After a grumpy week, we finally ventured out of the house on Friday evening to try to find something to love about our new town. We almost didn’t make it, since Jonah took a late nap and woke up unwilling to go anywhere or do anything, but somehow Kristin got everybody to the car and they met me downtown (where I’ve been using a co-working space during the week).
Downtown Kalamazoo does a first Fridays thing with art from local artists in a variety of downtown venues, sometimes music, free wine in the occasional shop. I remember it from when we lived here before and it seems to be an even bigger deal now. We decided to start by taking the kids to Bronson Park, a block away from most of the activity. Jonah loved the canon (not because it was a canon, but because it could be climbed) and didn’t want to explore any further than that.
After a bit, we decided that we wanted to move towards the fountain in the middle of the park, but Jonah stubbornly decided that he wasn’t leaving his perch. Because we’re accustomed to him digging in his heels, it’s not unusual for us to simply walk away, knowing that he’ll follow when he sees that we’re serious.
While I showed Jude the fountain and Kristin brought Vivi over, I could hear Jonah yelling for me to come to him, but continued to motion to him that he needed to come with us. It took me a number of minutes before I walked close enough to hear him yelling “Mama D! I pooped in my underwear!” in a park swarming with people looking for Pokemon. Of course. I took him back to the car for a change and we continued with our evening.
We headed for the mall where most of the action was happening. Two initial observations about people in Kalamazoo: #1. People are ridiculously friendly. It really has been such a pleasure dealing with customer service here. At one booth two women chatted with us for ages and told Kristin that she has to hang out with a mutual friend of theirs who teaches at the same school. #2. People have a LOT of local pride here. I can’t even tell you how many Michigan tees we saw on people. Not just for sale (and everywhere sells them) but on everyone. SO MANY MICHIGAN SHIRTS. That would just never happen in New York. New Yorkers don’t wear I Heart NY shirts.
We also had a very “we’re not in Kansas anymore” encounter in the store just behind Vivi and Jonah in the picture above. I’m still don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s a cute store with some nice gift type stuff: candles, olive oil, handy small kitchen tools you might not even think of, tote bags etc. We saw that they had free wine so we went in. The twins were in the stroller and getting whiny because they wanted to be free, so Kristin hung back and took them out while I went to the counter to get wine. While Jonah was taking apart a salad spinner, I grabbed two plastic cups from the woman working and told her that one was for my wife who was in the corner with the babies (and I gestured towards her). I didn’t want the woman to think that I was taking an extra for myself, since there was a line. I took the wine to Kristin, who drank it and then stepped outside. A moment or two later, the clerk walked over to me and said something along the lines of: “When you told me that you were getting wine for your wife, I just thought that was so cool. I’ve never had that before! And then I looked over and saw your little family. Congratulations!”
Do I need to mention how bizarro this felt? To be honest, when she said “I’ve never had that before” I almost said “Sorry, had what?” I was SO dumbfounded. And actually, once I realized what she was talking about, I was embarrassed for her. I kept waiting for her to realize how absurd and awkward this was, and how unnecessary it was for her to come over to congratulate me on…what exactly? My comfort using the word wife? We got married ten years ago. But she never seemed to grasp the awkwardness. I only escaped when Jonah took that opportunity to bolt from the store towards the turtle sculpture outside, and I had to say “My three-year-old just ran for that turtle. Clearly we’re just as crazy as any other family with tiny kids. Gotta go!”
I’m not offended by things like that, and I can tell when someone means well (assume best intentions is a good motto to live by) but we walked away marveling at what a different planet this place can feel like. That would just never happen in New York. It must be how interracial adoptive families feel when total strangers come up and tell them what good people they are and how wonderful their family is.
We moved on to the next climbable sculpture, the seal in the photos above. It actually took Jude awhile before he wanted to climb because he was absolutely rapt watching a young woman play the violin. He couldn’t stop watching, which was pretty adorable.
It was a nice night, and we walked away feeling a little bit better about things. Even Jonah didn’t want to leave; as we walked to the car he insisted that he wanted to go to “more places.”