Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bird's Eye View

It's been a pretty heavy couple of weeks and I'm pretty sure I was getting a little close to burnout. So I thought I'd share a funny story about something that happened a few weeks ago and that provided a little perspective.

Readers likely know the kids and I spent the Fourth in Milwaukee visiting a friend who moved there earlier in the year. I mentioned Summerfest, which probably a fair number of music-following folks have been to. It's staged right on Lake Michigan in a big park designed just for the occasion and which also hosts a number of festivals throughout the summer. I was impressed with the investment and energy that Milwaukee puts into running this huge event and the evident commitment it makes to its Lakefront. The kids and I did not see the new Art Museum (complete with the whale's tail solar powered...thingy) but spent almost an entire afternoon at the science center (ours kind of pales out in comparison).

Anyway, the day before we had hit Summerfest. There were probably anywhere from 20 to 30 thousand people milling around all the stages and activities and food. From one end of the park to just about the other there was this skyway express ride -- you know, like a ski lift that goes over the event. Once we were inside the park, getting a ride on that thing was pretty much my daughter's main concern, mitigated just barely by the blue ice cream cone that matched her outfit and the fresh-squeezed lemonade that followed. So I assured her that we'd catch a ride when we were getting closer to the time we'd leave the park.

We strolled around a bit and enjoyed some of the live music by bands whose names I cannot remember. We made it to the far end of the park where the British 60s hitsters The Zombies were fixing to play to a very large crowd of folks just about ten years down the road from me. We hung around for a few moments before turning back.

Finally we decided that my daughter and son and I would take the sky car thing back toward the front of the fest and our friend L would meet us on the other side. So I purchase the tickets for the ride and Little A and I hop into a car with Son of Mando right behind us.

Now, first, let me tell you a little something about my daughter. She is smarter than just about any other person on either side of her family (with the exception of her cousin in Tennessee--together, they are quite a force to be reckoned with), quite small, for the most part fearless, and generally quite a good companion if you enjoy distraction because she is always sharing her observations or asking clever questions. So the entire time leading up to the ride was simply looking forward to yet another memorable mother-daughter moment, something we'd hopefully always both remember.

Well I'll never forget it, that's for sure. The reason is that most of the people who know me well know I have an excruciating fear of heights. Now, if I'm climbing a mountain or going up the side of a building in a glass elevator or at the top of a sand dune, that's cool. But when I'm standing on a lookout platform or, say, hanging 100 or more feet in midair in a swinging school bus seat, I'm a little less comfortable.

But I'm not really thinking of these things because I'm just looking forward to hanging out with my baby girl and taking in the wonders of the view.

We grab our car, the attendant slams down the little latch gate, and away we go.

And about 45 seconds in the ride, I realize what I've gotten myself into, and that because I'm sitting next to my seven year old daughter, there ain't a damn thing I can do about it. I just gotta act cool.

My daughter meanwhile is of course delighted beyond measure at being able to take in the entire scope of Summerfest, because we are flying high above everything, including the stages. I pry my own hand off the bar in front of me to pull out her camera and snap one photo before shoving it speedily back in the bag for fear of dropping the whole thing. The alarms going off in my head force me to shut my eyes for a moment with one arm around my daughter and the other leaving a permanent mark in the bar in front of me.

Finally I open them and force myself to focus -- on my daughter and her myriad observations, on the fact that, yes we really are somwhere between 100 and 300 feet above ground and moving, then stopping, then moving, that there are full cars going in both directions with adults and children even younger than Little A and none of whom are acting the least bit terrified. We took in how many people flocked to each band. We mused as we were stopped over a makeshift beer garden that, what if someone had on flip flops and dropped them into the crowd below and it landed in someone's food? She reminded me that hey, if I am going to take up skiing, I better get used to riding htese things. I agreed but also reminded her that between the extra padding of the snow suit and the slow itself below, a fall from a ski lift might under the best conditions (we're talking Ohio, not Colorado) result in a slightly softer landing than one might experience from where we were.

Then suddenly, we were ever so slowly on our way back down. We stopped a final time near the children's area, where we could watch the kids playing in a makeshift fountain/sprinkler set up, and enjoy the first acoustic band I'd seen. Then it was on the way to the end of the line, where she and I hopped out and raced to the gate to meet our friend, where I confessed privately that I didn't know what the hell I was thinking.

But in the end, I love the memory of my tiny girl next to me in her smiley face hat, high above it all, taking it in stride and assuring her mother that this was what fun was all about. She's right. Why can't I be more like her, a little less fearful, a little more ready for life's great adventures, taking it all in stride? She has her moments like everyone else but she's always ready to catch a big wave and go. She doesn't worry about things, and granted, while that's to some degree because she has a fair number of people to worry about them for her, she seems to have a certain kind of inner balance, at her age a wisdom of what's important and what's just part of everyday stuff.

It was a good lesson for me, and I really will never forget it. I just hope I can get my arms around all that's going on and find a way to not let it take over the all too rare time I have with my children or for my own recouperation. At the end of the day, much of this is self-inflicted, as it is with all of us. I have to remember that most things offer a choice, right down to whether I work, play, sing, train, sleep, stay up, parent, defer, move, stay. And I can either stay on the ground where its safe, and miss stuff, or climb in the car and get high above it all just long enough to see a few things I didn't see before.

Please check out this favorite tune of mine by a true first lady of Bluegrass, Claire Lynch. The words really ring true about being open to the changes and challenges that can make us better people, bring us closer to purpose, and find more meaning in our crazy lives if we just stop and pay attention for a moment. It's called "Be Ready To Sail" and you can enjoy Claire and her band performing it at Bluegrass in the Smokies by clicking here.

4 Comments:

At July 27, 2008 9:32 PM, Blogger Bob said...

Right on. It goes by fast! Y'know, "Zooooooommmmm!"

My girls are growin up, but they are still around quite a bit. I'm soakin it up. Gonna miss KC when she returns for SR year... couple weeks. :-(

Nice story. Thanks fer sharin!

 
At July 28, 2008 10:03 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Good story Mando. Kids can afford to be fearless because you're there to take care of them. They have nothing to lose. Sure, they might get hurt but if you're a good parent they will be confident that you'll make sure they are okay. By the time you get to be our age, you life becomes full of fears. Unfortunately, most kids won't retain that fearlessness either. Still, it's good to enjoy it while you can, and let her puch you a little bit.

 
At July 28, 2008 12:18 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

I used to be fearless on the scariest rides. I even fell down into the floor area of a "scrambler" and still wanted to get back on.

I haven't gotten on a ride in years, and don't feel the need.

I loved the Zombies. I'll bet they still sound the same.

 
At July 28, 2008 5:55 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi y'all,
Bob, it does go fast, but it sure doesn't feel that way 200 feet in the air on a seat half the depth of a toilet seat! Thank goodness I had great company.

Don, you are right. It's really about fear, and what happens to us over time to become more, not less, afraid. I thought I was swinging back in the other direction but now I'm not sure I'm all that evolved! Don't worry, she's good at pointing out my adult side every chance she gets!

Blueberry, I think the last ride I went on was a Tilt-A-Whirl after a classic Nags Head seafood dinner. I didn't feel so good after that. I did always like that spider thingy. Little amusement rides were a bigger deal to me as a kid since we never had any around, but I still have not ridden a rollercoaster and am not convinced I'm missing anything. I can't imagine I wouldn't pass out and fall off the damn thing anyway.

The Zombies were pretty cool. We were around for a little bit of the sound check before I took my fateful trip over the heads of many a Summerfestarian.

 

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