We went hunting on day ten in Richmond–hunting monuments that is. We started off with Christopher Columbus who was found standing in the middle of a traffic circle near Byrd Park. The monument wasn’t really set up for visiting. We perched on the monument platform as traffic whizzed by.
We crossed the street to Byrd Park where they offer paddle boats for rent. The office was closed at the time so we just looked at geese for a bit, then strolled past the tennis courts where several matches were in progress.
We headed next to Dogwood Dell, which is a park with hiking and biking trails, an amphitheater and a carillon to honor those who served in World War I.
We were there to view a performance by SPARC, the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community. While we waited for the performance to begin, my son enjoyed playing in the tot lot park.
As we were leaving the park, we had an interesting experience in the Southern etiquette tradition of door holding. As you head South from Fredericksburg, you encounter this situation more and more frequently. Essentially, the tradition is that if you are male, your job is to open the door and/or hold the door until all nearby women have passed through. If you are female, your job is to step through the door quickly and say thank you. The tradition holds regardless of race or social class. When I went to visit my sister Ruth in North Carolina earlier in the summer, the tradition was even more pronounced and I was shocked to have men holding the door for me even at gas stations and fast food restaurants.
Where I grew up in Utah, there was no such tradition. In the west, it was every man and woman for him or herself. If a man happened to be near the door when you were passing through, he might hold it for you for a second but he would never go out of his way to hold it for you. This wasn’t always ideal. For example, in college, I recall having armloads full of stuff and it being quite awkward to open the door for myself. Even if there were men standing right next to the door, they would not look up to help me and would just let me struggle through. The only exception to this was in the springtime when something happened to all the men and they suddenly became less engrossed in their studies and more interested in doing things like smiling and holding doors. This curious phenomenon lasted about two months and then it was back to business as usual until the following spring.
Some women find door holding an archaic tradition that undermines equality. I find it charming. For me, it is the consolation for losing the tradition of social dancing. We now dance through the doorways. One thing I have often wondered about door holding, however, is how the tradition continues and whether it will become less frequent as the South diversifies and modernizes.
Here at the tot lot, we got a lesson in the future of door holding. As my son and I were leaving the park, a boy of about 3 went out of his way to hold open the gate to the playground for us and once we had passed through, he shut the gate and locked it. I was stunned. We thanked him and complimented his good manners. His mom was standing nearby and simply said, “Good job.” It seemed that it wasn’t anything for her to get excited about. She was simply training him to do his expected duties in society.
We then watched the SPARC performance. SPARC’s main function is to train “triple threat” Broadway actors who can act, dance and sing. Their alumni includes the singer Jason Mraz. The kids were doing an original performance based on children attending an American-Idol like audition. They were singing, dancing and acting and overall were quite impressive. I had to leave early to go pick up my daughter but thought all the children did an excellent job and there were quite a few who stood out as exceptional talents.
We picked up my daughter and ate lunch in Monroe Park downtown. There is not a lot to this park but there are some huge trees. My children were pointing out the shape of the trees and the bird nests they found.
After lunch, we did some more monument hunting along Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue. Monument Avenue is an extra wide street with has huge statues about every two blocks. Apparently this is an architectural/city planning style known as the “Grand American Avenue.” All but one of the statues are of Confederate Civil War leaders. The exception is for tennis legend Arthur Ashe.
Monument Avenue isn’t really designed for touring. The monuments don’t have walking paths to them. They are just in the middle of intersections. Our tour consisted of driving our car and parking on the street. The children waited in the car as I popped out quickly to cross the street and take a picture. I was a bit of an odd sight but it was interesting to get a closer look at these huge statues that we had been whizzing by on a daily basis.
This marked the end of my children’s first camp session and we spent the rest of the afternoon at their camp exhibition. We had already seen so much in our first 10 days. At this point, we had a week off to recharge, catch up on things at home and plan our next 10 days of adventures.