The New York Times recently concluded its “One in Eight Million” series. It’s a lyrical compendium of 54 audio-visual stories that shine a light on ordinary (and not so ordinary) New Yorkers — from an urban taxidermist to a “Type-A” teenager. These sound-rich features are all told in the first person and provide a window into the intimacies of people’s lived experiences across the five boroughs of New York City’s eight-million-thick metropolis.
The series’ concluding segment featuring a 57-year-old grandfather of four named Joseph Cotton took my breath away. He cares for his “grandbabies” with such love, attention, devotion, and patience in a way that’s tender but not possessive. He knows the time will come when he’ll need to let them go. He says:
“Eventually I’m gonna lose them. Eventually they’re going to get to be 15, 16 years old. They’re going to be: ‘I ain’t hanging with pop-pop. Because they’re going to have other interests, they’re going to be doing other things. I’m looking for greatness from them. So they can’t hang around me and find greatness.”
I recently attended an improv workshop with a professional actor who commented that he’s known artists who are masterful at their craft but aren’t so masterful at being loving partners or caregivers. People who love well don’t necessarily get noticed or celebrated for their particular artistry; I immediately thought of Mr. Cotton when I heard this. I’m grateful to the series for noticing him.
(photos: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)