Here is something that is true about all mommies.
We dream huge dreams for our children.
From the very first day of our babies' lives - if not back to the days in which they were mere dreams themselves - we mothers stockpile our wants and wishes for their futures. Sometimes, we wish for our children to enjoy the same comforts and pleasures that we experienced in our own childhoods. But at other times, we hope to fill in the holes - to give to our kids what we ourselves lacked.
And that is where my story begins today.
Pretty twinkle lights at the top end of Freeway Park lend an air of magic and celebration.
I grew up in the country.
Oh, I had fine adventures there,
swinging from trees,
and venturing off into the countryside at a most tender age.
That was a fabulous way to live, and I wouldn't change a minute of it.
But another part of me always longed for the city.
The back side of the Lindeman Pavilion is one big trompe l'oeil painting. We used to stand and marvel endlessly at this clever illusion.
Now let me be clear. I never wanted to live in the city. No, no. Way too noisy and crowded and stuffed full of humans for my taste.
Sometimes we were lucky enough to find parking on the street, often in front of the classic beauty of this apartment building on University.
Instead, I yearned for adventures in the city.
Just short jaunts into a crowded metropolis,
to feel that pulsing energy that only comes from an urban center,
to crane my neck up and stare at towering skyscrapers,
to cross busy streets with throngs of fellow pedestrians,
to feel at home in a land of sidewalks and traffic lights and buildings that crowd up to the very edges of the streets.
On the top floor of the Lindeman Pavilion is an open-air courtyard. On warm, sunny days, we would buy lunch in the hospital cafeteria, then take our meal up there in the sunshine.
Now, eventually, I did all those things. After graduating from university, I moved to the big city of Chicago, and made all my dreams come true.
Even got to be pro at hailing taxi cabs and riding the subway.
The back sides of buildings along Boren Avenue.
But when my daughters began to arrive in my cozily suburban life, I realized that I wanted my own children to grow up feeling at home in the city.
I had no idea how I would actually accomplish that.
Mothers' dreams can be unhelpfully vague at times.
The front door of the main hospital. We used this entrance almost exclusively on the days when a new baby was born, and it carried great significance in our memories.
Interestingly, I got by without a plan. As is often the case in life, I made one good decision that led to another, and another, and another.
I decided to give birth to my children at Virginia Mason, a sprawling hospital on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Then, I chose a pediatrician at the same location.
And for the next ten years or so, we made many, many happy trips to this interesting corner of the city.
Trees and windows. Windows and trees.
There were dozens of maternity check-ups at my nurse-midwives' office, with many little helpers on hand to help check my blood pressure and listen to the newcomer's heartbeat.
And an endless stream of well-care visits for the already-born crowd. Our pediatrician kept us entertained with his amazing wardrobe of colorful ties and an uncanny ability to guess what his patients had eaten for breakfast, just by feeling their tummies on the exam table.
The concrete corridor of Freeway Park connects the core of downtown Seattle with Capitol Hill, smoothly transporting pedestrians over the mad chaos that is Interstate 5.
My husband worked nearby, and often hiked up the hill through Freeway Park to join us. We usually met him at the upper end of the walkway maze, and it was a true right of passage when the girls were old enough to venture down the first few flights of stairs to meet him once he came into sight.
Pink camellias grown in wild abundance here, and bloom earlier than any other place I know.
The neighborhood around the hospital became one of our favorite playgrounds. We knew which bushes had the prettiest flowers, which parking garages had the best stairways, and how to make shortcuts through the buildings in order to stay dry on rainy days.
Bushes and checkerboards. Checkerboards and bushes.
We crossed the busy street via the skybridge, and paused for long, luxurious looks down on the hurrying cars below.
We learned to navigate elevators but preferred stairwells, where our echoing voices and stomping feet took on a life of their own.
Best of all were the four glorious days when new baby girls were born unto us. The first of the four birth-days was a bit more sedate, since there were no older siblings to help welcome her. But for the younger three, we had lovely sidewalk parades of ecstatic toddlers carrying hand-picked bouquets and their own baby dolls as they came to visit me and greet their new sister.
The view of Buck Pavilion from the Ninth Street parking garage. Just looking at this sight makes me want to load up a baby in a backpack and grab the diaper bag.
And somehow, over all those days and weeks and months and years, my little girls became, at least part of the time, accomplished and experienced city girls.
* * * * *
After a decade or so of our adventures, Virginia Mason began to open satellite clinics in suburban areas. With a new office located just ten minutes from home, our trips to the big hospital downtown became unnecessary. We ventured into other parts of Seattle, but our frequent visits to this familiar neighborhood became a thing of the past.
* * * * *
Unexpectedly, my recent gallbladder drama brought me back down to the big hospital last week for surgery, and again today, for a post-surgical check-up, I took some time to wander by myself through the old familiar neighborhood and remember fondly all our adventures from days gone by.
Though younger mothers may cluck their tongues in sympathy and make the reasonable assumption that I must have felt a sense of sadness and loss that my daughters' childhood days are over, quite the opposite is true.
We mommies all dream great dreams for our children.
And it feels AMAZING to realize that those dreams have happily, perfectly and completely come true.
Hiking downhill feels almost as good as knowing your dreams have come true.