jayellebee's Blog

May 21, 2012

Time Flies

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 11:27 pm
Tags: ,

     November, 1984 – Veteran’s Day to be precise.  Barbara and I took our five children, ages three through ten, on BART to San Francisco.   The three-year-old was my youngest son, a boy born with boundless energy.  The City was steeped in fog and the damp cold left our cheeks pink, our breath steamy.

     First stop on our day of playing tourist: Embarcadero Center.  We headed for Justin Herman Plaza and its quirky fountain with the foot path meandering between and behind numerous waterfalls.  The kids took off in a flash, jumping, chasing, having a wild time.  I hurried to catch up.

     “Michael,” I yelled, “wait for me!”

     He heard my voice, but cascading water drowned out the words.  His face turned to look back at me, but his feet never got the memo to slow down, much less stop.  The path turned.  My son didn’t.

     Forward motion carried the child too far away from the path for me to grab him.   (Picture a Road Runner cartoon with Wile E Coyote’s legs running through thin air beyond the edge of a cliff.) His head disappeared beneath the water’s surface.  Spluttering back into view, Michael’s swimming lessons from the previous summer came to the rescue.  Several flailing strokes brought his small hands to mine, saving me from having to decide whether or not to dive in after him.  One quick heft and the cherub stood in front of me, water streaming from the hood of his fleece jacket and the cuffs of his corduroys.

     Dear Barbara herded the dry quartet off to the warmth and distraction of a nearby McDonalds.  I checked the “You Are Here” sign, and discovered a shop specializing in imported European toddlers’ apparel at the far end of the center.  Michael and I headed in that direction.  Water splooshed out of his shoes with each step, leaving a trail suitable for Hansel and Gretel to follow.  I struggled to avoid the stares of people walking toward us. 

      The store manager came to her door.  “The fountain?” she asked.  I nodded and she produced a large plastic bag for Michael to stand on.  “Be sure to bathe him well tonight.  The street people wash in the fountain.”

     Perfect.  I looked at my bedraggled son, imagining what he would look like after I shaved his head.  This boy had outgrown toddler sizes long before.  The woman searched her racks and brought us the one jogging suit that might almost fit him.  A pair of matching socks completed Michael’s ensemble, which cost more than 95% of the garments in my closet at home.  Thank goodness for credit cards.

     I’d brought our well-worn, collapsible stroller on the day trip just in case my youngest tired before the older children.  Now, since he had no shoes to wear, I bundled him into the seat.  The helpful stop keeper shoveled his discarded wet clothing into a bag for me to carry, and together we tucked another  plastic bag around my son to keep the wind from biting.  I ignored the printed warning: This bag is not a toy,  keep away from children.  

     The opaque barrier served another purpose.  The older, literate children did not immediately see Michael’s shocking pink jogging suit emblazoned with the glittering words, “Party Girl.”  Barbara strolled the little guy over to the counter to buy him something hot to eat while I issued a warning about maternal mayhem befalling the first kid who teased the damp one. 

     Fast forward twenty-eight years.

     Ken and I took BART to San Francisco yesterday.  The day could not have been more user friendly.  Blue sky, gentle breeze, temp in the 70s, a bay full of boats.  We had time to spare and paused at Justin Herman Plaza.  I pointed out the fountain’s zigzagging path.

     That morning The City had hosted the annual Bay to Breakers race.  Costumed runners enhanced our people watching opportunity.  A group of five individuals dressed as super heroes, complete with capes and masks.  Three ladies in pink tights, pink wigs with attached antennae, and kelly green mini dresses straight out of the 60s.  A solo young woman who’s race number was the largest thing covering her bikini-clad body.

     The Giants and Athletics afternoon game drew a throng of fans along the pedestrian-friendly bay side.  Troops of  dancers entertained, jingle bells stitched to their trouser legs, ribbons flowing from their flowered hats.  A wiener dog sporting a visor – complete with openings for her ears – strutted and sniffed.  

     Ken and I arrived at our destination, the Epic Roasthouse restaurant.  The establishment is just north of the Bay Bridge, with an unobstructed view of Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island, the site of our wedding almost 41 years ago.  Within minutes, Michael, his fiancée Claire, and her parents joined us.  Our party of six celebrated the couple’s engagement and began the foundation for what I hope will be a lifetime of shared family moments.

     As we walked together back toward the Embarcadero BART station, I listened to Michael telling Claire about his dip in the fountain all those years before.  To my surprise, he said his brothers teased him mercilessly about the pink Party Girl outfit.  Until that very moment, I’d always believed my threat had been effective.  Sneaky, sneaky boys.

     I must be having fun.  Time has sure flown by!



  1. This is deliciously visual and maternal and funny and nostalgic and joyful. I love it. As always, strong writing. A most enjoyable read.

    Comment by Jean Georgakopoulos — May 22, 2012 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  2. A wonderful story, and I love the ending with Mike and Claire getting engaged. You must be ecstatic!

    Comment by Donna — May 29, 2012 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

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