Weekends with My Kids

In 1991 I lived on the back porch of a house in Berkeley and my kids stayed with me on weekends. My daughter was nine and my son, four. Every weekend I tried to take them somewhere. I generally told them it would be an adventure, but more often than not, we would spend a day wandering around Chinatown and North Beach, or the Mission District. Living close to a Bart Station, it was easier to ride into San Francisco than it was to drive, and the few times I drove would be to get us to Golden Gate Park and the Natural History Museum early, before the parking was gone. I had a few places that I was fond of and in Chinatown one was Waverly Alley with the fortune cookie factory next door to my friend the barber. The light came into the alley from an angle, and the shadows of fire escapes and laundry made some great photographs possible. If we were able to get into the City early we would stop at the Triple A Bakery for “gai mei bows”, and with mouths watering, would carry them to the playground where I could have a cup of tea and a roll, and watch the kids after they ate theirs while they played on the structures. On one trip I had taken my eyes off Ben for a moment, and when I looked for him he had vanished. New York City can’t have many places denser than San Francisco’s Chinatown. It would be impossible to describe the flash of anxiety that coursed through my brain at the moment I ran to the street from the playground and looked both ways and saw hundreds of people on the sidewalks, cars impatiently driving up the hill, but no kid. I grabbed my daughter and we started to look in the shops next to the playground. At the second door I was able to see down a long dark passageway an elderly man in a chair laughing and looking at a small, white haired boy, who was pointing excitedly at the exotic fish in a huge tank on a shelf above his head. I know this is when my thinning hair began to turn grey.

One Response to “Weekends with My Kids”

  1. so how would I have ended up had you not found me? Perhaps I’d be making business trips to Shanghai! …or fishing! It wasn’t until recently that I made the connection between my fascination in Chinese and Japanese culture and the many days we spent in Chinatown. The nostalgia I feel there is more deflating than any other I’ve felt; our memories can be rather cruel when they want to be…

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