Monday, February 20, 2012

Learning to Navigate

The ballet competition was in Denver.  Metro Denver is populated by about 2.7 million people which makes it the largest city my boy has visited (at least since he has been old enough to be aware of a thing like population).  It was my first time in Denver and even though I am generally pretty good driving in unfamiliar cities, I learned that it was because I usually have a good navigator.  I thought my rental car was coming with a GPS.  It didn't.

We picked up a free map of Colorado from our hotel lobby and ventured out.

Denver has a rather confusing set of freeways.  The thing about freeways is, you can't slow way down and ponder the signs littering the sky just above the road.  You have no time to wonder if that small arrow is one you should follow or if that would simply lead you to another freeway.  The other thing about freeways is that you can't do a U-turn to correct an error.  You have to stick with your bad decision for what sometimes turns out to be a considerable amount of time.

After the first few mistakes and becoming afraid I was going to kill us both in a high-speed, fiery crash, I decided to give up trying to read the folded paper map in my lap and turned the responsibility over to my passenger.

Now, at the kitchen table, he has no trouble reading and understanding a map, but map reading is a whole different story when you are sitting in the front seat of a fast-moving vehicle with your mother calling out road names and highway numbers and demanding to know whether she should turn right or left and after you tell her the direction she tells you that your plan has a one-way street that is going the wrong one-way and that that means you have to alter your plan because one-way streets aren't labeled on your map.  And there are a lot of cars.  By the end of our weekend, he was getting very good.  New skill learned.

Driving downtown was a lot of fun.  He had never seen buildings this tall in real life.  

Sometimes as an adult, we forget to notice things.  Driving downtown with my son who had never seen skyscrapers, I was reminded that these buildings really are cool.

"Oh, Mom!  A yellow taxi!"

At one point in my journey regarding our son's ballet talent, I realized that all of the good ballet companies are in big cities.  I've never wanted to live in a big city with it's crime and traffic and prices and polluted air.  For my children, I've always wanted wide open spaces, green fields, and tall trees.  When I realized that my son would probably live most of his adult life in a big city, I literally broke down and cried.  (It should be noted here that it was late at night and my thinking was getting more and more fuzzy.)  In a heartfelt prayer, I explained to Heavenly Father that big cities are horrible places and I never wanted to send my child there.  Do you know what I heard, in that patient, loving voice that always answers my pleas?

"Emily.  A lot of people live in cities."

I was struck dumb.  My tears dried in an instant as the realization dawned.  Um, yes.  A lot of people DO live in cities.  They are happy there.  There are wonderful things about big cities.  There are many good and kind and gentle people in cities.

I shook my head and laughed at myself.  Then, I went to bed, because that was the second thing that the patient, loving voice said.

Do you know what we found among the towering, shining office buildings?
Churches.  Many, many churches.

Thank you for hosting us, Denver.  We had a fabulous time on your concrete and within your glass and steel.


  1. San Francisco and St. Louis are two cities that I really don't like, for exactly this reason. We were lost in SF for probably about an hour or so trying to find our way out. All because in order to go north, you have to get on the southbound freeway entrance. Makes perfect sense (if you're from SF :P ). In St. Louis, I was trying to head east. I had printed directions from MapQuest, which I followed. It said get on freeway number something-or-other, so I got on that freeway. After a half hour of going no more than 25 miles an hour (middle of the day, not even the traditional rush hour), I was finally so happy to just be going that it took me another half hour to realize that the sign I was looking for still hadn't shown up, and I was way past where it should have been. I finally realized that was because I was going south, not east. Took me 3 hours of driving through the back woods of Kentucky to get where I was supposed to be.

    As for cities, I've lived in some of the biggest in the US. They certainly have their advantages. Simply just being bigger means that there is more - more culture, more opportunities, more diversity. One of my favorite things about Miami was this little all night drive through grocery store. At 3am, you could pull through one side, place your order for a gallon of milk and a can of soup and a box of cereal, and drive around to the other side to pick it up. It was about the size of a regular gas station convenience store, but had a slightly larger selection and the convenience of not having to get out of the car. That's one thing a big city does well, this sense of something for everyone.

  2. What an adventure! I agree with you on the big city- I much prefer wide open space and a slower pace, but there are some nice things about big cities too. I'm sure your boy will do fine and he'll be one of those wonderful people that live in a big city.