It was a beautiful morning in May, a blessed month I have always thought. Sun shining, coolish air in the 60’s, and a Saturday. I had planned to take the two year old to Home Depot to buy some plants, probably inpatiens for the shade, maybe some herbs as well. We like to do it together. Last time at OSH she grabbed a few plants and pots, but them in the cart and hung on to the end of it, facing me as we walked, knuckles just showing and blond hair bobbing an prominent.
This time we headed for the plant sale at Martin Luther King, Jr., Junior High School where Alice Waters has pioneered the edible garden. The little girl was in the car seat in back, surveying the landscape as we proceeded from South to North Berkeley, not missing a thing. First past John Muir Elementary School, where she hopes to play in the playground, and where she told me that Allie, Nick, and her Mommy had attended. She doesn’t miss a thing. Then past the Clark Kerr Campus, where I informed her it was a school and she said she wanted to go to school. Then past the field on Gayley Road where they play lacrosse and soccer; she wants to play soccer. Then down Hearst past the Goldman School of Public Policy, where I told her I had gone. “I want to go there, Baba,” she said, thus becoming one of the earliest applicants.
We found the plant sale, got her out of the car seat, and toddled in. On the way to the plants was a little pond, really a mud puddle. She wanted to stop, so who was I to say no? She got a couple of little sticks, stirred the water, then decided throwing them in was more fun. There were lots of little reeds and they all got thrown in.
We proceeded on and found two girls who were face painting. She got up on a stool and decided she wanted to be a zebra, which was the picture on her T-shirt. OK, a zebra it was to be, some white blotches and some black, but for some reason with whiskers, too. Can’t blame people for thinking she was a cat, but they were corrected by the little girl, “A zebra!” Which she confirmed by looking in the mirror again and again from different angles.
Then we saw some chickens in a cage, and she saw pointed out to me that there was one duck, as indeed there was. Over to the goats. Back to the mirror for the zebra watch. Then it seemed possible to buy some plants, but she took off for the mud puddle again, with reeds, and this time slipping in to it up to her knees. She didn’t cry much at all, but we repaired to a flat rock in the sun, took off the little socks, rolled up the pant legs, and used the little sweatshirt to dry the legs and put the shoes back on sans the socks. It could have been time to visit the plants, but she looked up and said, “Snack?”
We avoided the pizza, it was 11 AM, and found her a chocolate cupcake and myself a cup of coffee and Acme sticky roll, and we repaired to a picnic table in the sun. Shared with grandparents, parents, and a couple of little kids and found that the grandparents were from Philadelphia and resented their son’s transplantation. I got the little girl some water and she washed her face, wiping off some of the face painting. The grandfather told her not to do that, that the face painting would come off, and the son said, “Dad!” which made the grandfather retreat with some resentment. That’s not what we do in Berkeley, he knew. The grandparents live in Jenkintown and a different era, I guess. I told them I was from Philadelphia originally but they didn’t seem thrilled, since that meant that I, too, had moved away.
It was time to go, so we toddled off with the cupcake in a little box, mounted the car seat, turned around and drove down Grant and then onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. The little girl looked around and commented as we drove home, “Want to buy some plants?”
Instead we got gas and arrived home two hours after leaving, ready for new adventures in the here and now.
A Berkeley resident for 46 years, I went to Lower Merion High in the Philadelphia suburbs,then Harvard College (history, Leverett House), Harvard Medical School, and did my pediatrics training at the University of California San Francisco. I also earned a Masters' Degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, where I am now on the Advisory Board. I was a Fed in Washington with the U.S. Public Health Service in 1968-70, and 1973-4. As a member of the USPHS I studied at the Stockholm School of Economics for a year, and at Yale. Later on I was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at UCSF doing health policy analysis, published a book on Migrant Health Policy and many articles in publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the AMA Journal, and taught some. I practiced pediatrics from 1979 to 2012. I was President and owner of Bayside Medical Group, the largest privately held primary care medical groups in the Bay Area, until I sold it to Stanford in 2012.
I am married and have three children and two step-children, 3 granddaughters and a grandson. While our permanent residence is Berkeley, we live in Maui part-time.