Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Heaven and Hell

It was Saturday night and I was amongst thousands of like-minded people singing along with Chris Tomlin under a canopy of stars.
The evening was warm, although there was a cool wind blowing and I was bursting with thankfulness. Thankful that I was there at that place. Appreciative of the Columbia River, the Gorge, the clear skies, the awesome display of stars above, the friends beside me and my kids (hopefully worshiping along) in the pit in front of me.
There was no place on earth that I would have rather been.
My soul was at peace.
And every one of my senses was exploding with appreciation for the beauty around me.

The following Saturday night, I was again amongst many like-minded people (hundreds of thousands of them) all anticipating a world class fireworks display. Like the previous Saturday night, the air was warm, the night sky was clear, my kids were somewhere close by …and yet. And yet I did not have the warm fuzzies.

I had the fuzz warmies. I was a tad nervous. Apprehensive. Outside of my comfort zone.

Going to the fireworks is an annual event for me. I pack up a couple blankets, a backpack or two with snacks, my camera, and fill the truck to capacity with as many bodies as want to join me. For eight years I’ve found the exact same parking lot near 4th and Yew and without fail I seem to snag the last available spot regardless of what time I arrive. We spend the early part of the evening hanging out on Kits Beach, with me holding down the fort as the kids wander. Even though we watch the fireworks show from across the bay, it’s always been pretty spectacular.

This year, in an effort to check another item off my list, and to be closer to where the kids’ camp friends would be, I was allowed to join the boys at English Bay. (This year it changed from an event that I coordinated, to one that they were going to go to without me. It’s only because I had a full license and could transport a truck full of kids to the skytrain station that I was permitted to go along under the condition that I would not sit near them.)

Skytrain on the way in was uneventful.
Boring even.

On our half hour walk to the beach it was agreed upon that everyone was weak with hunger. So we ate on the roof at Red Robins’ then headed toward English Bay with thousands and thousands of black haired people talking on cell phones trying to connect up with each other.

By the time we got to Denman and Davie I realized I was in over my head. There was no beach to set out a blanket on. From the water’s edge to the far side of the street there was a wall of humanity. Each person had 12 inches of personal space. And it didn’t feel friendly. The kids miraculously connected up with their friends, while I set off to find a spot for myself.

“Excuse me, are you saving that space?” I asked two Asian men sitting on a retaining wall.
I pointed to the 6 inch gap between them.
They shuffled further apart, and I slid in between them, grasping my backpack tightly between my legs.
I prepared to watch the show amongst a crowd of Vancouverites who were predominantly not English speaking. I know this because most of them were talking on their cell phones, loudly, in a language unfamiliar to me.
From my position on the wall at the top of the hill, I had a great view of the backsides of all the thousands of people in front of me.

As soon as that first explosion rocked the sky it was amusing to see the bluish glow of thousands of LED screens as people recorded the show on their digital cameras and cell phones.

After Mexico’s 25 minute award winning presentation, there was a 6 minute Grand Finale encore. I decided to forego the viewing of the finale in an effort to get back closer to where I left the kids. I didn’t make it back.

I got swept away in a crush of human bodies and ended up in the middle of a police incident involving two gangs, a stabbing, paddy wagons, police on horses, the dog squad, a helicopter circling overhead and a dozen young men with tans far darker than mine lined up and handcuffed.

I did what I usually do in these situations.

"Mom?" I called her on my cell from the middle of chaos. It was close to 11 pm. "If you're watching the local news, that'd be me in the middle of the mess. I'm fine."

Then I called Clint. "Hi."

"Hi mom. We're all sitting where you left us. We won't go til you get back here."

"I don't think I'm going to make it back there. I'm on the other side of the street but the police have blocked the intersection off. I'm right beside an assortment of hand-cuffed mean-looking guys and hope to get out of the police's way as soon as this crowd moves along..."

The folks I was sharing breathing room with were mostly young males who reaked of pot. Every once in a while someone would say something that ticked off another one and I feared that I would get caught in some violent cross-fire.

It took another half an hour for the situation to get under control, and still I had not connected with my kids.

My mom called me back after the news was over and said she had seen Clint on TV. He had walked under the camera and lifted his arms -

I never was able to cross the road to get them, nor were they allowed to join me. We had to change our meeting place to an intersection a few blocks over. Our walk back to skytrain was animated and our wait at the Burrard station was over an hour long. We shared a train car with some of Surrey's most obnoxious stoned teens and in the midst of all, had a God-moment.

Because my Durango is not a school bus, I could not take all the kids that wanted to join us on this stupid adventure. So another couple agreed to take two of the boys, and they, like me, were going to "be there" without being right there beside them. The boys they brought found my kids on he beach in spite of astronimcal odds.

They left the fireworks area immediately after the finale and walked over to the Waterfront Station, avoiding all delays related to the above described police mess. We, on the other hand, took hours getting out of the downtown core.

By the time we finally got settled on the skytrain, I was exhausted and wary of our glassy eyed travelling companions. All of a sudden Drew says, "Hey look, I see Adam's dad's reflection in the window." I turned around from my standing position near the doorway, and there, five feet away from me sat the other couple dumb enough to take teen boys into the hell that was Vancouver...

We looked at each other in total disbelief. There were thousands and thousands of people using the skytrain that evening. They left the beach area hours before we did. They got on the train at the beginning of the line, miles away. Yet, here we were in the EXACT same car. What were the odds?

Queue twilight theme music...

Coincidence? Or God?

1 comment:

Christine Lindsay said...

Man, you have all the fun. :) Seriously I wouldn't be caught dead down in the crush of all that. You're usual spot sounds much better. Kids....