After a positively terrifying big-city approach consisting of multiple lane-crossings on highways crammed with jockeying semi trucks in the pouring rain...
We collapsed, soaking wet and deliriously grateful, into a windowless hotel room in the heart of Mexico’s historic capital.
Ten hours later, we commenced trying to cram every major museum (and public building with a mural in it) into our limited 2-day itinerary -- a literally impossible feat.
The first day was lovely – featuring a fine breakfast of green chilaquiles where they pour the warmed salsa in front of you so the totopos stay crisp; surprise opera performances in a random salón inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes; and a trip in a glass elevator atop the Monumento de la Revolución for panoramic views of the city and mountains surrounding it.
But the next day... was a Saturday.
Which meant that every one of the city’s 22 million inhabitants was out and about in the streets.
... Thronging along Calle Madera and standing in lines dozens of people deep at the ATM and competing with everything and everyone else to be heard and get paid.
And as we navigated the crush of the crowd back to our hotel room that afternoon, feeling exhausted and cranky and defeated for being unable to continue when there was still SO MUCH to see...
I glimpsed a little boy, maybe 8 years old, standing off to the side of the crowd -- cheeks glistening with fresh tears.
In front of him, his Dad was kneeling, holding his son by the shoulders, looking him in the eye, speaking in low, soothing tones.
The kid, of course, was pointedly not making eye contact; he was gazing up the street, face screwed up in anguish, clearly wanting to hang on to whatever grievance he had suffered in the midst of an uncaring crowd.
And yet, despite his still-wet cheeks, the tears had stopped falling.
You could tell that, although he was pretending not to, he was listening – allowing himself to be privately comforted by the knowing words and undivided attention of his Dad.
For me, the moment lasted all of 4 seconds.
But witnessing it delivered an instant pang of recognition, appreciation, and familiarity.
Because no matter how old you get...
No matter how capable you become of solving your own problems and fixing your own hurts and soldiering on, even when you’re exhausted...
There is nothing quite like the calm, confident words of a Dad to remind you that everything is ok.
My own father didn't exactly have this modeled for him by his father -- and yet, he still found a way to become that kind of Dad for me and my siblings.
It makes you think...
That no matter how well or poorly your own father was able, as a flawed human being, to be a good Dad for you growing up...
And whether or not your father is still around today to remind you of how it works...
As adults, we must all find a way to summon that big, strong, clear, and endlessly loyal force within ourselves.
The one that grabs you by the shoulders when you're exhausted and says: it really is ok.
Not only for the people who might one day depend on us -- but first and foremost, for ourselves.