I recently heard Neil Gaiman tell an interviewer that getting old involved doing fewer and fewer things for the first time.
I came up with a cure for that kind of aging that involves two parts:
1. Do something you’ve done before in a new way.
2. Bring a kid who is still doing everything for the first time.
A couple days ago my four year old Quinton and I stepped out of our car culture and took the train to Seattle. (I hear Q in my head correcting me: “Not car, Mom. The VAN!)
At first, I was afraid we might not make it. The parking lot was packed, and we hadn’t left early enough for me to figure out what to do. We ran from the spot I found 2 blocks away and raced to the ticket booth where — thank the heavens above — we found a man in a reflective transit jacket maneuvering a wheelchair with a guide dog at his side. He had seen my distress at the fancy ticket machine and offered to help us, got us tickets, and told me Q was free (FREE!).
(Yes, I had tried to figure this out before. No, I had apparently not worked the websites enough to understand. I’d like to think of this as being youthful rather than uninformed, if you don’t mind.)
With his wonderful help, we even had a few moments to spare before the train came. Quinton spent the time bouncing and saying: “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!”
As the Sounder rolled in, we climbed the stairs to sit up on the second level. At 8:00am, most of the commuters had already made it to work, so we had the place almost to ourselves.
We saw my ancient middle school Dieringer that is now a construction company along with the power station the no longer moves the waters of Lake Tapps where I grew up. I thought for a moment how often I saw the trains go by when I was in school (long before the Sounder came to be). Looking at the world from the train’s side twisted my perspective just enough to make the whole scene familiar but strange – like a new old experience.
The country rolled by and I loved how easy it was to get to Seattle without traffic jam stress. Another family climbed on board at Sumner with excited kids and content parents and grandparents. Quinton eavesdropped and was impressed that they were talking about ‘not burning gas.’
“Burning gas!?!” he said to me, loud enough to let the family know he heard.
From King Station, we took the link to Westlake and then the monorail to the Armory (which I still want to call the Center House).
We played in the Children’s Museum, then the fountain and then the museum again until one o’clock when the museum lost it’s appeal to me (not to Quinton – he could have stayed there longer if I could have taken one more round on the fake mountain looking at the plastic bugs under fake rocks).
The 3:12 train back home was just about perfect. We got back exhausted and pleased with ourselves. Quinton is already planning our return trip.
It wasn’t international travel. But it was an adventure. It felt like doing something for the first time (complete with the edge of fear that we might get lost and stranded) – a way to be young again for me and to finally get on one of those trains for Q. Mission accomplished.
Even if you don’t have a kid around to egg you on, I strongly recommend looking for new ways to do old things. The adventure will add a zip to your days.