Happenings off the homestead: city days
“Is this a traffic jam?” Col asks, pointing to the snarl of angry red eyes, blinking on and off ahead.
“Who are those guys, Mama?” Rose asks about the many white billboards plastered with the four Beatles, circa 1970, gazing down at the freeway.
“Why does he talk funny?” Col whispers about the Indian man whose head is wrapped in a turban.
Oh city life, as rich and filling as the chocolate cheesecake buffet. The kids and I walk around goggle-eyed over billboards, jewish delis offering salty-brothed matzoh balls and kosher beef tongue, enormous public buses that roar like barges past a sea of Priuses, and the fact that if you want some baklava, you just go down to the Iranian bakery and get yourself some. The Iranian bakery!
The kids, bless their adaptable hearts, are partaking from the metropolitan buffet with gusto. They’re here to love life in all its forms: the bustling crowds, the mind-boggling freeway maneuvers (the kids are getting used to me saying “you can’t talk to me for the next three minutes because I’m merging”), the the potpourri of skin tones and accents.
And even though Rose says that “wonderland” is a place that’s pink and filled with rainbows, there’s a good bit of wonderland here in Berkeley, California.
They say it’s winter, but I’m not so sure.
In addition to waist-high lavender plants, trees swelled with citrus fruits, and our Colorado, summer birds spotted kicking it like Florida retirees in the eucalyptus, there are many and bountiful year-round farmers markets:
Total produce porn, if you’re into that kind of thing: (also, I got grapes at the farmers market, which could make you cry with gratitude and happiness, if you’re into that kind of thing)
There’s the amazing children’s science museum, in which two visits barely scratched the surface:
We looked for cormorants, seals, whales, pelicans and other exotic marine life:
Col and Rose had so much fun playing with my cousin’s four children while my dear cousin Janie and I strung bits of conversation together:
Time with the grandparents has been wonderful as usual. Col and Baba have been doing puzzles and launching nerf rockets; Rose has been following Nana around, keeping up a cheerful monologue and asking unanswerable questions like “Is the day we leave going to be this day or that other day?” Rose has been accidentally calling her dad “Nana,” and last night Dan finally said, “Rose. I’m that other person that takes care of you. Daddy. Remember?”
I had a reunion with my high school girlfriends and our assorted 8 children. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for over a decade, and yet it was almost like we were back at Provo park, finishing up a cigarette before hustling back to remedial chemistry (except now any smoking is hidden from our children, not our parents). My friend Jessica posted pictures of us to Facebook, calling it The Nothing Has Changed Reunion (which is so true, except er, the iphone thingy that allowed Jessica to blast a picture to the world wide web before we had even hugged goodbye). Of course a million things are different, like circumstances, but who we are? The same, which is completely comforting and awesome.
Now that we are soon to leave the city and return home, I am thinking about what my children will miss, growing up many hours away from anything resembling a city. Usually I am aware of what they gain living in a small town surrounded by wild land—you know I think it’s paradise—but today I am thinking about what’s lost.
They’ll miss rubbing elbows with humanity in all its forms, which seems the most direct way to build tolerance and comfort with diversity. Perhaps also, they’ll miss that buzzing groundswell of creativity that spreads quickly, like fire or a contagion, ricocheting off inspired minds.
Like many things, there’s a trade off – street smarts traded for coyote howls, access to top-shelf artistry in concerts, museums, theatre and food traded for the opportunity to walk through the woods not seeing another soul.
I’m happy with our choice.
How about you? What’s gained and lost in your geographical location?