Today I realized that, even after all our adventures, my daughter is a Country Mouse. You know the old story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse?
Vivi doesn’t know much about navigating a city. She thunders down the sidewalk and manages to slam into the only other pedistrian on the block. She doesn’t know which way to face when we stand on a curb waiting for a light. And the light? Good grief. Two years ago when we went to DC, I tried to explain to her that the red hand means stop and the white man means walk. That turned into “White man! Walking!” Which she proceeded to SHOUT every time we crossed a street. That’s now become an inside joke with us.
My sister lives in a busy city, so this stuff is second nature to her. She knows which direction of traffic has the right of way, even without the White Man Walking. She glides across streets whenever the notion takes her (or she smells coffee). Today, she stepped out into the road so many times I decided we would start calling it Gay Walking instead of jay walking.
And by the way? San Francisco is a funny town when your name is “Gay.” I learned that last time we were here after I was trying to get her attention in a crowd and yelled, “GAY!” Half the place turned around.
It takes me a while to adjust to a city, too. Vivi comes by her Country Mouseness honestly. There are so many sounds and I lack some filter that blocks out the unimportant ones. Everyone walks so fast and no one is lost. There are people here who actually know how to ride BUSES. I can’t even.
New York is easy–when I’m lost, I just hail a cab. Here…no cabs. I’m sure there are some, but I can’t find them. Because lost. And we’re staying in an apartment instead of a hotel, so no taxi stand or doorman to help. Good Lord…did I just say that?
Traveling with my sister has spoiled Vivi and me rotten. She got tired today and whined, “Can’t we just get a taxiiiiii?” I pretended that wasn’t a fantastic idea. Thanks to Aunt Gay and the Uber private car app, Vivi now thinks that large black SUVs with very clean interiors just magically appear for us when we wait by a curb. Last year when we took her ice skating at Rockefeller Center, I got a deep sense of foreboding after Vivi stood on the crowded curb and said, “Is our car here yet?” Girl, please. I’m going to have to teach her how to ride the bus. Or find someone who can.
I have a pretty good sense of direction, but San Francisco discombobulates me. I think it’s because the water is east even though the Pacific Ocean is west. And the hills upon hills upon hills–can’t see anything! With all this newness to navigate, only one solution came to mind: we needed to get high.
We climbed allllll the way up Telegraph Hill (seriously, it’s like a 60 degree slant) to the fresh breezes and blue sky around Coit Tower. From the pinnacle, we showed Vivi Alcatraz, the piers, the Golden Gate. Gay traced back through the maze of streets and pointed out the house we’re renting.
Vivi wanted to see the house for herself. I pointed off into the distance. “See that gray house there? Find the diagonal street then go up a couple of blocks and that’s it, past the tennis courts at that playground we walked by.” She grew frustrated when she still couldn’t find it.
Then I realized–Vivi has no idea what a tennis court looks like from a quarter mile away. She doesn’t know how to measure a block. It’s all so much, so new. And she’s still learning. The only way to learn about the great wide world is to get out in it and explore.
We came back down to earth from the tower height. We did a little more Gay Walking and managed to get back home. Here we sit, back at the apartment in the room we are sharing. Vivi’s already asleep. I can’t shut out the noise from Lombard Street.
All of it–all of it–is turning into stories that we will share together.