To the Limits

When I was as old as my youngest daughter is now I had limits set that allowed me to journey far and wide unsupervised.

When I was a couple years younger than what my oldest daughter is now, I had a wide circle of city blocks in which I was permitted to journey unsupervised.  The boundaries were marked by various landmarks more than streets.  I could go as far as the Black Cat which was a small shop on a seaside road, basically where the sidewalk ended and the road became too narrow and too twisted to safely walk or travel on by bicycle.  The other landmark was what I would consider the next village where there was a couple of blocks of park separating the next shopping street.  The north and south were marked by natural boundaries like the forest up the mountain, and the ocean to the south.  A vast expanse for a young child, but in reality it was not especially far.  However, it does push the limits of what most modern day ‘helicopter’ parents would allow.

For less then 10 Euros I just put my eldest daughter on the bus to Stuttgart to be met by her grandparents.  On a weekly basis the same daughter travels from school on various trains and street cars.  She is smart, and can, we believe, handle herself in different situations.  It still feels a bit like she has by bus, gone far beyond where I traveled alone at her age.  Then again, I doubt my own parents knew what I was up to between my day long trips out with friends.

Maybe my parents will be surprised about what I write, but I can remember one early October day when my best friend and I took a bus to downtown Vancouver into the heart of Chinatown.  Together we boldly walked into a store selling all sorts of things from housewares to what looked like dried chicken feet in glass bottles in the display window.  We asked for firecrackers which were illegal and we were, after some sideways glances of the shop owner, led to a back room behind a beaded curtain where there were piles and piles of firecrackers wrapped in red waxy paper into what looked like bricks.  We bought all we could afford and invested in one special firecracker listed as a 1/4 stick of dynamite.  (I very much doubt it was a what it said it was, but at least the blast was extraordinary.)  On the return trip I seem to recall an idea that we would disembark in Stanley Park and then walk over the Lions Gate Bridge so that we could spit down  into the sea water far below.

It seems strange to think about these things now that I am a parent and my daughter sends me WhatsApp messages from the bus to Stuttgart.  While it is good to have limits and boundaries, it certainly an interesting social experiment when in Freiburg there has been in the University quarter of town, a lengthy construction project.  The site is now an open public space, but there were delays due to the unearthing of the Old Synagogue.  Now that the area has finally opened and the water fountains have turned on, it is like all of Freiburg has now entered the space that was once blocked by wire fencing and heavy machinery.  A tidal wave of people has flooded into the space.

Nearby to this new public area is a newly renovated café called the Schwarze Katze in which I met some people from around the city.  Given the name ‘The Black Cat Café’ I just had to go and reflect on what was a much smaller and far more distant Black Cate Café of my childhood.  While I was sitting alone in the café I realized I was coming close to reaching my own limits, not in geography, but in a personality that was seated nearby.  A young blonde male student perched cheerfully on the end of a beer bench, and started to chat away to some of the young women that joined the table.  All this would be fine and normal, but for the hat that was on his head – a bright red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat from a Donald Trump rally.  As the conversations at the table became louder, the rhetoric became more apparent.  People began to turn and stare, one passerby seemed so shocked he distractedly fell into the small water channel that borders most of the streets in Freiburg.  The young guy had enough sense to figure that people were not pleased with his attire, nor his words, and he turned the ball cap around on his head.  We had all reached our limit.

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