I’m just now beginning to clear out the mountains of flotsam and jetsam that have washed ashore in my home the last couple months (it has been an epic couple months – enough said). In the tidying (“tidying” is surely the wrong word to use – but I don’t know if there’s a strong enough word for what we’ve got going on here), I came upon the brochure for the Pompeii Exhibit my sons and I attended at the Seattle Science Center during Memorial weekend. The Pompeii Exhibit had been a last-minute thing – I’d managed to buy three of the last tickets for the night before the exhibit closed down and went back to Naples. Ever since I’d read a story about Pompeii in a National Geographic years ago, I’d been fascinated by what archaeologists found there, and was pretty excited to have the opportunity to see it all for myself.
But when I came upon the brochure, the first memory that came to me of our time in Seattle wasn’t of the exhibit – but of an observation my eldest son had made about two hours into our adventure – and I started laughing out loud.
Background: The day hadn’t gone as I’d expected. The roads to the Science Center were unusually crowded, there was road work going on which led me to turn where I don’t usually turn, and finding a parking spot seemed surprisingly difficult. I remember thinking that the Pompeii Exhibit must be really popular.
We’d finally managed to find a parking space in a parking garage and walked over a pedestrian bridge into the Seattle Center. As we entered the Center I noticed official-looking people handing out fliers – this was my first clue that we’d walked innocently into a major event – and then, as we stepped past the gates into a colossal mass of humanity I remembered – duh! – Memorial weekend is the annual weekend for the Folklife Festival at the Seattle Center. Folklife is HUGE!!! – a zany, eclectic extravaganza of dancing, art, and music – bagpipes, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and folk music blending together and filling the air with a lively (and kind of weird) cacophony of chords and non-chords. And people EVERYWHERE!
We were all hungry and decided that, instead of going to the Cheesecake Factory – which had been our original plan – we’d just buy something to eat at one of the Folklife kiosks. We decided to get gyros. Once we got our gyros we started to look around for a table we could sit around while we ate – but there was no table space anywhere – so we began looking for somewhere to, at least, sit. After we’d been walking for maybe five minutes, one of the sons pointed to my shirt and grinned – my gyro had leaked out its white sauce all over my front. I am not exaggerating. I was covered in Tzatziki sauce.
Desperate now to eat my gyro I plunked down, cross-legged, onto the lawn near the Seattle Center fountain and began to eat my oozing, dripping dinner. I was so obviously in need of help at this point that a kind young father noticed my struggles and, laughing with me at my predicament, handed me a wad of baby wipes from his family’s stash. I tried to wipe off the gyro juice, but I just seemed to be embedding it deeper into my shirt. Finally I threw what was left of my gyro away, and went in search of some place I could hose myself down. I held out my shirt in front of a faucet in a restroom and washed out the Tzatziki, then looked around for a dryer – but this appeared to be one of the few restrooms left on earth that had paper towels instead of dryers. So I tried to brush myself off with a paper towel – but the little tan fibers from the towel stuck to my shirt, looking something like… well… puke.
I came out of the restroom. I looked at my sons. They looked at me. When we’d found we were in the middle of Folklife Festival we’d decided not to go to the Cheesecake Factory, but now I really wanted a piece of cheesecake. That half of a juicy gyro just hadn’t done it for me.
I thought I knew where the Cheesecake Factory was from the Seattle Center. We boarded the monorail and alighted near Fifth and Pine. I knew the Cheesecake Factory was on Seventh. I began marching up Pine, the sons following behind me. And this is when my eldest son said the line that had me laughing out loud in remembrance a month later: “So we get to the place where the Cheesecake Factory is supposed to be, and it’s been blown up and demolished, and Mom looks at the vacant lot for a minute, and then moves on to the next thing.” And just as he finished saying that line, we got to the corner of Seventh and Pine and I looked across the street – to the place where I thought the Cheesecake Factory should be – and found myself looking at a vacant lot. I looked at it for a minute – in a sort of stoical acceptance – and then wondered if maybe the Cheesecake Factory was at Seventh and Pike instead of Seventh and Pine. Our little troop turned right, walked a block, and found the Cheesecake Factory.
The rest of our evening went without a hitch – we had our just desserts at the restaurant – and it was great! – and then went back to the Seattle Center for the Pompeii Exhibit – which was also great!
But a month later, when I found the Pompeii brochure, what I remembered first was my son making me laugh on the corner of Seventh and Pine.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
Bagpiper in Hawaiian shirt at the Seattle Folklife Festival (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell).