Reality Check: Art Museum Edition

Here’s what I posted on Facebook last Sunday afternoon:

Untitled drawing

Cute story, with just a touch of gentle “real life” humor. Lost sock, oh, ha ha! And it got 38 likes! SIM-ply charming, yeah?

Yeah…Here’s how it really went down:

Taking it all in. Clearly I struggled to choose just one bow. We are not usually a bow family and I was out of my depth.

Taking it all in. Clearly I struggled to choose just one bow. We don’t wear bows on a daily basis and I was out of my depth.

We decided somewhat spontaneously to venture to the Detroit Institute of Art. We faithfully renew our membership every year, but it had been more than a year since we’d even been, so we were way overdue. Naturally, I put the Fustible in three different outfits trying to choose the perfect one for this momentous occasion. She hates having her clothes changed, so the overall effect was to get her really pissed off and riled up before we got in the car. All to no useful end, since she would spend the entire experience inside her carrier.

The drive to the museum went just fine until the exit we needed (basically, the exit for every major attraction in this section of Detroit) was closed. No big deal–the GPS took us around a few blocks and actually through a pretty charming historical neighborhood that we had never seen before. We missed the entrance to our usual parking lot and had to go around the block again, then squeeze into a parking spot between two giant cars, so that we could barely extricate the child from the backseat.

After all those costume changes, I’d settled on short sleeves and short pants for the babe, which turned out to be less than ideal because it was deceptively chilly and windy. We scurried across the street and down the block to the museum entrance.

Ain't we got fun?

Ain’t we got fun? Touching the touchable donkey statue, and holding the diaper bag at our sides by the top loop, in museum-approved fashion.

When we entered the museum, we got good cop/bad copped by two guards, one of whom cooed at the baby while the other one warned Sam that he had to carry the diaper bag in his hand, down at his side, instead of on his back. A reasonable request–so as not to accidentally swipe a Van Gogh when turning around–but one we would struggle to remember for the rest of the day.

We stepped up to the members counter for general admission and tickets to the special exhibit on Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s time in Detroit. Our membership entitles us to 4 free passes to the exhibit. We really only needed two. The guy at the desk–father of three-week-old twins, we learned, God bless you, sir!–printed three tickets for us as a souvenir of our first trip to the museum as a family. And we trotted off to the Kresge Court for lunch.

This beautiful, quiet, lovely place was PACKED to the gills at, you know, noon on Sunday. There was pretty much nowhere to sit. We ordered and, after a couple of laps around the room, another party left and we nabbed two stools at a high table where six other people were already sitting. The food took awhile to come, we were pretty hungry, and the babe was pretty fussy and restless. We bounced her. We tried to get comfortable and relax as the man next to us tried to explain to his elderly father that he could order salad! Beer! Anything he wanted!

And then I asked Sam, “You’ve got the tickets, right?” (everyone’s favorite question!) and we realized that our tickets for the special exhibit were, in fact, gone. Somehow, some way, between the museum entrance and sitting down at the table, I misplaced them. They just…disappeared from my hand. I dug through the diaper bag. I retraced our steps around the room. I looked in the cafe refrigerator where we’d pulled out our drinks. I asked the bartender. I asked several people working on laptops to check the scraps of paper under their feet. I notified the concierge who called security. (Security? Really?)

This was just one of those things: there was no point in trying to do anything about it until after lunch. We could eat, and then go back to the desk and ask for help. Since the tickets were free to us anyway, it’s not like we were out $40. And, it turns out, Sam and I both felt this way….but we weren’t communicating that to each other very well. He thought I was being frantic. I thought he didn’t want me to sit down until I had successfully located the disappeared tickets. And the Fustible, well, fussed, fussed, fussed.

We were THAT FAMILY, whisper-bickering with a whiny baby in the lovely cafe/quiet study lounge. WE’RE SO CULTURED.

We thought she needed a diaper change, so I took her and blew past the out-the-door line in the ladies’ room to the unoccupied changing table. In fact, she did not need a change, but it was a great opportunity to strip her, unpack everything in the diaper bag, and put it all back together again!

After lunch, we returned to the desk, suddenly realizing that the sweet gesture of printing a third unnecessary ticket for baby’s first art exhibit might have screwed us over, since our membership entitled us to only one more ticket. Turned out they could just scan our card again, reprint the tickets, and all was well.

And hey, maybe some other family found our tickets and got to go see the exhibit for free.

I've just described to Sam some of the gross details of my lady problems, chided him for wearing the backpack on his back, and told him to turn around so the baby is facing the camera, and smile. And this is now one of my favorite pictures of all time.

When this picture was taken, I had just described to Sam some of the gross details of my lady problems, chided him for wearing the backpack on his back (forbidden in the museum!), told him to turn the baby around so she was facing the camera, and smile. Do his eyes say, “I will kill you slowly in your sleep?” And this is now one of my favorite pictures of all time.

The Fustible fell asleep and we wandered through our favorite section of the museum waiting for our entrance time to Frida and Diego. By now I had to go to the bathroom. I wore L. in with me, because I can, but it was a bad idea: turns out a bank of 12 toilets flushing at once is quite terrifying when you’re three months old, and she started to wail. Meanwhile, I was dealing with wicked cramps, a period whose flow would not be quelled by any implement known to woman or nature, and I couldn’t do much about it with the kid strapped to my body. I had to go out, wander through several galleries to find Sam near the Picassos, leave the babe with him, and go back to the bathroom to basically start over.

Under the watchful eye of Henry Ford.

Under the watchful eye of Henry Ford.

Now, at last, we could head to the special exhibit, which was really quite amazing. It told the story of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera before, during, and after their stint in Detroit during which Rivera painted the Detroit Industry murals in the Great Hall at the DIA. There were amazing archival film and photographs of the couple visiting the Ford factory and of the work being done in the museum, and selections of Rivera’s studies for the mural on huge rolls of paper. There were also tiny works that Kahlo, homesick for Mexico and recovering from a miscarriage, painted while she bided her time in The Mitten. This moment was basically the height of Rivera’s career in the United States–he had only one other commission in the U.S. after Detroit: a mural at Rockefeller Center which was ultimately destroyed when he included Lenin as a representative of peace and harmony. Kahlo’s career, meanwhile, was just beginning to get off the ground.

After the exhibit we returned to the Great Hall to look for all the bits of the mural that we’d just learned about, and never paid close attention to before. We did a quick lap through the Contemporary wing, and then rolled outta there.

When we got back to the car, our child had only one sock on.

Do you people even have the slightest clue what you are doing?

Do you people even have the slightest clue what you are doing?

Only when pulling out of the parking lot did we remember that our ramp was closed. Following the clearly marked detour signs up to the next entrance was no big deal, just a minor irritation. The real excitement began when we somehow got caught in the middle of a biker gang going 40 mph in the left two lanes, with a giant tanker truck in the right lane, all blocking anyone from passing and really gumming up the works. And, you guessed it: the baby screamed the whole way, and we re-hashed the missing ticket situation. It was kind of a jaw-clenching ride, and I really thought someone was going to get killed, if not inside our car, then for sure out on the road.

This was a hard, messy, complicated, exhausting day. The chirpy Facebook post doesn’t quite capture all of that…texture.

And here’s the thing: it was also a great day.

I’d do it again.

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One thought on “Reality Check: Art Museum Edition

  1. That sounds about right. Except that my child would have had at least one explosive diaper which would have required either changing him into a seasonally inappropriate outfit OR bringing him out of the bathroom half dressed because I couldn’t wrangle him back into his pants on the changing table. And I bet more seasoned parents will tell us both that we’ll look back on these days fondly…

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