Thursday, November 18, 2010
Corners of My City
The other day, I snapped this photo of my children, enjoying a moment in one of their very favorite places in the whole world. This is a phone booth near a store we frequent. Each week, after we lock up our bikes, my older son carefully opens the door to the phone booth, I scan it for anything unsafe or unusual, and then we gleefully pile inside.
In the last few weeks alone, this phone booth has been transformed into a rocket ship, an Amtrak sleeper car, a squirrel house, a busy restaurant serving only pancakes and pumpkins, and one of Saturn's moons. This phone booth has revived the spirits of a frustrated toddler, given an exhausted mother a moment of peace, and illuminated the grayest morning in recent memory. Even a mention of the phone booth can distract the most determinedly cranky child for a few minutes. It is our errands day sanctuary.
Before I started to run this errand (and all others) by bike, I don't believe we ever set foot in this place. In the rush of getting from car to store, we hadn't ever considered stopping to look over this little corner of our city. But when a family arrives by bike, it is easier to see things. You are moving at a pace from which it is possible to get a good look at what is around you. You stop and park your bike and spend a couple of minutes locking up while the children have a 360 degree view of their world. The children start to point out the big birds' nest on that one streetlamp. They know the places where herons sometimes fish. They give names to the engines at the fire station and put squirrel houses in the phone booth.
Why do I choose to get around my city by bike? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most important one is this: it's fun. My greatest fear about making the leap from car to bicycle transport was that my children wouldn't like it. I had no idea that it would become the one part of our day that I can count on to improve everyone's mood. In the rain, in the wind, even on what used to be our most tedious errand, we love to get out on our bikes. For hundreds of reasons. And one of them is this little glass-walled spot.