For Fred's birthday we surprised him with a trip to the city to the Franklin Institute to see Jurassic World. Fred is a dinosaur fanatic. He has to be one of the most dedicated fans of the Jurassic Park series of movies and has seen them all dozens of times. Fred also loves riding the train, so as part of our city adventures we headed out early on a cold, sunny morning--Fred and I, Liana and Arielle, and, of course, Steven who is like one of our kids.
Right away we got off to a poor start. We have been here before! But somehow we exited the train station onto a different street and were immediately disoriented. GPS on the kids' phones to the rescue! No, we just ended up walking around in circles. I had a printed walking map with me and somehow we finally got back on track. We climbed the big steps into the museum in anticipation of a fun day.
We wandered around waiting for the appointed time to see the special exhibit. And, finally, Fred got to see his beloved dinosaurs. The exhibit is best enjoyed if you pretend you are visiting the fictional Jurassic World amusement park from the last movie. Put rational thought aside and let the danger of the scary dinosaurs thrill you! Immerse yourself in the fantasy!
Fred enjoyed the exhibit. He mentioned several times that we need to come to the city more often and how he misses when we used to take the girls to Chinatown on the train when they were little. He said maybe we still had time to go this day. I wasn't counting on us actually doing that. Fred usually runs out of steam quickly and I expected we would return home early.
We walked through a few more exhibits and then Fred suggested we walk to Reading Terminal Market. We also used to visit there on our city trips years ago. It is Philly's famous indoor farmer's market jammed packed with stalls selling just about everything you can imagine. I was a little hesitant. I was the one with the map and I needed to find a way for us to get there. It was surprisingly easy this time. We quickly walked the few long blocks as the sun set on this chilly wintry afternoon.
The market was probably as quiet as it ever is on that Sunday afternoon. It was still bustling with people, but you could actually walk down the aisles without being pushed around by the crowds. Everyone was hungry and the longest line was around a hoagie and cheesesteak place. The line snaked down one aisle with many, many people waiting to be served. I couldn't believe Fred really wanted to get food there and so did Arielle and Steven. Since I can't eat sandwiches food and Liana is not a fan either, we wandered off to find our own dinner.
We found counter space at a little Chinese place. The owners were warm and friendly despite the fact that I'm sure they had previously served hundreds of people that day and were anxious to finish up for the night. An older woman handed us a simple menu with cut-out pictures glued to names of the dishes, all covered with page protectors in a 3-ring binder. Liana and I chose well! I had delicious Singapore noodles and Liana ordered wonton with vegetables. Her dish turned out to be not your normal Chinese restaurant fare but rather homemade dumplings and bok choy in a simmering soup broth. As we ate our meals the owners worked just a couple of feet away right in front of us. Their entire kitchen was in this small narrow space and they were running a whole restaurant from it! The older woman peeled the biggest carrots I've ever seen, pulling them out a huge mesh bag. A younger woman with shiny hair scooped portions of dumpling meat from a big mound and then expertly folded it into the rolled dough. Another man was cooking noodles in an enormous pot. In spite of being so busy, the owners were so attentive to the needs of their customers.
As Liana and I enjoyed our food together in this small corner of peace created by these lovely people, I felt a surge of joy. Yes, joy! Sometimes it is hard to recognize if you haven't encountered it lately. To be here with my daughter, welcomed by friendly, smiling people, eating hot food on a cold day. Yes, it was joy.
Fred, Arielle and Steven finally got their food after we had finished ours. They got the best cheesesteak in town apparently, and they were happy with their own adventure. We left reluctantly, crossing the street to Jefferson Station. It was slow and empty on this Sunday evening and then we journeyed home, the motion of the train nearly putting us to sleep.
It was one of those days I will long remember. I write it here so my family will remember too if they come across this blog. I asked Fred if this day was worth the cost. (It cost a lot!) He said, "It's about being with our girls we love so much. It's about the memory." Not the dinosaurs or the food. It's about these kids and this moment in time.