other part is–that if I tell, then I know for sure that my adventure is over. And I don’t want it to be over until I’m sure I’ve had enough.”
“The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you.”

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