Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Culture, Baby!

If a family visits an art museum and spends roughly 40% of the time lying on the floor, does it still count as culture?

We traveled back to Michigan to be with my side of the family for the holidays, and managed to squeeze in a trip to the newly renovated and totally fabulous Detroit Institute of Arts.

The visit was filled with moments of pure magic, not the least of which was scoring a parking space literally 30 feet from the front door. It was so weirdly good that I spend the first half hour of our visit wondering if our car might somehow be auctioned off or something before we got back.

My Mom and my 10-year-old nephew, whom I'll nickname Slugger for this blog, were along with Peapod, The Esposo and I for our trip to the DIA. Now, Slugger is about as quintessential 10-year-old-boy as one can get, meaning that his primary interests are sports, video games and, um, sports. We were a little concerned that staring at old, chipped statues of 'Garuda, the Steed of Vishnu' and 16th-century ivory knife holders might wear thin quickly. But as we wandered through rooms gazing at Degas, Cezannes and Rodins, Peapod was happily entertained by the hand rails and recycling bins, while Slugger was happily entertained by Peapod.

Looking at static art on big walls is really a lot to ask of a kid and a toddler, so when Slugger requested a pitstop for some food, the adults were happy to oblige. Two muffins, a tuna wrap and a bag of Fritos later, we were on to our next adventure. We tottered off and soon discovered a spiral staircase that led to The Great Hall, which was decorated with hundreds of strands of glass circles dangling from the ceiling and creating a dazzling explosion of shimmering light.

It was the magic hour -- right before sunset when the sunlight is at it's brightest, boldest best -- and the sun's rays were streaming into the hall creating a crazy light show for those of us lucky enough to wander in at just this perfect moment. Peapod's glee was enormous and it seeped into all of us, including total strangers who laughed as she pointed to the ceiling and made mad declarations in her toddler-speak about its brilliance to anyone within earshot. At one point, all five of us were lying on our backs, soaking in the sparklies, while passers-by tried not to trample on our limbs.

I'm not sure if our visit to the DIA nudged Slugger toward art appreciation or imbibed our baby with a sense of culture, but it sure was a gang load of fun. And when it was time to go home, our car was still safely sitting right where I'd parked it.

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