Last Saturday our granddaughter and I had several errands to do. We had washed, dried and folded two carrier bags full of outgrown, gently-worn clothes, mostly girl’s size 8. These clothes were to be dropped off at the Salvation Army station on Highway 11. It’s always open in the daytime and there is always someone on duty to help unload, if necessary, and to list the donations on a receipt. We always get a receipt for tax purposes. Our grandchildren are generous with their outgrown clothes, toys and books and know they will find good homes with children less fortunate than themselves.
On the other hand, and this is the much harder lesson to learn, when they are with me, they shop at the Thrift Stores run by these charitable organizations. The small allowance I give them for helping me around the house goes much farther at a Thrift Store. Make no mistake, they earn the allowance I give them. Bending and stooping is hard enough, carrying heavy loads is almost beyond Granddaddy and me, so the work they do for us is real. They are getting bigger and stronger all the time.
One granddaughter likes to read, and heads straight for the book section. She always finds a book or two in the Babysitter Club series that she hasn’t read yet. They cost just a few cents rather than a few dollars. The other granddaughter likes pretty things… jewelry, a pretty perfume bottle or decorative vase, and she can find the best bargains in blouses!
After our errands, I had to swing back by the house as I had left my cell phone recharging. Kate ran in and got it, and checked to make sure the crock pot with our dinner in it had been turned down to Low. We had put a small chuck roast in the crock earlier, and cleaned out the fridge looking for veggies. Cloves of garlic went in, and carrot pieces (first because they take longer to cook and most of the heat, too), then I cut up and Kate added onion, celery, bell pepper and potato on top. She sprinkled in the S&P and a half cup of water, and we were off!
With our errands done and dinner taken care of, I wanted to go downtown to see the newly opened Rainroad Park. I had wondered what kind of park it would be. Our local park in East Lake has a big lake with fingers of land one could go out on to fish; a long wooden pier and gazebo; a mile-long walkway around the lake for jogging, strolling or ambling. There are picnic tables scattered under the trees, and a whole flock of ducks and geese who live and nest on an island in the lake.
The waterfowl come to attention whenever someone passes by. Woe be to the uninitiated who brings a sack of stale bread to feed them. Word spreads like wildfire and every goose, gander, gosling, duck, drake and duckling converges like they had not eaten in a week! It can be scary. The small children you brought there for a treat have to be put on top of the low lighting structures that line the path around the lake. Your best defense is to give them all your bread and stand still until their little brains forget what they are there for and they leave. Honestly, you feel like you have been mugged.
(Image: The public enjoys Railroad Park, by Susan Clayton)
With these thoughts in mind, I wondered what there would be to do in a park in downtown Birmingham. The newspaper stories wrote of the beautiful view of Birmingham’s skyline. It didn’t sound like the sort of thing that would interest a 12-year-old.
What we found, though, captured the imagination of both of us. Entering the park on low, broad steps, we found on the right-hand retaining wall words and pictures describing, chronologically, events in the life of the city, from its humble beginnings to its present lovely middle age.
At the top of the steps we found laid out before us a greensward rising to the right, and paths leading into the park towards concession and other public facilities. We ambled down the broad paved path past a cyclist and a scooter or two. On the green were scattered picnickers, sunbathers, and Frisbee throwers. Reaching the plaza where the concession structure was located, I discovered the park was so new that the concession buildings were not open. We stopped and talked with a policeman for awhile and he pointed out the tables set up selling box lunches. I also saw folks at tables selling balloons and memorabilia but I didn’t get over there. Besides scooters and a cyclist, I saw an in-line skater, and a skateboarder, a little tyke with training wheels and his big brother without.
(Image: View from the ponds in Railroad Park by Susan Clayton)
Box lunches beat hot dog stands in my book any day. Kate opted for a (clear plastic) box with ham sandwich, chips and cookie. I selected one with salad greens and attractively arranged in the four corners: chicken salad, tuna salad, soda crackers, and a cup of dressing. Down the center was a swirl of tropical fruit chunks. Armed with our boxes and a soda from a machine we took over a bench near a newly planted tree.
It was the best sort of picnic lunch: one I didn’t have to prepare. The day was beautiful, sunny and warm, blue sky and gentle breeze. I should not have thought there was nothing to do. Looking at the buildings: ATT, Regions, Harbert, and Wells Fargo, I thought of a story to tell Kate.
“Look,” I said, “pointing out the building where our friend Rebecca works. That building had a fire drill the other day and the elevators were turned off. Rebecca had to walk down Twenty-Eight flights of stairs! Her legs were so sore! She was so tired! That’s a lot of stairs.” Kate stared at the building with a new appreciation, and a personal connection. They have fire drills at school, she told me, but only one flight of stairs to go down!
There were at least three man-made ponds around the plaza, and a new-minted stream. Native flora and wild life (the sign said so… I’m thinking what? tadpoles? minnows?) were introduced to the ponds. But I trust Alabama Power Company who, according to the info signs, is building this part of the park, to do it right.
A couple of hundred yards or so away, beyond the water, the railroads continue their business. Freight cars wait on sidings; diesel engines pulling a mile-long train sing their mournful song to announce their passing.
Kate runs to the top of the green. She talks with the people she sees there. She looks for me, I wave, and she runs back down again. It was a good day.