Detroit, You’re One Classy City

Detroit, I’m throwing a big kiss out to you and your collective peoples. Thanks to you, my daughter and I had one of the best afternoons of our lives within your borders. You were generous with your parking, impressive with your entertainment and replete with warm-hearted folks who went out of their way for a 3-year-old girl.

Last Sunday, a kind college friend gave us her tickets to the Joffrey Ballet at the Detroit Opera House. My decision to take my preschooler instead of a friend or family member was a bit fool-hearty. After all, is there a better recipe for disaster than a tantrum-throwing tot inside a nearly silent adult sanctuary?

Yet I decided to risk it. You parents out there might understand. I have two children: a demanding older son and a patient younger sibling. You see where I’m going with this. She puts up with all of his attention-grabbing ways six days a week. So I grabbed the opportunity to share a few hours with her – just the two “grills” as my son puts it.

We are a blue-jean family, so I also relished the idea of dressing up together. She got dolled up as only little girls can: white tights, Mary Jane shoes and a purple dress with a fur collar. Mom was more practical seeing that I would need to book out of the balcony within seconds if she started screeching. And if you have a daughter, you know one thing: Those small lungs have an incredible capacity for sound.

The two of us cruised into the city, singing whatever song came onto the radio. More accurately, she sang and told me to shush on many occasions. We were early in hopes of prowling around the Opera House at our leisure. As such, we found street parking just across the street from that luscious building. Take that, you flag-waving, orange-vested “Parking $10” guy. Detroit can be kind in strange and mysterious ways – and that includes street parking when you least expect it.

Upon entering, we got the usual “oohs” and “aahs” that accompany a cute little cherub in her mother’s arms. We also got the usual dirty looks, suspicious glares and angry faces. Bah. I expected that. But I was prepared: a large purse that doubled as an amusements container. By the time we got to our seats, she had already dug through it to find some yogurt pretzels, mints, a bag of Goldfish crackers, crayons and paper, a few M&Ms and an assortment of shiny things. (Hey, she’s 3. A girl’s gotta eat.)

We made it through half of the performance before she decided that was it. “It’s too dance-y,” was her explanation for why we had to sit in the lobby, eat $7 potato chips and drink $4 soda pop during the second half. That was fine by me. My chest practically hurt with the simple joy of sitting next to this salty creature, so calm and content with her treat.

As we wandered our way to the door, three separate people tried to help us find another seat she might enjoy. An usher offered us seats on the main level right on the aisle. A coat-check woman suggested the above-referenced lobby with the television set. A doorman recommended the adjoining restaurant where they often tune into the performance. They all looked so pained that she might miss any of the beautiful ballet. But she had seen all the toe points she could stand, I told them. I was immensely thankful for their thoughtfulness– that is everything I hope for and have come to expect in Detroit.

This is what makes our city great: the simple kindnesses we do for each other. How much have you changed in the past few years of our economic and social decline here? Everyone has suffered in varying degrees. Did it bring out your sympathy for your fellow man and woman? It did for me. We took the pay cuts, worried through the bankruptcies, watched in fear as our property values plummeted. Still, our communities survived.

I don’t want to be a complete simpleton here. It was just a few hours of leisure with my kid. But I could not help but feel completely blissed out with my city that afternoon. You gave me a memory that, I hope, will remain forever in my parental heart. So, kudos, Detroit. You done good.

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