Here’s the problem with weekends: they’re too damn short. I don’t mean that simply as a tongue in cheek “we work to much” statement, although we do so someone oughta to do something about that. I mean it as a reality, we have only 2 days available to sort out all of our actual lives before getting back to the work world which has replaced our actual lives. What tends to happen then, at least with young families, is a horrifying pattern of the same things in slightly different places. Breakfast, soccer, make up gymnastics, lunch, birthday party, dinner, bedtime. Sometimes there’s a movie rental in there, maybe a round of golf or a Sunday brunch, but for the most part it’s pretty consistent. That’s why I really relish opportunities to shake it up drastically.
On Sunday, Gina and I woke up with a plan: today was going to be an adventure day. We rounded up the kids, threw on some clothes and bagged some cereal for the road. We got to the train station just before 9 with plenty of time to catch the 9:13 to Downtown LA. We thought, let’s get the kids out of their suburban bubble and show them things they’ve never seen before. It was just after the last of the car doors closed and we all stood their looking at the homeless man yelling at himself on platform 2 that we really thought: um, was this a wise choice? Next we fumbled through the ticketing machine and the security guard who came to help us clearly had the same concerns. “You all be safe today,” he called as we walked away, clearly concerned for the worst.
As crossed the bridge towards our platform, the kids skipped eagerly along and Gina and I glared at each other intently. What were we doing? Four little girls, taking them to downtown?! But here’s what we were doing: creating a memory. I recall walking Olvera Street with my parents. I remember traversing through Chinatown, exploring Little Tokyo. I remember these things because my parents exposed me to them. I learned things that can’t be taught. I experienced a broader sense of the world around me, and I desperately wanted to give that to my kids as well.
The train ride (their first) was everything you hoped. We explored the upper levels, played Eye Spy with the passing world, we tested the limits of the silent commuters around us, and when we emerged at Union Station it was like we’d entered a foreign world. Literally it was a completely foreign environment for the girls; people dressed differently, talked differently. … acted “differently”.
We made our way to Chinatown first, only a few blocks to the northwest of the station. It was during this passage through the homeless encampments and past unidentifiable odors that it dawned on me – my memories of this place were bright and cheery, but only because my parents absorbed the fears and concerns that it brings internally. So I didn’t allow my trepidation to manifest externally, I didn’t want to jade this experience for them. And I’m so glad I didn’t, but damn did I hold tightly onto their little hands the whole time. We walked the shops, explored some live food markets with bizarre fish and angry chickens. We even bought a couple of baby turtles to come home and live in our pond.
We then made it Olvera Street where the girls explored the outdoor shops, delighted in the live dancing in the historic courtyards and enjoyed a wonderful meal in a crowded cantina with mariachi playing all around us. They bought some little fans and trinkets to remember, then we headed back to the station for our 3:15 home. As we waited outdoors near a public fountain, it was then that Rosaline realized she had misplaced her fan.
“That man over there has a fan,” Arianna announced nonchalant.
Gina and I turned to see a homeless man, with one leg of his pants missing and a flip-flop sandal secured to his head with a rubber band. He held Rosaline’s pink flamenco fan, open and fluttering, covering his face just below the eyes.
Of course. … this is Rosaline, this is where her fan would end up.
Gina walked her over to the man, had her ask for her fan with pleases and thank you’s and he graciously abided. And it was in that moment that another lesson was taught. The unfortunate people can be scary. They’re unpredictable, troubled and desperate. But their human; they deserve respect. And even if a man has flip-flop on his head, you ask with a please and afford him a thank you.
And just like that, we were back on a train, headed home. We were up 3 fans, 2 turtles and countless memories from our Sunday adventure.