Living In The City

With every new experience I have in this city of mine, the more in love I am with my new home. I’m still pretty certain that I’m going to get mugged at some point, but until then, and maybe even after, Philadelphia continues to surprise me with its history, its beauty, and, yes, even its people.

Coming from the ultra-vanilla suburbs of Colorado, moving to a big city by itself was intimidating. Making the choice to live downtown in that big city seemed ludicrous. There are a lot of people. And the police department has a website where you could draw a box around an area to see the crime statistics inside it. That website is the equivalent of lookup at symptoms for anything on Web M.D. Every headache is a tumor, and every street is the potential one where I will be left to die.

Photo Jan 17, 09 29 31And yet, at every turn, I’m surprised. I’m surprised by the attendant at the parking garage who had to deal with our dead battery in the middle of a rush where they were short-handed, and still smiled, and still helped out the following weekend when we got someone to jump it. I’m surprised at how grateful people are when I tell them that I appreciate what they did, or when I show genuine interest in what they do. Or when someone compliments me for how well-behaved our son is, or smile at him when he rides his scooter down the street telling everyone “Happy New Year” almost three weeks in to January.

That’s not to say every experience has been perfect. There are problems that occur when you try to fit a million and a half people in a small area. The cab driver that spewed racist comments during our thankfully short ride home the other day. The random person on the street screaming at me for no apparent reason. Having to walk seven blocks for beer. You know, problems.

But taken as a whole, I’m still amazed at how much I am enjoying this experience. As I walked through an unfamiliar part of town today, and headed down in the subway alone, sat on an unnaturally warm subway seat next to a bunch of strangers, I though about how the suburban me would have simply called a taxi. But I got on the train, off at my stop, and walked the few blocks back to the house and in the door smiling.

Who knows where any of us will end up. I never thought I would live in Colorado until I moved there. Pennsylvania never crossed my mind, until I moved there. Living in a city was out of the question, until I moved in to one. I’m grateful for these new opportunities and new adventures, and the people I’m meeting and the experiences that I’m having. I like finding my way out of my comfort zone and seeing the world is not as scary than I had imagined it to be.



Absolutely, Positively Nothing Bad Happened Today

10891055_500470446758705_1233219227_nThis week, the Mrs. is out of town so Junior and I are having a boy’s week. Since it’s both a work and school week, Junior and I established an efficient routine to get ready and out of the house. I take him to school on my way to work and leave early enough to pick him up at the end of the day. As much as I’m accomplishing this week and as much as I am enjoying my job, I love heading down the elevator, walking down the street to his school, and getting to pick him up and ask him all about his day.

Yesterday, I left the office, headed down the street, went in to the school, took the elevator down to the atrium, and packed up Junior’s belongings. I went to the lobby and the teacher pointed to the play room that Junior was in and we met at the door. I got an amazing hug, and as we walked back to collect his stuff, he told me that today was great and that absolutely, positively nothing bad at all happened today. But as we put on his jacket, he asked my why the principal was coming over to us.

Him telling me so enthusiastically that absolutely, positively nothing bad happened should have been my first clue that, indeed, something did happen that day. As the principal laid out the offenses, I could see Junior’s head start to lower as his master plan of making a sneaky exit was dashed. Junior’s defense was that one of the other boys was doing the same thing, to which the principal responded with the classic “If he jumped off a bridge…” question. I’m not sure if Junior had ever been asked that question before because his eyes turned to me for an indication about how to respond. Hiding a smile, I faintly shook my head “no” and Junior mirrored that response to the principal. (After we left, I tried to logically explain to a 5-year-old what the question was meant to suggest to which he responded with a smile and answering “no” to every other question I asked on the way home, probably figuring it was the safest answer.)

We got home and had another logical conversation about consequences. (I find that logic and whiteboards are the best way to communicate with a 5-year-old.) I think he understood because he took his punishment (no television, no Xbox) without complaint. There were only a few minutes of reluctance and tears before he told his mother over the phone what had happened, but he eventually did and then it was over. He felt genuinely bad for his behavior, and because the incident happened in his French class, we practiced saying “I’m sorry.” in French (Je suis désolé.) so that he could tell his teacher this morning. At his insistence, we continued practicing on the bus to school, down the elevator to the atrium, and until I left him to go to work.

Because I hate conflict and have a pathologic aversion to doing anything wrong, I was nervous picking him up today. Two bad days in a row would escalate from an incident to a pattern of behavior and then we’d have to talk about boarding school. I wasn’t ready for that conversation yet.

When I picked him up, the principal was again in the hallway and said that Junior had a better day today. Junior said “thanks” and they high-fived as we passed. I asked if he remembered what to tell his teacher, and he proudly said he did and that she said thank you.

I sometimes have a hard time remembering that my son is five and that he really hasn’t been around long enough or been in enough situations to know all the things that I expect him to know. He’s going to make a lot of mistakes, and it’s not my job to prevent him from making any mistakes, it’s my job to turn the mistakes that he does make in to lessons that will help shape him in to the person that he will become.

But even if I forget that, and even if I spend the day worrying about how he is doing in school, and even if the answer to the question is that absolutely, positively nothing bad happened, the best part of my day was still heading down the elevator at work, walking down the street to his school, and getting to pick him up and ask him all about his day.